Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hide and Seek


You have to get lost if you want to get found. 

John 20:19-23

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 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!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
 The first thing that would go through anyone's mind after the onrush of an ordeal like the disciples have been through is to say - "Did that really happen?"

Yes, it did and they know it all too well. Have you ever been afraid? So afraid that you didn't feel safe? There are moments where we feel as if all is not right unless we lock every door and window in order to feel protected. Fear and depression can ride in the same car. It's a ride to little city called "Futile". That's how everything feels in that place. These disciples might be feeling at this moment like everything is futile.  Have you ever been there? I'm sure many of us have been in a place or felt like using those two hard-hearted words - "Why bother?" 

As incredulous as it might sound to hear this, it's ok to be there. We need to be there. Because, it is only there that we find Jesus in the way these disciples did. It was in a place where all the doors & windows were locked in hopes of keeping the world out. It is in this place we find that Jesus can still get in. Somehow, someway, he simply appears. In the midst of our hurt and pain, he just shows up. 

During the next few weeks our sights will change. We are still focusing on that word - FOLLOW.
We have followed into this New Year. We have followed through Lent and prepared our hearts for the Cross and Easter. We have celebrated the Resurrection and been to the Empty Tomb. Where do we we follow to next? Our calendars tell us the next major place is called Pentecost. There's a lot of preparation that goes in to this next major event. We have to follow along and see what it means to get ready. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of these disciples and see what they experienced. And, in doing so, we might find that we share similar know-how. Like knowing sadness and depression. Like knowing what it is to be afraid. Like being afraid of the outside world so as to lock ourselves away from it. These disciples have quite a ways to go before they are ready for Pentecost. And, so do we. 

The scripture says it is "first day of the week". In our modern world that means "Monday".
The word seems to bring with it images of utter disaster. No matter how good or bad the weekend went Monday is still around the corner and we have to start afresh. In the case of the disciples, the first day of the week has arrived and with it has come the dread of having to deal with people they would rather not. Tell me you have not been there. At no other point does the phrase "not everybody is going to like you" stick so well. There are plenty of people who do not like these disciples of Jesus. And, it has come to barring the doors and windows. Is that person at work, in your case? Is that person at church? Is that person family to you? Maybe a friend of your friend and you just wish the two of you could go do something without that annoying third wheel tagging along. 

There are moments, and people, in life that make us afraid, fearful, depressed. 
We want to just come home, lie down on the couch and not open our eyes until the next time we are required to go to work or school. But, even while we are lying there grovelling in self-pity and loathing, we wish and long to not feel that way any more. Does anyone actually want to go through life feeling so down? A positive answer here will get you checked in and medicated. NO! Nobody wants to feel this way. The hurt is too much for the soul to bear. There is a crippling and debilitating effect to living with so much dread. Human beings were made in the image of God, we are told. If this is true, then God has a quality and a virtue we so desperately need. 


What brings joy? A sudden reversal of fortune. A pick-me-up perfectly designed.
For the disciples, they find both. How is that Jesus can suddenly appear? Even when we have locked the doors and we feel as if we have shut everyone out, there is no way to shut our Lord and Savior out. He can come and go as he pleases. What He pleases to do is bring us joy and peace. All he needs to do is speak it and it is. "Peace be with you!" The one who flung the worlds into existence freely gives peace to those who long for it. He shows his hands and his side to the followers that have endured so much. He endured all the pain and suffering of the cross so our sins could be forgiven. Now, the sufferings of that cross are incomparable to the great riches he can bestow. 

Love. Joy. Peace. 
Don't we long to love and be loved? Is there a missing void in your life that needs to be filled? There is only one person who can rush in to the midst of hurting and pain, making all well. Horatio G. Spafford who wrote the well known hymn "It Is Well With My Soul" would have to face one the greatest tragedies any human should ever face.
In 1873, Spafford decided his family should take a holiday somewhere in Europe, and chose England knowing that his friend D. L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. He was delayed because of business, so he sent his family ahead: his wife and their four children, daughters eleven-year-old Tanetta, nine-year-old Elizabeth "Bessie", five-year-old Margaret Lee, and two-year-old Anna "Annie".
On November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic on the steamship Ville du Havre, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and 226 people lost their lives, including all four of Spafford's daughters. Anna Spafford survived the tragedy. Upon arriving in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford beginning "Saved alone." Spafford then sailed to England, going over the location of his daughters' deaths. According to Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote "It Is Well with My Soul" on this journey.

 When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

What follows is a chance for acceptance and serenity.
“Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

God wants to forgive. God wants to restore.
Now the ability to do so lies with us. Do we release the pain from our hearts and find peace? 

Or, do we hang on to it and continue to grovel? Whether we choose to do so is in our hands. This is not a power play or a scramble for authority. God has given us the way. He is the way, the truth, the life.

Seek life. And find the peace you have been longing for inside.

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