Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Believing God's Power and Peace are Real

A small group gathered at evening, to share a meal, light the candles, and remember the cross. To experience what they needed here-Jesus came into their midst as they gathered in a room that was not a beautiful sanctuary, but a common room. They brought what they could share – some brought wonderful dishes of food, others brought what they had, some couldn’t bring anything, in fact coming to fellowship with the community was how they would eat that night. They gathered and shared the challenges they faced outside. Some hurried in, others were dragging and exhausted. But by the end of their time together, they began to experience peace. Gathering and telling each other Jesus was with them began to feel real. There was a peace, a peace so real that they began to realize others would want to know this peace. To realize they were the best messengers who could share – come and see, let me tell, believe! And as the small group grew in their love for each other, the power of the Holy Spirit brought them together in one mind. In a way that allowed them to see that while they didn’t share all of the same opinions, they could share in this meal; pray the hopes and joys, doubts and fears of others; and be inspired as they sang-“ Go now in peace, may the love of God surround you, everywhere you go.”  They became strengthened in their belief to do what Jesus commanded- go tell, love others.

I could be describing the earliest disciples- they’d seen the Lord, but were still wrestling with uncertainty, behind closed doors. Telling Thomas “we’ve seen the risen Lord,” yet were still letting it sink in what that meant. I could be describing the early community we hear of in Acts, so filled with the power of Spirit they’ve become of one mind, beginning to live out belief by trusting God and letting their possessions be shared. Yet this story is followed by a story of others in that same group who couldn’t live that out. They wanted to, but standing there with the money, couldn’t let go. So they lied. Even for that astounding community-some were still letting it sink in what “Christ is risen” meant.  

I could also be describing the small group who gathered here Wednesday nights in Lent for Table Church. They came, curious, but unsure. Bringing doubts and challenges after a long day in the world. But together we experienced the peace Jesus brings. Our last week, we turned out the lights and just sat in the glow of the candles and the cross, in the presence of Jesus and each other. There was peace. Can the Table Church folks please stand? These are the people who have a story to share! We have seen it, we can tell about it, and have come to more deeply believe in the peace of Christ. It’s powerful.

Last Sunday was powerful too- an overwhelming experience-beautiful music, full pews, children and baptisms, excitement!! Worship ran way over and no one got up and left. It was as though there was this in-breaking of what it means to be of one heart and mind in Christ by the power of the Spirit. I think last Sunday we could’ve done just about anything together. We experienced the power of the Spirit! And were at peace. 

But that’s not reality, right? It’s an ideal world we manage to glimpse once in a while. Now the last notes of the music have faded, the flowers have drooped, the Easter Peeps are stale and it’s back to the real world.  And it would be na├»ve to believe that such experiences of peace and power could really happen all the time, right? It would be unrealistic to believe that people would give freely for the sake of the gospel.  It would be unimaginable to think that anything new was really possible in a permanent way.  We know what we might hope for in the ideal world, but here we are in THIS one. I can’t see it and I don’t believe it.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, but the earliest disciples and we ourselves have a hard time holding onto that-it’s hard to believe all the time. We can say what we believe and that it matters, but in the real world, it’s a struggle. Yet it’s into this world of ours Jesus came promising the Holy Spirit and peace. Power and peace. Yes, we live in the real world, but we’re called to see our world, not with the same old eyes, but through the eyes of God’s power and peace. God knows that when we try to walk in our world, it is anything but peaceful. Jesus comes to bring that peace into being, standing in the midst of all of our doubts and struggles, opening the closed doors and speaking God’s power and peace. Jesus is peace. And Jesus meets us to bring his presence, power and peace into our lives so that we can become believers, and can continue to deepen our belief.  

Some of us grew up in the church with the mindset was that church is just something you do-on Sunday you come to church. It’s frustrating that some don’t come. Where are they THIS week? We begin to have doubts and uncertainties about our future. They came last week, they should be here today. But Jesus doesn’t meet the disciples to say “I have risen- go to church.” He comes to say- “I have risen, become believers.” And I think Jesus makes all the post-resurrection appearances to offer forgiveness for when we and others don’t quite believe and to remind us again and again of the power and peace of God. Because while Jesus is powerful enough to take on the world, we’re not. We need to see, to hear and to share over and over again to continue to become believers. This is true for us all. Each week we have this chance to come to the table, hear forgiveness, receive a peace the world can’t make happen. We need it again and again. We need it, others need it. We need Jesus to meet us here so we can live belief by going out and telling what we’ve seen, help others believe this is real. We need Jesus to keep living this belief even when others don’t. To fully experience God’s peace and power, we need to be here. By experiencing this peace and power, the Spirit opens possibilities we might not have seen, bringing us together as one mind- for the sake of the gospel- to share the good news, draw others here and embody God’s love.  

I think it starts by not just shaking our heads about the “Christmas and Easter” crowd.  

Here’s how I hear I hear the Spirit speaking to us: After Easter worship, some of you said you saw people you hadn’t seen in a long time. People you wished I could talk to and encourage them to return here more faithfully.

But what if seeing the world with new eyes means that the best messenger isn’t me, it’s YOU? You who know them best.
How might the peace of Christ help YOU overcome fear or awkwardness to start that conversation? How might the power of the Holy Spirit inspire YOU to call them? 
I challenge you to unlock that door and see where it leads.
Trust that Jesus is with you, and that the power of the Spirit enables you to share what God reveals here. Come- See what I see-God at work. Hear God’s words.  Experience the power of God’s possibility and the depth of God’s peace.

Let’s let it sink in and live together as those who are continuing to become believers in this power and peace, believing God brings a new reality that’s just that-

It’s real.


Questing Parson said...

Amen. This does preach!

Lynda said...

A very powerful message - your people are blessed to have you as their shepherd. God bless.

Strategy Consulting said...

God is merciful that even though we commit sins, he is always willing to forgive us. But it should not be an excuse that we must make evil doings and take advantage of his mercy.