A Guest Post by Rev. Charmaine Howard
of Parousia miltonkeyneshouseofprayer.org
Charmaine’s reflection was originally posted on the Parousia Blog on 31st May 2020. We asked if we might share it here. If you want to know more about the Milton Keynes House of Prayer, please visit miltonkeyneshouseofprayer.org or find them on Facebook @mkhop3
John 20:19-23 (NIV)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The disciples were gathered together in fear. They were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Afraid that what had happened to Jesus might happen to them. They were afraid of the future. They had pinned their hopes on Jesus and now they were confused, lost, afraid of the unknown, not knowing what to expect. They locked themselves in a room together – keeping others out. They knew and trusted each other as they experienced a common sense of loss and bewilderment. They felt safer together.
And I think we feel a bit like those first disciples. We have been locked in our homes, fearful of catching the virus, wary of venturing out and of other people. We are uncertain about the future – not knowing what the daily government briefing will bring. Part of us yearns to go back to life in community – mixing with others, eating, drinking, playing, hugging and kissing family, friends and loved ones. Yet another part of us remains locked in fear. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know whether to send our children to return to school for fear of spreading the virus amongst the staff and their families. We don’t know when we will return to work, what work might look like or whether we have jobs.
But we notice that Jesus entered the locked room and moved amongst his people. Jesus, the good shepherd, he tended his flock ministering to their needs. And so it is today. Jesus enters our locked homes and hearts and ministers to our need. He moves among us, reassuring us that he will take care of all things. He is the door through which we enter security and rest. Our faith in him leads us to safety, no one enters except through him. You see, our lives are in him and knowing him fills us with joy.
Jesus calmed the disciples’ fears as he moved among them. As they looked to him, recognised his wounds, his voice, their fears dissipated like mist. And as we lift our eyes to Jesus and remember all that he has done for us, all that he is doing in us and through us, our fears also disappear. For when we see Jesus, we see the power of the Living God, the endless love and mercy of God being poured out on us and we can have absolute confidence that he will provide for us regardless of our circumstances, situations or feelings. When fear locks us down, prevents us from moving, acting or speaking, looking to Jesus sets us free.
Jesus set them free from the paralysis of fear and filled them with his peace. The peace that instils us with a sense of wholeness, completeness, tranquility; of being in harmony emotionally, spiritually, psychologically within ourselves and with others. The peace that St Paul describes as ‘surpassing all understanding’. It is the same peace that Jesus imparts to us, his disciples, today as we allow him to work in and through our lives.
Jesus commissioned his disciples, the church, to continue his mission on earth, “Just as the Father sent me, I send you”. His mission to set all people free by letting them know that their sins are forgiven and they can have intimate relationship with God through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ. As Christ’s church our role is to bear witness to Jesus by our words, actions, the life we lead and the love we extend to others in our communities. It is a tall order. It feels as though it is an impossible task. Yet we see that Jesus empowered his church with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus “breathed into them. Receive the Holy Spirit” he said. The same Holy Spirit who called creation into being is imparted to us when we profess our faith in Jesus; transforms our lives and gives us the strength, courage and resilience we need to proclaim the good news.
I think our reading today suggests that, full of the Holy Spirit, the church is Jesus’ presence on earth. By letting people know of Jesus – his birth, life, death and resurrection – we offer them the opportunity to choose Jesus and the assurance of forgiveness. It is important that, as a church, we engage wholeheartedly in proclaiming the gospel, making Jesus known in our communities, because the consequences of rejecting Jesus – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” – are that sins are not forgiven and intimacy with God is not restored.
- Our Government
- The media, teachers and social workers
- Those who are concerned about finances and work
- Those who are afraid , lonely, sick, distressed
- Those who live on your street
- Anything that is one your heart and mind