Second Sunday of Easter 3 April 2016
(Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 150 Revelation 1:4-8 John 20:19-31)
“Broken and Breathed Upon!”
Today I am going to deliver one of those three-part sermons that supposedly pastors are told is the real way to construct a sermon! Here are the three parts.
- Gospel Text
- New members (24 this weekend – Wow!)
I believe that the key to finding the Resurrected of Jesus is found in church basements all over the country. Why? Because it is in church basements where we find 12-Step meetings.
People do not go to 12-Step meetings because they like the music. They don’t go because they love how the space is decorated. They don’t go because the seats are soft and comfy. They don’t even go because the coffee is good.
People go to 12-Step meetings because they recognize that they are broken and that they cannot fix themselves by any act of their own will or their own choosing. They accept the fact that they need other people and they need a Higher Power to help heal their brokenness.
Here’s something to think about. This past week, I’ve checked all 893 hymns in our hymnbook, and I could not find a single hymn where the writer was transformed by a large parking lot or a beautiful church steeple or by the coffee and doughnuts served between worship services. In not a single one of our 893 hymns do we sing about how Pastor Andrew’s mac-n-cheese can heal our human brokenness. (But keep making it!) What we do have in our treasury of hymns are moving testimonies of the power of the Risen Jesus to intervene in our lives with healing and wholeness.
This Gospel text is overflowing with rich imagery. Today I will choose two specific images. The first: [Jn. 20: 22…..“He breathed on them.”] What’s that all about?
In John’s Gospel, at the Last Supper, after Jesus washes the feet of the disciples until he goes out to the Garden, he talks a lot about the work of the Holy Spirit that will take place after He is glorified (3-4 chapters). So in today’s Gospel, Jesus is risen and He breathes the Holy Spirit into the disciples, literally, Jesus “breathes a holy breath into the disciples.”
The second: [Jn. 20:23….. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”] Again, what does that mean? This is where the Greek is helpful. Most often when we translate this using the English word “sin” we get stuck in a moralistic understanding of sin. The Greek does not support such an understanding. The word used, apaptia is much closer to meaning “brokenness” or “disconnectedness,” rather than some kind of moral failing.
If we were to hear this interaction between Jesus and his disciples in terms of a healing relationship when there is brokenness within a community, then the whole point of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon this anxious and terrified very young faith community is seen in an entirely different light. Jesus isn’t talking to them about moral failings so much as he is addressing their struggle to become the community rooted in the Resurrection.
If we think about in this way, then, as a faith community today we have been given the power either “to hold onto” our own brokenness and the brokenness of others, or “to release, to be set free from bondage, and to liberate others” from the wounds that too often keep us locked in on ourselves.
In this way, I hear a whole new invitation for who we are called to be with each other and for the world! I hear the invitation to enter into the wounds of each other in order to set each other free! Sounds like a 12-Step program! I feel the breath of the Holy Spirit calling us into healing relationship with each other!
What a gift to this community of St. James to have you joining us here this weekend. I have gotten to know each one of you in various ways, and I know each one carries some type of brokenness. (Don’t we all?)
Let me tell you about us. We are a community with wounds of our own. We are so very far from being perfect. We are both sinners and saints, yes we are!
But let me tell you who else we are! We are also a community over which Jesus has breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit, and in so doing we have been given the power to release and heal brokenness in each other. In our brokenness, we have been breathed upon and so I suspect having you here is a good fit!
When Jesus says to Thomas, “Come over here and put your finger here and see my hands; reach out your hands…..” I hear a similar invitation today to not only our new members but to everyone of us. Come, be together with us, come love with us, so together we can witness the life and love of Jesus to the world! Amen.