Friday, April 26, 2013

Sending Forth the Disciples

Today's Reading
Today's reading from chapter 20 of John's gospel contains a particular verse that is frequently quoted by church leaders within the "missional church" movement: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." This verse seems to directly link the "mission of God" with the "mission of the early church." In other words, the mission of the church is not something we do on behalf of God, but rather our mission is a participation in the much larger, eternal mission of God.

It is important to note that this mission in which we are called to participate is rooted in the peace that Jesus bestows upon his disciples. Twice Jesus says to the fearful disciples, "Peace be with you." Throughout this "missional journey," we have discovered that God's peace (shalom) is at the heart of God's mission. Jesus knows that the disciples are afraid; he knows that they are uncertain about the future, and so before commissioning them as participants in God's mission, Jesus bestows upon them the peace (shalom) of God.

The connection between God's peace and God's mission is evident within our liturgical tradition as Episcopalians. As part of our regular liturgical practice, we share "the peace of the Lord" with each other as we prepare to celebrate Holy Communion. This liturgical practice is a reminder that we are called to be reconciled as brothers and sisters in Christ, but it also serves as a sign that our common life is rooted in the peace (shalom) of God. Likewise, at the conclusion of the liturgy, the celebrant offers a concluding blessing. One of the most traditional forms of the blessing includes the following words: "The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God." Just as the congregation is about to be sent forth into the world as participants in God's mission, we are blessed with the peace of God!

Today, I offer the following words from Pope John Paul II for our reflection. These words remind us that peace is not something we receive or experience in isolation, but rather we often encounter the peace of God in midst of the stranger.

If you want peace, open your hearts to Christ. If you want peace, accept Christ; accept him as the Son of God; accept him also in the mystery of his humanity; accept him in others.
Embrace Christ in everyone who shares with you the dignity of human nature. Reach out to him and discover him in the poor and lonely, the sick and troubled, the disabled, the aged, the unwanted, all those who are waiting for you smile, who need your help, and who crave your understanding, your compassion and your love. And when you have acknowledged and embraced Jesus in all those people, thenand only thenwill you share deeply in the peace of Christ.

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