A Second Wind Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Easter 2, 2016) When I was a child I was afraid of water. Once, to get me over my fear of water, my father put a floatation belt on me and carried me in a boat into a deep part of a local lake. We got in the […]
A Second Wind
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Easter 2, 2016)
When I was a child I was afraid of water. Once, to get me over my fear of water, my father put a floatation belt on me and carried me in a boat into a deep part of a local lake. We got in the water to swim, with the floatation belt, of course. But my dad had the brilliant idea to dunk me repeatedly. Of course I always floated back to the top, but I was terrified. Every time I popped up, he shoved me back under the water. I panicked. I called for help. I struggled. Afterward, when the terrifying ordeal was finished (I thought it was hours, it might have been all of 3 minutes), I was embarrassed. Fear gave way to shame. I couldn’t breathe under water, but in another sense, it felt like I couldn’t breathe freely even once I was on the boat again.
On a positive note, I did overcome my fear of water…not because of my dad’s misguided attempt at water torture, but because my mother enrolled me in swimming lessons the following year.
In John’s gospel today we see Jesus’ friends who are overwhelmed by fear and shame. Things have moved pretty quickly. Their friend and teacher had been branded a rabble rouser and he was arrested, tried, convicted, and executed as a result. They didn’t persuade him to run. They didn’t launch a rescue attempt. They didn’t know what to do, and now they are afraid that they may be on the most wanted list. Fear and shame have taken their breath away. But the writer of the story imagines Jesus helping them breathe again.
In the book of Acts, Luke imagines the spirit breathing life into the entire Jesus movement at Pentecost.
In one of the creation myths in Genesis, the world is brought to life by the movement of the wind of God, the holy breath.
But the author of John’s gospel crafts a different narrative; this story has the life of Christ being present beyond death and still able to inspire, to breathe life into people. And so the author imagines the indomitable Christ encouraging the lonely, the afraid, the embarrassed, the defeated…the Christ Life breathes new life into them. The Christ figure says to them, Receive the holy Breath, the breath of wholeness, the life that can’t be kept down.
Jesus’ friends experience their own resurrection, their own return to hope and meaning and unconquerable peace.
Let’s look at some important points the narrative makes:
1. Even though they are behind locked doors, the Christ, the word of divine encouragement, the presence of endless hope shows up in their midst anyway. The power of hope cannot be locked out.
2. Jesus’ friends are in hiding for fear of religious authorities. How many people have hid their true identities, their love, their dreams, because of fear of religious condemnation? But whereas denominationalism and oppressive theologies can try to keep people in closets of fear and shame, divine Love calls us into healing, liberation, and peace of mind.
3. The writer imagines Jesus saying what he so often said…Peace! Or as we say around here, Go to peace instead of to pieces.
4. Jesus then shows them his wounds. He doesn’t deny his pain or pretend it never happened, he shares his pain. If he has risen above his pain; so can his friends, and so can we. They weren’t brave, they weren’t clever, and those are their wounds. But Jesus shows his, has risen above his, and is saying to them, “the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities.” Don’t let the past define you. Face your pain, and move on.
The Rev. Elder Freda Smith preached here a few years ago. She has a saying that is in line with Jesus showing his wounds and encouraging others to face their own and move past them. Freda says about problems in life: Find it. Face it. Fix it. Finish it. Forget it.
5. Jesus then encourages them to leave their closets of fear and shame…”As I was sent, I send you.”
6. This word of encouragement gives them their second wind…”Receive the holy breath, the breath of wholeness”…he reminds them that they are God’s miracle and not God’s mistake! Not tyranny, not oppression, not fear, not shame, not even death can change that truth. Or as the Apostle Paul said, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”
The gospel lesson today is an allegory reminding us of our sacred value, our resilience, our ability to get our second wind in times of trouble. In these human words, God’s voice can be heard saying, “Receive the holy breath!”
We’ve all been knocked down, even held under by one circumstance or another, but we can get our second wind, we can get back up and start moving forward again. That is Resurrection Power and it is always available to us. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
Today my hope is renewed.
I will go to peace instead of to pieces.
I am God’s miracle and not God’s mistake.