Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

We have all experienced that zap of electricity that comes when we walk along a carpeted floor when the air is very dry and we touch a door knob - or even one another - and zap! we get that jolt of electricity. And it really stings!
A grocery store recently bit the bullet and spent big money on some major renovations. Among the improvements were all new flooring, a snazzy laminate that looked like real hardwood. The store also bought new shopping carts. These were sleeker and more “user friendly” than the previous model. An upgraded misting system in the produce section required new de-humidifying equipment for the rest of the store. But all these various upgrades resulted in a “perfect storm” for this grocery store. The contact between the new floor and the new shopping cart’s wheels coupled with the dry, de-humidified air resulted in perfect conditions to create tremendous static electricity. Suddenly every shopper with a grocery cart was getting electrified by the lemons, zapped by the chocolate chips, zinged by a loaf of bread. The pain for those local shoppers was no longer confined to the prices at the check-out counter. Now every item the shopper selected brought a painful static electric shock.
We know that there is a lot of power in electricity. I learned how potent electricity could be one time when Tim was working on my broken dishwasher. As I stood there watching, he was literally blown across the room, hitting the wall and slumping down. I was horrified and sure I had a dead husband….. but then he looked up and said with a grin - “At least now I know what is wrong with it.”
Electricity is a powerful thing - and as we think about the Holy Spirit, that is how we should think of it - as powerful as electricity. We need to believe that the Spirit that God gives us - the spirit of Jesus Christ himself, that dwells in us - is every bit as powerful as the electricity that runs our homes. Can we do that? Can we really believe that?
My favorite holy spirit story is the account of Ezekiel overlooking a valley. God has taken him there in a vision. What Ezekiel sees is a valley full of dry bones. The description of the bones makes sure that we realize that these bones are old and dry and dead. God says emphatically - there is no life in them. Now God tells Ezekiel to tell these bones to live. Ezekiel is skeptical but he does it and what he sees is incredible - all of a sudden the bones begin to jump up and put themselves together. Remember that old song - the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone is connected to the shin bone, the shine bone is connected to the knee bone - Here the word of the Lord! That song comes from this story. That is what Ezekiel is watching happen before his eyes - the bones are assembling themselves and once the skeleton is together, they begin to grow sinew and muscle, and blood vessels, and organs and skin overtop it all and then all of a sudden the valley is no longer dead bones but full of perfectly formed people. But God says - they aren’t done yet. Ezekiel looks at God rather quizzically and God says, “Watch this!” And God begins to blow his breath across the valley and this wind of God blows over all these people and they are filled with God’s spirit - the Holy Spirit. God is like this big defibrillator that zaps these people with an electric shock - only instead of it being electricity it is his spirit carried by his breath. God holds those defibrillator paddles like a doctor restarting a heart and “Now” God says, “Now they are done! They are now truly my people ready to do my work; like a mighty army!” What made the difference between just people and the people of God, was that electric zap of the Holy Spirit!
This was true as well if we remember the story of the creation of mankind. In the first chapter of Genesis we read that God not only created Adam, but breathed his spirit into him. Adam was, from the beginning, zapped and filled with the Holy Spirit.
In the gospel of John the gift of the Holy Spirit is tightly woven into the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, his mission and witness. In John’s gospel the continuation of Jesus’s mission, is found within the commission of his followers. We remember the account of Jesus death on the cross where Jesus’ spirit is “given up” as he dies.
In today’s story we hear how those still frightened disciples were hunkered down in the “upper room,” where they had celebrated Passover with their Master. Suddenly — in a room with locked doors — Jesus stood in their midst. John makes it clear in his gospel that Jesus had fulfilled all of what God had empowered him to do. Jesus had proclaimed the good news of the gospel. Jesus had extended God’s offering of forgiveness, and love, and had sacrificed himself to make that offering a living reality. But there still remained those doubtful disciples. John’s gospel could not end without dealing with these disciples. So as the shut-in remnant of Jesus’ follower’s cowered in their rented Jerusalem rooms, the resurrected Jesus
enters into their midst. He shows them his wounds, proving his identity and shocking them into recognition. Then the risen Christ, the one who had completed his mission, who had done all that God had directed, offers the final piece to this mission. Jesus “breathes on them,” just as God had breathed on the bones in the valley or on Adam, and declares “Receive the Holy Spirit” This Holy Spirit is the confirmation of Christ’s power on earth. Jesus had told the disciples before the crucifixion that he was going to send his spirit - and here it is! Jesus, like an electric shock, breathes his spirit into them to revitalize them and to wake them up and ready them to go out and be the army of God - just like those dry bones. Scared disciples like dry bones are useless, but filled with the Holy Spirit, that final jolt of electric energy, the bones and the disciples become the ones to go into the world and tell the gospel of Christ.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a gift. Here is the gift of life, which will be like a breath of fresh air to a stale world. For in receiving this gift, you receive my spirit," Jesus seems to be saying. In that giftedness, the disciples discover that their fear is replaced with joy, their shyness is replaced with boldness, their hesitation is replaced with courage, and their sense of lostness is replaced with a sense of purpose. Now, with that joy, boldness, courage and purpose, the disciples move out from behind their locked doors. From all the accounts of the gift-Spirit, it is quite apparent that this gift means action. This is not a gift to place on the mantel, or in a trophy case, or to hang on a wall. This is not a gift to preserve and protect, grateful for having been thus blessed to receive, but it's mine and no one else's! Rather, this gift sends us out as Christ's representatives to the world. It is a gift to be used.
And that is what we need to understand. This is not just a story about something that happened over 2000 years ago to some people we don’t know. This is our story. We are those disciples and we need to not be like them and lock ourselves inside these four walls and make excuses about not being good at this or that; or being afraid to tell others of our faith; We as the church of Jesus Christ have been empowered by this same Holy Spirit that was breathed into Adam,; the same Holy Spirit breathed into those dead bones and the same Holy Spirit that electrified the disciples. We have that power - but we have to believe it; we have to acknowledge it; and we have to be willing to go and do where that spirit leads us with the knowledge that whatever it is we are going and doing, the spirit will give us everything we need to get it done.
As the recipients of this gift, those disciples walked out of that room, and into the world as a church: formed and reformed out of chaos and uncertainty by the breath of Christ; endowed with power and mission from the word of God. That breath-gift invigorated them for the task that awaited. Jesus had prefaced his gift-giving with the assignment: "I send you." And he follows it with the responsibility of authority. They, and now we, are to bring that fresh life-giving Spirit to a world which continues to shut its doors in fear. We are empowered to breathe new life into a stale world that yearns to share that breath of life.
The Holy Spirit is what transforms upper-room cowards into bold evangelists. John’s gospel completes Jesus’ mission by affirming that the presence of Jesus has never left this world. The Holy Spirit is what brings Christ to life in each one of us. That is the function of the Spirit: to breathe the resurrection presence of power into each of our lives. Since the resurrection, the presence of Jesus has never left this world. Since the resurrection, the presence of the risen Christ has been witnessed and worshiped through his Spirit-empowered disciples. From the first century to the twenty-first century, Jesus’ Spirit-empowered disciples have continued to gift creation with the living presence of the resurrected Jesus, the One sent by God to save the world and bring us back into a
relationship with God.
We are the ones who show the world the power that comes from putting our lives in the hands of a risen Christ, a Christ who gives us the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like a jolt of electricity, we can shock the world - with love and grace and forgiveness and caring and acceptance and all those things people don’t expect. The resurrection Christ lives through us and the spirit within us. Amen!