You won't believe this. A friend introduced me to "Facebook" as an online way to connect with friends and re-connect with people you haven't seen in years. It's been kind of fun! The other evening, I did a search for people from a high school where I'd very much enjoyed the students in my chorus. Presto – there was the name of a girl who'd been a rather brilliant accompanist for me. Anything I put before her, she could play. Angie got so she could almost read my mind during warm-ups. We made a wonderful team, and here she was on Facebook! I sent her a quick note with a friend invitation and was a bit stunned by her reply. Clearly she had been shocked as her response read, "I don't want to seem rude, but is this a joke? I had been told that you had…passed away some years ago." WOW. How often do you get a note like that? Quickly I wrote back to let Angie know that I am fine and dandy and was sorry to stun her. She was so apologetic because especially at a class reunion she had shared with others this news she'd heard about me and she wanted to find a way to rectify the situation. Soon she'd posted this note on Facebook about me: "…just wanted to let you know the story that Karen Brook Westhaver had passed away is totally false! She is very alive and well and also here on Facebook…". Soon emails and Facebook friend invitations from other former chorus students began pouring in and I was inundated with lovely notes and fond memories and stories from our time together in chorus. In a way, it was kind of like my own personal little Easter! True, thankfully no crucifixion had been involved, but after lots of people had thought I'd died and existed only in their memory, suddenly here I am alive in their present!
Are you a bit in the doldrums after Lent is over and Easter is past? Although Easter is officially 50 days long until we get to the celebration of Pentecost, still…it sure feels "in between". If we have that "what do we do now?" kind of feeling, can you imagine how the disciples must have felt right at this time? Think about it. Jesus had been crucified, they'd learned about His resurrection but…what now? What were they to do now?
If we are honest about it, this is pretty much where we live a lot of the time. What are we supposed to do now? Does what we do have any meaning, purpose or benefit? How can God use us? And, with our very human times of doubting, does He even WANT us? What are we good for, anyway? Isn't it much better all the way around if we just sleep in on Sundays, keep our eyes on our work and entertainment the rest of the time, and forget about finding ways to participate in church, let alone sharing with others the benefit of belonging to a church family? Ah, my friends, this is where I get to share with you one of my favorite stories in the Bible.
In John 20: 19-29 We learn that the disciples had been gathered behind locked doors (in fear). "Jesus came in and stood among them. He said, "May peace be with you!" 20 Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were very happy when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, "May peace be with you! The Father has sent me. So now I am sending you. [emphasis mine]" 22 He then breathed on them. He said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Can you even begin to imagine their relief at having actually seen Jesus in such a personal way? But did you also notice that Jesus had a purpose larger than to reassure them: He came to commission them, to "send them out". It was now time for them to do the work of spreading the gospel and growing the church. Them. The *regular* people in their own way, empowered by the Holy Spirit, yes, but now they were to do the sharing without being in the background while Jesus taught. But the story gets even better. Here's where it REALLY relates to you and me and where we so often are.
In the encounter above, the disciple Thomas was not with the group. The following week, though, he was there when Jesus next came to be with them. Again, everyone was gathered with the door locked but still Jesus entered, passing through the door. He said, "May peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed."
Although Thomas had been told by the disciples of Jesus' earlier visit with them, still he was unconvinced. And Jesus' response to him? No lecturing, no punishing, no turning away, but He gave Thomas the most intimate invitation of all. BECAUSE of Thomas' doubt, Jesus invited him to put his hand into His side and the nail marks in His hands. So, friends, here's the deal. Jesus gives us ALL the same invitation. He yearns for us to become so close to Him that we become part of His body. And, being equipped with the Holy Spirit, our part of the bargain is the same as the disciples: we are now sent out. Throughout the Bible, the meekest, the weakest, the youngest and the oldest were among those who made the biggest difference in the growth and nurture of the church. Think of Abraham and Sarah who at 90+ became the parents of all the tribes of Israel. Considering of all this, who are any of us NOT to step up and step out? NOW what do we do? We roll up our sleeves, step out and in doing so, we receive the greatest blessing of all. Happy Easter-living all year long!