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     Sermons | Passionate worship

    This sermon was preached by Assistant Pastor Jody Beth Melton at Swift Presbyterian Church.

    April 19, 2020 | Second Sunday of Easter

    Peace Be With You
    John 20:19–23

     T ODAY WE ARE going to recognize Holy Humor Sunday. It’s a way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ as the supreme joke that God played on Satan. When Satan thought Jesus was dead, God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Many years ago, people celebrated this on the first Monday after Easter. The scripture that I read today takes place when the disciples are gathered on the evening of the first day of the week. It takes place the evening of what we call Easter. Easter Sunday morning Jesus rose, and now the disciples are gathered that evening. They are about to find out this amazing news that Jesus has risen from the dead! That Jesus is indeed alive!

    † † †

    SO, WE PLAY A LITTLE BIT with this holy humor. Now one thing I have heard people say time and time again is that people are missing hugs. They’re missing that they get to be able to hug one another and receive hugs. This is a Ronnie Hope-style hug. (Holding up piece of crepe paper with paper hand on each end, wrapping around neck.)

    Ronnie Hope was a member of Swift Presbyterian Church and many years ago she made “hugs” for all of us. So I’d like to give a hug out to all of you who are worshiping with us today (holding up another Ronnie-style hug), and a shout out to Nancy Hope, her mom, who may be watching as well this morning, how much we love Nancy, and how much we loved and miss Ronnie.

    † † †

    AS WE CONTINUE ON this morning: These disciples, they are gathered, and it says that they’re afraid. They are locked behind doors, literally locked up, afraid of the future, afraid of the Jews, afraid of what’s coming up, because they don’t know yet that Jesus is alive, and they know that the Jews know that they were followers of Jesus and they are gathered up in fear of what the Jews may do to them. They crucified Jesus.

    While they are locked up, Jesus appears among them. I love that phrase. Jesus appears among them. “Peace be with you,” he says. Which in today’s language may be like saying:

    “Hey! Hey, y’all, what’s up? Why the frowny faces? Chill out. I’m here among you. It’s really me. See the wounds in my hands and on my side. It’s really me. I’m not dead. I’m alive.”

    † † †

    YEARS AGO, when Pastor Keith Cardwell preached on Holy Humor Sunday, he said that as Jesus appeared to the disciples it was as though he came into the room and said, “Ta-da! I’m alive.”

    Ta-da! Jesus is alive today.

    Now we have some happy disciples that first evening of what we call Easter. And Jesus is talking to us, and he’s greeting us. We know by those wounds that Jesus healed us. That Jesus saved us. That because of the risen Christ being alive, we have everlasting life, and we have salvation.

    He is standing right here with us. He is among you where you are gathered watching this worship service.

    † † †

    WHEN HE COMES and he says, “Peace be with you,” he says that the father sent him. He says, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”

    Jesus says to us, receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus is with us and among us as the Holy Spirit is with us and among. It is through the Holy Spirit that our eyes are opened, and we see the scriptures and we know we need a savior. And we accept Christ as our savior.

    Jesus also talks about forgiveness. “If you forgive anyone who sins, they are forgiven. And if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Forgiveness is a very difficult topic for most of us. If we are honest, we all know that need to offer forgiveness to someone.

    Perhaps even this morning you can think of somebody that you know that you need to offer forgiveness to. And also, it is very likely that you are quite sure that you know that there is somebody who better offer some forgiveness to you. That seems to come to our minds more quickly.

    † † †

    I’M GOING TO HAVE, as I said, a little fun with the sermon, and I’m going to tell you a personal story. It’s about electronics.

    We have a big disadvantage at my house. We have a handle on how to operate a laptop. By that I mean I know to lift the cover, the screen part. Sometimes I can even figure which button to push to turn the computer on. Or, I keep pressing the power button, the space bar, and random keys until somehow the screen comes to life.

    Ta-da, we’re set to go. But, no. Now the computer wants a password. Back in the day, I remembered passwords. Eventually I got a little book to keep all our passwords written down. Sometimes I remember where I put the little book, which we “always” keep in a certain place. But sometimes I’m not certain where that certain place is.

    Alas, I am able to log onto my laptop and engage with the outside world, send emails, read Facebook posts — particularly entertaining these days. Particularly prayerful these days.

    We’ve even managed to operate our smart phones.

    But we have a huge disadvantage at our house. When I say we or our, I’m speaking of me and my husband, Philip. We don’t have any grandchildren to help us with the technicalities of technology. We’ve thought about this, and we think we know how this happened. We think this is directly related to the fact that we don’t have any children.

    On the flip side, we don’t have to teach kids how to carry the one in their math or write in cursive right now like many of you are.

    † † †

    I’M GOING SOMEWHERE with this. There’s a bit of fun in Holy Humor Sunday. I get to be a bit silly, but I do intend to a reference back to the scripture or being a Christian or being nice to our friends and all that churchy stuff eventually. Just stay with me.

    Whether you are teaching kids, or they are teaching you, or you have had far too much time around your kids, or you have not been able to even hold you kids, we all know how valuable children are. They are loving and kind and look at the bright side and make us laugh, they ask awesome — or is that impossible? — questions.

