John 20: 19-23
Pentecost and Memorial Sunday
May 24, 2015
It was early morning and the local diner was buzzing with the usual breakfast crowd. Suddenly, there was a commotion outside and a man at the door shouted, "Run for your lives. Big Jake is coming!" As everyone scattered, an enormous man burst through the door, threw tables and chairs aside, strode up to the counter and demanded a gallon of coffee. The frightened proprietor quickly produced a gallon jug filled to the brim with coffee, which the enormous man consumed in one huge gulp. Trembling with fear, the proprietor stammered, "Can I g-get you another?" "No sir," said the enormous one, "I've got to go. Haven't you heard? Big Mike is coming!"
In today's Gospel Lesson, it is the evening of the first Easter Sunday. The terrified Apostles are hiding behind closed doors. They fear for their lives. Jesus has been crucified. They worry that they'll be next; that Jesus' enemies are coming. But their fear-and-trembling is misguided, because Jesus is coming!
"The doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews," the Apostle John tells us. "Jesus came and stood among them and said 'Peace be with you... as the Father sent Me, so I send you ...receive the Holy Spirit." And "the disciples were filled with joy!" (Jn. 20:19-22).
Jesus comes to us and reveals the Good News of the Resurrection Power of God. He comes to us as our Risen Lord. He has risen in order to bring us peace of soul, to bring us to fulfillment, to make our lives whole and complete -- everlastingly whole and complete.
Week-after-week, in a variety of ways, we hear this Good News, but are we experiencing this Word of God at any deep level of our being? Or are we routinely allowing our everyday fears and anxieties to prevail, thereby robbing us of the ability to rejoice in the reality that a Gracious God is with us in Jesus Christ?
C.S. Lewis once wrote: Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are "Patches of Godlight" in the woods of our experience.
We all have experienced these "Patches of Godlight" -- at the seashore and in the mountains and other places. The tragedy is that many of us need to have something literally hit us in the face before we feel it. Yet, it was there for all of us to experience as we came here today -- in the elements, and in the sky, and in the people we encountered along the way. All around us, everything is vibrant and alive with the Presence of the Christ-Spirit of God. And this is what the New Testament writers keep on telling us. But that's only the beginning.
What happened to the New Testament Christians was that when Jesus came into their midst they experienced God's Presence in a new and intense way -- so overwhelming, so fulfilling, so healing, they couldn't contain it within themselves. They had to get the Good News out to the whole world.
What they realized in their innermost being was that the Spirit of a Loving God was present in His Son, and His Son was actually present in their midst, as the perfect Model of what human life is all about:
I'd rather have example than precept any day, I'm glad my Saviour walks with me, not merely points the way. The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear; Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear. The greatest of all teachers was my Lord Who lived His creed,
For to see good put in action is what all His people need. I may not fully understand the doctrines I've received, But there's no misunderstanding how He loved and how He lived.
Many have looked at Jesus, but how many have seen Him? Many have seen His shadow, His people, His story. But only a handful have seen Jesus. Only a few have looked through the fog of religiosity and found him. Only a few have dared to stand eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart with Jesus and say, "I believe that you are the Son of God . . . You are the cause of my joy . . . I rejoice in Your Presence in my life."
Lists of people's "Famous Last Words" can be found in books of quotations and other sources. One such list includes those of President Franklin D. Roosevelt:
I have a terrible headache.
The last words of author Washington Irving were: Well, I must arrange my pillow for another weary night! When will this end?
Florenz Ziegfeld, of theatrical fame, said:
Lights! Ready for the last finale...the show looks good!
Beethoven's last words were:
Applaud friends, the comedy is over.
And Edgar Allen Poe said:
Lord, help my poor soul.
The Apostle John tells us that Jesus' last words to His disciples included this instruction:
As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you.
As the Father sent Jesus, so He is sending us now.
"Thank God I have done my duty," were the last words of the famous British naval officer, Horatio Alger. Would that they be the last words of us all!
In one of the "Peanuts" cartoon strips, Charlie Brown holds up his hands and says to his friend, Lucy: "These are hands which may someday accomplish great things . . . These are hands which may someday do marvelous works." To which Lucy replies, "They've got jelly on them."
In the interest of your eternal happiness, do not talk about your Christian duty with jelly on your hands. God's formula for happiness is not meant to stick somewhere between your knowing it and doing it. If your neighbor -- or your Church -- is in need of material support, don't let your money keep sticking to your fingers. If a person is in need of your forgiveness, don't let your compassion keep sticking to your self-righteousness. If a brother or a sister needs relief from loneliness, don't let your understanding keep sticking to your indifference.
Our world is full of misery and fear and ignorance. Our plain Christian duty is to do all we can to make the little corner of our influence less miserable and fearful and ignorant than it was before we came into it. Our duty to live for our own happiness and our duty to live for the happiness of others are inseparable. God wills the happiness of all. Our happiness is doing God's Will.
I'd rather have example than precept any day; Thank God my Savior walks with me, not merely points the way.
Follow Jesus' example, and let these be your last words, at the end of each day: "Thank God I have done my duty!"