Life after Easter, part 2

I had intended to post this at the start of the week, but ended up thinking and writing about volcanoes etc, but it still feels appropriate to post this. I have a question though, and its one I’d actually like a response to, if you don’t mind… In my experience of life within the Christian community, most of the learning alongside one another that we could call discipleship happens in small/medium sized groups. But given that a large part of life now happens in virtual communities- networks etc via social media rather than based in the physical geography of the place where we live… ‘what does discipleship (learning alongside others) look like in our lives today, and how can we use the format of blogs etc to help each other grow/learn together?’

Its a long question, and probably so badly worded that you don’t even know what it means… but I’m asking it because the original purpose of this blog was to document my own thinking and learning, in a way that is accessible to others…

Which is not a million miles away from the passage I preached on last week, and the original theme for this weeks post- doubts and faith as shown in the first encounters that the disciples, especially Thomas, have with the risen Jesus. How does faith work in a virtual community? How can a printed word on a blog convey the depth of meaning that a face-to-face discussion permits? Is it really dependent on font and a good set of pictures (not to mention the title and opening sentence?)

All important questions, and ones that I’m vexed by, but for this moment, here’s the gist of what I shared last time I preached- on the Sunday after Easter, based on chapter 21 of John’s Gospel…

Jesus has appeared to Mary, the disciples know the tomb is empty, but they’re still terrified… and then Jesus appears to them- his words echoing those used by God and by Angels throughout the experience of the Jewish people- fear not, or Peace be with you- they might remember back to their last evening with Jesus, when he had said ‘Peace I leave with you’. And he gave them the Holy Spirit. You can look at this as either a taster of Pentecost, or as proof that Christians need the Holy Spirit to come into us more than once, but its also the time when Jesus gives the disciples their first commission- to forgive others. Sometimes we get caught up with the busy life of our church, or the busyness of life in general. We might be excited by possibilities or frustrated by concerns, but this is what Jesus says- Peace be with you. Now, because God is in you, forgive others. Know peace, and bring peace.

But our reading doesn’t end there- Thomas is absent when Jesus appears to the others. And he, quite reasonably, has doubts. As, most likely, would you and I in his situation. But he doesn’t pull back from his friends- he doesn’t leave, he doesn’t run or betray them, and a week later he is there when Jesus joins them again. And Thomas responds to the clear call of Jesus. Many people in the world have spent so long with their fingers in their ears that they cannot hear the call of Jesus. They’ve filled their lives and their heads with noise, convincing themselves that its music and that they love it, but it isn’t, and they don’t. Jesus invites all who believe in him to know peace and to bring peace, and to those who do not, he offers the invitation to believe- to be blessed and to have life in his name- eternal life which starts now and is ‘to the full’.

So now what? The disciples, and Thomas, have responded to Jesus, and they now have their commission- their invitation to be involved with him in the redemption of the world- Jesus has died for the world, they are to go and spread the news, to tell of forgiveness, to bring healing and peace. So… if you find yourself in agreement with the disciples, or with Thomas, that Jesus is the Son of God- your Lord, then you are also called to join with them- we are to be peacebringers. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, praying and working for an end to conflicts near and far- on every scale. Jesus is risen means that my belief in his power is shown true, and the impact in my own life is that everything else follows from that- my work, my priorities of time, how I speak to and about others, and so my belief in him ripples out and has an impact on the lives of those around me- how I treat them, the things I will find myself agreeing with and drawing back from….

And though you may not think of yourself as a missionary or an evangelist, that is exactly what you are, and your faith is the result of someone sharing their faith with you- through words, actions, invitations, being a role model- you found out about the Christian faith and came to believe because of someone else, and we can all help others to do the same… we can help continue the work of the Father that Jesus commissioned his disciples to; and further out and out- the ripples of Jesus resurrection reach me and go on… So although the chocolate may be finished, lets pray that the truth of Easter will live on in our lives and reach into the lives of those around us…

 

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