    But one of the things that makes them so valuable these days is they know technology. As a matter of fact, most of them never knew life without technology. And this is very important these days.

    From them we learn to get up at 4:30 a.m. if we want to secure a delivery time for an online grocery order. We learn how to turn our computers on, and if we have given them to them, they have memorized our passwords for us. They know how to navigate through all the different apps on the laptop, the iPhone, the cell phone, the computer and all the different electronics that I don’t even know about.

    Here’s the thing. Since Phil and I don’t have kids and we are practicing social distancing, we are in the house, figuring out how to prepare online worship services, how to lead a Bible study on an application called Zoom so that we can gather with others, using electronics while still social distancing, or physical distancing as I recently heard someone call it.

    † † †

    WE ARE AT OUR WIT’S END on how to create a Gmail email account to send videos to a Gmail box with a voice recorder recording and movie maker app. And kids would be able to explain all of that to us. But we are on the phone and texting with Pastor Keith, and we are learning how to make it possible to have a worship service available this Sunday morning.

    And, remember all of this is happening while a lot of the internet services are maxing out. Has anybody else had a problem with internet services lately? They’re kind of spotty. Coming and going. They seem to disappear like Jesus disappeared from the tomb. There he was; now the tomb’s empty. There I had internet connection, and, now I don’t.

    There’s the internet, and now my entire document that was sending is gone. Not the kind of ta-da I was looking for.

    † † †

    HERE’S THE PART I’ve been holding off on telling you. While Philip was trying to set up some new video program — for the church — and I was preparing this sermon — for today’s worship service — we both lost our cool. Both doing “church work.” Both doing “good things” that we feel that God is calling us to do. We’ve been married almost 14 years. We love our life of ministry together. We are what Pastor Kim Vanbrimmer calls “church nerds.” She is one of the greatest church nerds, by the way.

    So, I’m preparing a sermon about the peace of Christ. Right. Peace be with you! Jesus is among us! He’s sent the Holy Spirit to us! Right?

    And I’m just not feeling it.

    Seemed to me like Jesus had left the building. Run off somewhere with Elvis. And I have about one hour left to finish preparing the sermon. Not because it’s Saturday night, but because of the videotaping we are doing in advance so that Pastor Keith can splice together, in advance, the service that we are all now worshiping right now. So, he can download it or upload it onto the different resources that we are all watching worship on right now.

    Which goes back to the technology stuff. And back to no kids. And back to Phil and I losing our cool. And … right back to the message of the sermon today.

    † † †

    PEACE BE WITH YOU. Jesus is among us. He has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us.

    We no longer have to huddle up in fear at one end of the house because we need forgiveness. We no longer have to be huddled up because we messed up. Jesus is with us. We no longer have to feel ashamed for having “fallen short” of the glory of God by losing our cool. God forgives us.

    We no longer have to be embarrassed that there are things we can’t do. We have more than just children. We are part of a family. Many of you are part of the Swift Church family. All of us are a part of God’s family.

    Like a recent TV commercial says, we are not alone. We are in this together.

    Christian brothers and sisters, we are not alone. We are in this together. And Jesus is standing among us.

    † † †

    LATER IN THE SAME DAY of Philip and I losing our cool, he was the one that chose to offer forgiveness. Who chose to apologize to me. At which point I apologized to him. However, that doesn’t make the hurt go away, does it? No matter what age you are as you are worshiping with us today, sometimes, when your feelings get hurt, it takes time for it to go away.

    The disciples were in a room with Jesus standing among them. Jesus offered the disciples peace. They were gathered together with Jesus with them. In that very first appearance with them, he spoke to them about forgiveness. Forgiveness on the bigger picture. Not the forgiveness of each thing that was said because the Gmail link wasn’t working properly. But forgiveness to one another because we are all in this together.

    We are all a little shaken up by the way we are living our lives right now. It’s different to be home, day in and day out, to maybe just go for a ride, but mostly not to be able to see your classmates or your teachers or be able to gather for worship or go have fellowship time together.

    We are in this together — with Jesus standing among us.

    † † †

    AS I WRAP UP THE MESSAGE, I want to tell you one more story. Philip and I were continuing to do our nerdy church stuff, I misplaced my phone. This happens from time to time; perhaps it happens to some of you. So, we used our usual method, and that is we looked everywhere until we realized we had no idea where it was.

    And then, Philip used his phone to call my phone. We both heard the phone ringing which was a good sign that it was somewhere in the house and somewhere in the room that we were in. We started lifting up books and files and we still couldn’t find it. I stood and put my hands on my hips when I realized that my phone was in my pocket. Right there with me all the time.

    I thought, what a reminder, as we finish this message that Jesus is right there with us — all the time!

    We’re together in this. Jesus is standing among us. He’s alive! Amen.

    — Jody Beth Melton   

    «Christian brothers and sisters, we are not alone. We are in this together. And Jesus is standing among us.»


    ►This is the Word of God for the people of God:

    John 20:19–23
    Holy Bible, New International Version

    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.”

    — This is the Word of the Lord.
    — Thanks be to God.

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