Tuesday, September 29th John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:19-23

What is the purpose of the church? What is the church good for? What is the church supposed to be about?

There are times….when we wonder.

How are we to answer that question?

Some might go back through the 2000 years and look at how the church actually functioned. They might point out the behaviors of the church in Acts 4 and argue that the church is to be a social service delivery center. It ought to be about feeding the poor and redistributing income. They might quote Matthew 25.

Others could argue that the church is to be a counter-point to the political powers of every age. They could tell stories of the rise of the papacy, the rise of the power and the influence of the church. Missionaries on board sailing ships, making sure that the church was planted on new soil just as soon as the flag of empire was. They would quote passages of scripture about claiming the promised land, maybe Elijah besting the best of the king and queen. Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God.

Still others would argue that the purpose of the church is to be the conscience and moral guide to community life. They would remind us of Jesus telling us that not a “jot or tittle” of the law is to be removed. They would teach children lessons about what they ought to do and ought not to do to be good little Christians. Certainly the stories of the separation of the sheep and the goats would be part of their message.

The truth is, the “church” as Christian community, even Christian beauracracy, has done and still does a whole lot of things. Not all are good. Some are quite ungodly.

Jesus might say that, no matter what we might do, someone will always be poor. Heaven and earth are not the same thing…not that that should hamper our efforts to see that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus might remind us that Caesar can make many claims on our lives but Caesar will never be our King of Kings. Our true home will always be elsewhere and our earthly homes will ever be sources of discontent and uneasiness.

Jesus might remind us of the log in our own eye and the splinter in our neighbors.

What is the purpose of the church? How do we answer that question?

I’m going to stick with this scene from the upper room. Jesus walks into the midst of his anxiety and fearful friends. He could scold them but he doesn’t. He could condemn them but he doesn’t. His first words are words of peace – the only power in the world that restores relationships. Then he gifts them with the same Holy Spirit through which God remains present and active in our lives today. And then he sends them forth to speak words of forgiveness.

A forgiven community, living into the wholeness of God, sent out to speak and live that forgiveness for the sake of others, making God real by incarnating God’s love. Whatever the purpose of the church, surely that lies at the heart of the matter.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, cut through the smoke and mirrors that cloud our lives as your children. Bring us to the heart of the matter – living and sharing the good news that all is well in your love for broken and rebellious, fearful and anxious, people like us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


4 Responses to “Tuesday, September 29th John 20:19-23”

  1. russ Says:

    Pastor Kerry—Thanks for reminding us of what the church should be—a people filled with the Peace of Jesus. And a people eagerly and joyfully spreading that Peace to all we meet.

  2. Sharon Longnecker Says:

    Thank you so much. It warmed my heart and made me smile to see your e-mail appear on my screen.
    I know you are so busy and I am grateful that you were willing to write for all of us.
    God bless you richly and give you insight and affirmation of your next assignment.

  3. Julia Cloninger Halford Says:

    Glad to “see” you – glad you are doing well – I know you are busy but please know that your efforts are appreciated. Please watch out for careless people when you ride your “bike”. Too many people do not watch out for my biologicial and adopted “sons” (like you) on their motorized and other bikes. Cya, Julia

  4. Maynard Kellerman Says:

    So glad to see the devotions coming again! They are perfect for getting my day started on a positive note to accomplish my tasks for the day – always with hope and a desire to share with others. Thanks so much!

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