Peace be with you…
Peace be with you….
The morning after another terrorist attack we hear these incredible words, peace be with you. Every Sunday I am surprised at just how powerful these words are. These four words both express the temporal and spiritual reality of a gaggle of disciples who are trying to make some sense of their lives, and the world around them. Peace be with you becomes that way station for us every seven days as we seek to understand the purpose of our lives. A purpose which seems even harder to discern in a world which is becoming increasingly isolated and fearful, afraid and unsure. In a world where hate leads nations, violence navigates our streets, success is monetary, and our children are the casualties of our inaction with the climate. Christ comes in the midst of this and says Peace be with you. Peace be with you.
I don't know about you, but every time I hear these words, I feel the whoosh of the Spirit. It might be the phrase and how often I've heard it, or maybe the pronunciation. Peace, be with you. There is a depth to this feeling which asks us to reflect on what it is we celebrate this morning, which is Pentecost. A celebration of all the directions we come from and go to in our world, and the multifaceted reality of God's presence among us. It is a celebration of how the spirit is at work within our lives, our families, our world. It is, at its most basic understanding, a question and instruction about how we talk about our faith to a world which seems beyond understanding. A world which desperately needs to hear the calming whoosh of the spirit, Peace, be with you.
In our travels through the Gospel of John, we are brought to the immediacy of a post crucifixion band of disciples in today's passage. We have walked with Jesus through our uncertainty of his ministry, only to be constantly surprised by what it is he does and says for us. When we find ourselves challenged, Christ comforts us. When we find ourselves comfortable, Christ challenges us. We expect Christ to work with and engage only those VIP’s we’d expect the queen or the pope to see, instead he moves past them and into the arms of the blind, the lame, the dispossessed, those from the fringes of society, and he calls us to meet with him there. He doesn't eat at grand banquet halls, he eats around a simple fire. He doesn't sleep in palaces, he stays at a friends house. Christ continues to reach out and show us that no matter our background, no matter our histories, no matter our infirmities, or the places on the fringe that we occupy, we are an integral part of the Kingdom of God. Christ continues to point our attention into the direction of God, and the reality of his kingdom in our known world, through all of his actions- even that of the cross. Christ now is finishing his work in preparing us for his final departure with the animating force of the world, which is the spirit. And the disciples are still losing their minds over this, losing their minds because our tangible connection is leaving our grasp. But is it? The Gospel this morning asks us to think about how we trust rather than assume God’s work is among us. The difference is life changing.
It's no surprise that Pentecost has traditionally been seen as the grand farewell for summer. Parishes used to shut down over the summer, the fun festivals are over. The point of the stories have been heard, lived, experienced. Committees have finished their mandates, Christian education has taken place so therefore the church is on pause until september, when we all get fired back up again! Yet the transformational work of God, grounded in trust which is embedded in the presence of the spirit among us suggests that the work continues. It continues because we continue to explore and wonder about this thing called Kingdom and our relationship with it. If we listen closely to John’s Gospel today what we actually hear is a mandate for the rest of not just the summer but our lives! Christ shows himself to the disciples, in their doubt, greets them with peace and breathes on them the Spirit of God. This animating force in our lives is a constant, not a seasonal attribute. Indeed, we see through the lens of all our readings this morning that the work of the church is just beginning. Easter is just a way station on our journey into the work of the church in the world, and my lord does the world need that work today!. Christ shows us this morning that the spirit doesn't take a Sunday off, and neither do we!
Yet there are still questions within us perhaps about how we connect our everyday lives with our faith and the mandate of the gospel. Our relationship with God is often seen as a private one, unique, intimate. Yet Christ too opens up that relationship in his prayers in last week’s Gospel. Christ, having the most intimate of relationships with God, openly prays for his disciples. That band of misfits and outcasts. He prays for them with an intimacy and closeness that only the most tender of relationships could bolster. He prayed for them knowing he was about to be betrayed. He prayed because he loved them. He prayed for them in his vulnerable authenticity. He spoke from his heart and shared his faith, even when he knew he was going to be rejected. He put everything on the line because he knew love was stronger than hate, and you know what- he was right.
Look around you, at the people in the pews around you. You are looking at the Kingdom of God. That person you don't agree with. That person you don't know. That person who’s your best friend. That person who’s your spiritual rock. This is the group that Christ comes into through John's Gospel and breathes the spirit onto, not to sit down and contemplate its impacts, but to go out into the world and tell people about what we have seen and known here. In Christ’s call this morning we hear chimes of our doxology which start’s “ Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine!” Christ, in all of his work sought to bring nothing other than God’s glory to us and within us, by uniting us in one family called the church. The gift of pentecost is to see the amazing ability of a church, the people which are the church not the building, unsure of its abilities come alive through the spirit and speak to a world in unique and different ways through which the kingdom of God is born. Each and everyone of us here has a unique voice, a unique gift, a unique challenge. Each one of us this morning is given the spirit’s gift of voice to speak our truth, to speak Christ’s peace to a world which is so thirsty for peace it’s lost its ability to ask for it. The world needs your unique voice!
We are called this morning to hear the gusts of the spirit in our work, our love, our failures, our challenges and our successes. We are called to hear the spirit’s presence in our homeless friend Marc’s resettlement, and our role in that. We are called to hear the spirit's presence in the disagreement we have over budgets and money. We are called to hear the spirit's presence in our bible study, in our pastoral care team, and neighbourhood ministry. We are called to hear the spirit’s presence in the Word spoken, the peace shared, the bread broken every single sunday in this place. We are called to hear the spirit’s awakening presence in everything we are and everything we do, because the spirit is already there animating all of it- we just have to stop and listen for it. Pause in prayer this week before you begin that new project at work, and feel the spirit's presence- she’s there. Pause in awareness of the spirit this week when you feel pulled differently by the news, or challenged in relationship- she’s there as well. Pause in awareness this week that you are never alone in your life, and that by pausing and reflecting we are truly Hearing the spirit's gust in our lives, even if that Gust isn’t comfortable.
This morning in the faces of those we see in the pews around us, we see the spirit's work at play. We see the ability of God to do more than we can ask or imagine by knitting us together in this family called Church, a living institution. This morning we see God’s Glory and limitless potential in the face of our Neighbour, in the face of the homeless, in the face of those that challenge us, in the face of those who support us. This morning God is calling us to recognize that Glory, hear that spirit, and go and tell the world about it. God is calling you to see his world ablaze with the spirit. God is calling you to speak from your heart and tell of your faith. God is calling you to bringing peace on your lips empowered by the active presence of the spirit. Ready or not, the world needs you this week. The world needs you to be the Church, full of life and purpose. How are you going to respond?