Being an Easter CommunityEaster so what? The church looked lovely with all the flowers and special decorations, still does. The service was a bit more alive than usual. Perhaps you had a special meal with friends or family. The Easter eggs and assorted chocolates make it special too. And you had the next day off work. But so what, what difference does it all make?
The church is an Easter community. Each and every Sunday we gather to worship our God and key is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We are a community which believes in and embraces the new life we are called to in Christ Jesus, our risen Lord.
What does it mean to be an Easter community, a post-Jesus resurrection community. To do this, I want us to consider the kind of community Jesus was creating after his resurrection as he met the disciples (see John 20:19-end).
First he created a community of peace. Three times in this reading Jesus says, ‘peace be with you’. When was the last time you felt totally at peace? Some of you with young children or some of you living with chronic pain may wonder if you can remember. But at some point we experience a sense of peace. This is what we are called to be. Peace is a sense of being a rest in the moment (not static). Peace is sense of not being in conflict with yourself or others. Peace is being right with God. Listen to this: Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus before the death and resurrection promised peace to the disciples: John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. This peace is the promise of the enduring presence of Christ in our midst. As a Easter community we are to be a community marked by peace, the peace of Christ and peace between each other.
Second, he created or commissioned the community to go: As the Father has sent me, so I send you. We are a sent community. Our church life is not just within the four walls of a church. We gather that we might go out into the world to be the light of Christ, to proclaim the good news to others in word and deed, and to serve our community. We are now the revelation of Jesus in the world. What a challenge! We must ask ourselves, how do we reveal Christ in our mission and ministry as a church? In what way, as we leave this place, do we show Christ to others? As an Easter community we are sent into the community to reveal Christ to the world.
Thirdly, we are spirit filled community: Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. The going out, the peace, and all we are called to be is enabled and empowered by the presence of God in our lives and in our midst through the Holy Spirit. Where two are three gather in Christ’s name, God is present through the Holy Spirit. We worship God in Spirit and in truth. The Holy Spirit is also present in our individual lives as disciples. The Holy Spirit gifts us in our service in the church and in the world. Through faith in Christ and through baptism and confirmation we become spirit filled people. The evidence of being Spirit filled is seeing the gifts of the spirit and the fruit of the Spirit in evidence in our community. As an Easter community we are to be a spirit filled community.
Fourthly, we are to be a forgiving community. Jesus said, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. The resurrection is about new life. New life comes from repenting of sin and evil, those things which are contrary to God’s person and ways. New life is about a second chance. God’s forgiveness comes to us in the love of God extended to us in the cross and resurrection. To be forgiven people we need the cross and the empty tomb. The cross covers our sins and the empty tomb releases us to go and to live the new resurrected life as forgiven people. Forgiveness is part of our community life as we confess our sins and are absolved when we gather as a community in worship. Scripture says, If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Forgiveness is part of our community life as we forgive each other when we are wronged or hurt by someone in the community. The Lord’s Prayer says to God, forgive us our sins as we forgive one another. As an Easter community we are a forgiven and forgiving community.
Fifthly and last, first and foremost, we are to be a believing community. John writes: these things are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. As an Easter community we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, that he is God’s only begotten Son, sent from the Father to be God’s suffering servant, God’s anointed one to reveal the father in truth and love as no one ever has before. As we come to believe this, we are given the gift of life. The life we were created to have in perfect communion with God, the abundant and shalom life that is God’s gift to all believe. As an Easter community we are a believing community who are living the resurrection life, the abundant life now and in the life to come.
The resurrection is so powerful it transforms you and me and it transform the church. It makes us a new community marked by peace; it makes us a community sent out into the world; it makes us a spirit-filled community, a community of forgiveness, a believing community full of the life of God. But this potential must be grasped to be made a reality. We have to respond with open hearts and open hands to become what we can be. May God help us to be an Easter community full of the life of God.