Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Sunday, April 12, 2015 Easter II.
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The Call to Worship
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
ALL: To give thanks to the Creator who breathes life into our bodies.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.”
ALL: “Peace be within your walls, and security within your borders.”
For the sake of everyone I love I will say, “Peace be within you.”
ALL: For the sake of the family of God, I will seek good.
(Based on Psalm 122 http://re-worship.blogspot.ca/2013/10/call-to-worship-and-prayer-psalm-122.html)
The risen Christ is revealed to us again. We need not believe without doubt. We need not trust without fear. The peace that passes all understanding is as close as our breath nourishing our soul. Let us give thanks that the Good News of God’s love for us is known to us once again. Amen
A Reading from the wisdom of Alfred Lord Tennyson
“Speak to [God], thou, for God heareth and spirit with spirit doth meet. Closer is [God] than breathing, nearer than hands or feet.”
A Reading from the wisdom of John Greeleaf Whittier
“We have felt the heart of the Silence throb with a soundless word; And by the inward ear alone the Spirit’s voice we heard. And the spoken word is written on air, and wave and sod; And the bending walls of sapphire blaze with the thought of God.”
A Reading from the 4th Gospel (John 20.19-22)
“On the evening of the first day of the week, the disciples were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the authorities, and Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw him. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Holy One has sent me, so I send you.’ And then he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Breath.’”
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"I Give You Peace"
The central message of Easter is that God is not in some far away place, God is here with us. And not just as a companion but as close as the breath that moves in and out of our lungs, as much a part of us as the blood that flows through our veins. Each year we enter the Lenten season of preparation and spiritual practice full of possibility for what we can discover what is new each year.
And then Holy Week dawns with Palm Sunday and we enter that most auspicious week of the church year that ultimately and always ends in Good Friday where we once again confront the sadness, the emptiness, the grief and loss of death. And then…. It’s Easter morning again, the Christ has risen, all is well with our souls. We celebrate with family and friends with food and fun.
And then…we come to the second Sunday in Easter and just as the season moved into the second Sunday we find Jesus’ friends locked in a room for fear of their lives. The joy of the risen Christ is locked outside the door as they hide in terror. This is an example of how we can, left to our own devices, snap right back into fear ignoring the Good News. We cycle right back into doubt even in the face of our understanding, perhaps just moments ago, that God is with us, in us, always loving us.
Now I don’t think it’s an accident that our gospel reading likens our experience of God with the relentless and necessary act of breathing. We receive air into our lungs, the oxygen is transferred from the air to our bloodstream, it runs throughout our body to feed every single cell. And then we exhale, we let go of what we just received so that we can receive it anew, refreshed, with more oxygen with each new breath.
This year for the first time I understand this illustration as a reassurance to us that there is no shame in having a short term memory problem when it comes to God’s presence with us. There is no dishonor in the fact that we NEED to go through the full church calendar cycle year in and year out. We are not supposed to “get it” once and for all. That would be like holding one breath, we NEED to exhale, because that leaves room in our lungs to access more and more oxygen that feeds our cells.
When we find ourselves in a difficult time we can let go of what we think we knew. We can let go of our present reality. We can exhale our current understanding of what it means to know God’s presence with us and open ourselves to a deeper, broader, more intimate relationship with God’s presence.
Just as we need a new breath to feed the cells of our body, we need a fresh knowledge of God’s spirit within us to feed that sacred soul within us. I have come to believe that doubts and fear are not defects of character, they are necessary to make room in our awareness of a new and refreshed knowing of the Divine spark that animates us.
That is why we need Easter again each year. That’s why we confront doubt and fear even as we bask in the joy of the season. We cycle through the festivals and lectionary readings so that we can begin to understand that this is how we learn and progress. This is how we grow spiritually. We’re not supposed to “get it” and be done. We are built to need it over and over again.
That is the risen Christ’s message to us… be as busy as you want… I give you peace. There will the things in life that scare the wits out of you….I give you peace. Not everything will go the way you would like… I give you peace. This is what I hear as my breath flows in and out of my body today.
My friend and colleague Senior Pastor of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, of which we are an out reach ministry, Rev Dr Durrell Watkins, reminded me this week “… there is no reason to be afraid or ashamed of our wounds. They don’t define us, they don’t limit us, and we do not need to hang on to them… The risen Christ shows wounded people that wounds don’t make us weak they give us empathy… Because we have been hurt we can show compassion to hurting people.”
Change can sometimes scare us nearly to death. I can only imagine what these poor guys must have felt when they see the one whom they know as a friend, the one that they saw crucified and laid in the tomb walk through a door to show them is wounds. But the message of the encounter is not a long or elaborate theological exercise on resurrection. Instead the message is simple…. Peace. You are never alone. God is always with you. The reminder of the holy spirit is the breath moving in and out of our bodies make us whole, giving us peace.
We are empowered by resurrection and we are called to remind others that we are loved. It is our work to contribute to repairing the world and restoring it to wholeness by sharing the simple Good News of God’s love for us with everyone we meet. And when we are again afraid there will be someone to remind us that We are always living in God’s presence. There is no where we could ever flee from the spirit we breath it in and out 24 hours a day. We can relax. As Durrell says, “There’s not a spot where God is not.”
May we all know the peace of Christ in this Easter season no matter what comes our way and may we share that peace with all those we meet. Amen!