Thought for the Day: Friday, April 17
As it is Friday once again I have invited one of our familiar chapel guest speakers to offer a thought for today. Rev’d Julia Bartholomew is the local United Reformed Church minister in Rhos-on-Sea and Old Colwyn, and here she links our current experience of lockdown to the first Easter week.
Horror of horrors, he breathed on them!
My room has become my world. Well, my room, and possibly my house, maybe my garden too. But how on earth can that provide everything I need? There are of course various ways I can connect with others.
There are family members who come and go, but ultimately it is just me. How can I possibly survive when so much has been taken away? No football to watch, no sport to play, no catching up with friends, no lessons to go to, no A levels or GCSEs to sit, no future to plan, no job to go to.
What is left? Does it matter anymore whether I study or not, whether I keep fit, what I wear or what I say? Does anything really matter? I am like an alien on a foreign planet. And where is this all going? Will things ever be the same? Will the people I care for remain safe, will I be able to catch up where I left off?
One of earliest images that comes from the Easter story is of a group of people who were feeling just like that. They were huddled together, in an upstairs room. They were there, not out of fear of spreading a virus, but like us through fear of being caught meeting together. John records the experience:
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
Then he took a deep breath and breathed onto them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
Jesus’ appearance turns everything on its head. He promises them peace from the anxiety that overshadows them. He confirms that he is the one who was crucified, but somehow, despite that, everything will be OK. He ‘sends’ them. Tells them that even from their place of uselessness they have a purpose, a God-given purpose. To go and make a difference to the lives of others.
And then what does he do? Horror of horrors, Jesus breathes on them! We could be arrested for that!
“Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said, as he ‘breathed onto them’.
Yes, on the ground everything for us is ruined, as it had been for those followers of Jesus. But what they experienced behind a closed door in that upstairs room, is the heart of the Easter message.
There is nothing that can take us away from the presence of God and the power of his Spirit. With Jesus alongside us there is nothing that can take away our purpose, even when we are locked-down in an upstairs room.
Rev’d Julia Bartholomew