Deep Breath | John 20.19-23
A slight departure from the Gospel of John this week. But not really. This week’s reflections will help prepare our minds and hearts for teaching from visiting Pastor Mark Fields and his message “Instruments of Peace.” Hopefully they will prepare us to be instruments of peace…
Reflection 1 of 5
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:19-23 | ESV
This upper room scene really happened. And it so needs to happen still. For each of us. All of us. Each of us at one point or another has locked ourselves away in our own upper room. Dangers and the unknown, without fears and insecurities aplenty within, ironically. It’s an upper room of our own supposed certainties and assumptions. We often call it our comfort zone. The one place where we think we can truly be ourselves and not be threatened. And Jesus doesn’t even stand at the door and knock. He’s just suddenly, simply there. Standing with us. Hands extended. No weapons. No demands. No ultimatums. No pitch. Only wounds through which faith and our own healing come. And then, he reveals his side with a deep wound opening right up to his heart. And before we have a chance to be overwhelmed, he speaks the words. “Peace to you.” Shalom. Settled, healing, wholeness. And then he breathes on us. We didn’t realize our cadaverous state, dead while we live, and his breath resuscitates, reclaims us. He breathes peace into our souls, rekindling faith, hope and love, and then he breathes empowering mission into lungs desperate for air, the new life-giving breath reaching the furthest extremities of our existence, causing movement of hands and feet, the hinges now bursting off our locked doors. Gotta go, gotta go! As the Father sent me, so now I send you. Kingdom mission. Blessed peacemakers with beautiful feet and generous hearts and hands running errands of mercy and forgiveness in a world desperate for this balm – though not all will open themselves to it.
It’s John’s version of what we call the “Great Commission.” In Matthew it’s go and make disciples; in Mark it’s bring the Good News to all creation; in Luke it’s “be my witnesses.” In John, he breathes upon us as with the breath from the four winds upon Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, he breathes his peace upon us, and we exhale forgiveness. Receiving his peace, we breathe out peace. We become instruments of peace, agents of mercy and justice heralding a day of kingdom come, becoming the touch of his wounded hands upon the deep incurable wounds of humanity, of creation, until the full day dawns. Yes, this will take a deep breath.
What has been your “safe place” – in what locked upper room have you found your security and meaning? How might God be drawing you out of it?
Each day this week, begin your response to his call by praying the prayer of St. Francis. Write it down, take it with you. Let your spirit soak in it…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
For all of this week’s small group resources including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.