Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost Reflection

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22). 

            This text tells us that the risen Lord is the Jesus who was crucified. We know this because he carries the marks of the cross in his body. The nail marks are his ID. When he appears to his frightened disciples the first thing he does is show them the marks of the cross. Only then do they relax and believe the report they had received earlier from Mary, John and Peter.

            Jesus greets the disciples in the usual way, “Peace be with you.” He shows them the marks of the cross and then repeats, “Peace be with you.” The word he spoke to those frightened friends is “shalom.” The risen Jesus, the one who was crucified, dead and buried, came to his friends to give them God’s shalom, which is peace and much more.

            Shalom is God’s intention for the world. It is the single word that describes the coming reign of God. This shalom is peace with justice, righteousness, and loving kindness. It is the world in which all have access to life and health and love. Shalom brings forgiveness and reconciliation. It brings healing and wholeness. Shalom is God’s will for creation. Jesus is the incarnation of this shalom. It breaks into the world through his life, death, and resurrection. He gives everyone access to this shalom when he breathes the Holy Spirit into the lives of his followers.

            As he gives this shalom to his followers he also tells them they have a job to do. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” In other words, the followers of Jesus are sent out to be witnesses and agents, evangelists, of God’s coming reign of shalom. How do they do this? They do it by imitating Jesus. He sends them into the world to do what he did: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength; Love your neighbor as yourself; and “love one another as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The gift of shalom is given so that the community of Christ can share it with the world. It is not given to be a personal blessing and benefit for their own comfort and enjoyment. Shalom is given to the disciples so that they can go and share it with the world that God loves.

            Jesus knew the disciples were not capable of living this mission for the world on their own. They were frightened and fragile men and women who would soon revert to their old habits and eventually blend into the world as though nothing had ever happened. That is why he gave them the gift of himself and his Father. He left them with the Holy Spirit. “[He] breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Holy Spirit will be their “comforter” and “advocate.” The Holy Spirit will be the power of God living and working in them. The Holy Spirit guide, equip and empower them to live the mission of Jesus in and for the world. With the Holy Spirit they will be able to give and receive forgiveness and to be witnesses of “God’s deeds of power” for the world.

            This passage from John’s gospel and the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2 reveal that the gifts of God’s shalom and Holy Spirit are given to equip and empower the community of Jesus for mission. While the peace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit are certainly wonderful blessings for the church, they are given so the church will be a blessing for the world. The church is blessed to be a blessing. The church is gifted and commissioned as a sign-community of the coming reign of God. It understands that it is not the kingdom of God. But the world can get a glimpse of life in God’s reign when it sees and experiences the church’s life and witness.

            Pentecost reveals that the Church that emerged from that community of frightened followers of Jesus is equipped and commissioned for mission. Its mission field is the world that God loves. 


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