I guess I’m not the only one who lost track of time this week after Easter. I remember starting a piece for April 1st on our perception of time and how the month of March seems to drag on and on and on. Truth is… it’s only one day longer than 5 of the other months and 3 days longer than February not counting Leap Year. So here I am late again. I am so very thankful that several of the journals and devotionals I read have wonderful pieces to share. I hope Rev. David Lose thoughts on the Resurrection Community give you some food for thought
Dear Partner in Preaching,
My apologies for the lateness of this post. This week totally got away from me! So I’ll keep it short. Two brief ideas that perhaps fall together and complement each other.
Thought # 1: What an assortment of people and emotions in the two upper-room gatherings John narrates! There are folks who deserted Jesus, denied him, watched him die at a distance, and at least one up close. There are folks who saw the empty tomb, one believed (though what he believed, exactly, we don’t know) and one was confused by what he witnessed. Fear abounds, and doors are for that reason locked fast. After Jesus appears to the disciples and in the days to come there is joy and testimony, but also the skepticism of Thomas, or at least the totally fair (when you think about it) request of Thomas simply to see what the others had seen.
And then on Sunday: wondrous confrontation, confession, and benediction. So many different emotions, moods, reactions, persons, yet all are gathered together in the embrace of the Risen Lord’s offer of peace, shalom, wholeness, newness. Whatever else it might be, this is a picture of resurrection community – all kinds of different, distinctive, and diverse people bound together in the promise of resurrection in a way that the whole is larger than the sum of the parts.
Thought # 2: I was really struck by Pr. Mary Hinkle Shore’s characteristically brilliant commentary on WorkingPreacher this week. She borrows and expands the suggestion of Prof. Sandra Schneiders that we have mistranslated the second half of John 20:23:
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” probably reading it in light of Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:19:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
What’s fascinating about this is that the word “sins” is missing from the second half of that verse and the verb can be translated “hold fast” or “embrace” instead of simply “retain.”
If you read it this way, you have,
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, and anyone whom you hold fast/embrace is held fast.”
I love that reading, partly because it coheres more sensibly with John’s regular equation of sin with unbelief, all of which fits beautifully with the Thomas story that immediately follows. That is, if you forgive someone who has struggled to believe, they are forgiven, and if you hold fast or embrace anyone who is struggling, that person will indeed be held onto, not let go, not lost or abandoned. But I also love that reading because it’s more or less exactly what happens with Thomas – they do not critique his unbelief or shun or exclude him for it; rather, they include – hold onto – him until he has his own encounter with Jesus. And I think that’s what John wishes for all of us: To forgive each other, to hold onto each other, to embrace each other, especially when we struggle, until we are caught up in an experience of the Risen Christ.
Thought #1 + #2 (equals 4?): Perhaps this is the resurrection community we’re called to describe for our folks this week, Dear Partner: a diverse and, quite often, motley crew of folks that are called to hold onto each while God continues to work within us, breaking through the locked doors and self-imposed barriers until we see and experience the Lord and are able to confess in a mixture of wonder, fear, and joy, “My Lord and my God.”
Not easy work, I know, particularly in a day and age where empty affirmations and poisonous accusations are far more common than blessed embraces and steadfast commitment. But while not easy work, it is good work, work God blesses again and again. And I’m so grateful for your part in it.
Rev. David Lose from his devotional website In the Meantime…