Shalom, by Pastor Noel

2 EASTER, C      April 28, 2019


      Every year on the second Sunday of Easter we read this passage from John’s gospel. Many people call today, “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”

      Yes, this story is about him, but it’s about so much more.

      Mary Magdalene has seen Jesus at the tomb.   She has reported to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

      But they did not believe her.

      Now they are gathered, afraid that what happened to Jesus might happen to them.

      They were not afraid of all the Jewish people (“the Jews”) but the authorities, who were in league with the Roman oppressors. Just so we might fear the police if we had been seen with criminals.

      They had abandoned Jesus. They had run away when he was arrested and crucified.

      They may have been afraid of how he’d treat them if Mary’s words were true.

      Locked doors may keep out the police, but they have no effect on Jesus. Suddenly he is there with them! He doesn’t criticize them, he offers them peace.

      His greeting in Hebrew is “Shalom.” Shalom means much more than peace.

      Shalom means wholeness, being complete. It also has the sense of reaching out to help others. The contemporary idea of “pay it forward” has the sense of Shalom.

      Being grateful for what we have, we reach out to bring wholeness to others.

      When Jesus says “Shalom” he is reminding them of all that he did.

      Then he says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

      Everything Jesus did they will now do.

      I think, that if I’d been there, I would have been wishing Jesus were mad at me! Imagine being able to do what Jesus had done! Imagine being sent out—without him—to do what he had done!

      Of course he didn’t leave them unprepared.

      While they stood there in amazement at seeing Jesus, and fear of what lay ahead, Jesus breathed on them. They received Holy Spirit.

      A friend wrote that Jesus didn’t just breathe on them, he puffed breath into them.

      If you’ve ever seen someone doing CPR, that’s the kind of breathing I mean. A forceful breath.

      He has just given been new life himself. Now gives new life and strength to his disciples.

      Breathing life into creation is what God does in the earliest stories we have in the Bible. Humans, animals—all creation is God’s breath.

      Then Jesus says, “Receive Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

      Yes, I said “Holy Spirit” and not “the Holy Spirit.” Greek, the language of the Christian Bible, has no word for “the.” But, I drop “the” because I think Holy Spirit is everywhere and in everyone.

      “The Holy Spirit” sounds specific, singular.

      “Holy Spirit” is more like wind, (same word in Greek) and breath of God that is limitless.

      Jesus gave them Holy Spirit, and we receive Holy Spirit when we are baptized.

      Then we get poor Thomas, known for his lack of faith and not his joyful cry, “My Lord and my God!”

      Of course he wanted to see Jesus! Who would believe that Jesus was alive when they knew he’d been crucified. Dead. Buried.

      We probably won’t see the Risen Lord in this life. Like countless others before us, we have to rely on the joyful cries of Mary, Thomas, and the other disciples.

      We can see Jesus in those who “have life in his name.” We can’t put ourselves back in that locked room with the disciples, but what Jesus said to them he says to us, too.

      “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet come to believe.” And John tells us, “that through believing you may have life in his name.”

      That’s us, and everyone who has lived in the past 2000 years.

      There are many ways to believe in Jesus, and many ways to have life in his name.

      Jesus had the Biblical history of the Hebrew Scriptures to help inform his life.

      The people he taught knew those stories, too, so he used them as foundation and background for how he taught.

      So, if we want to have life in Jesus’s name, we might look to Scripture for some how-to lessons.

      It would be so easy if we could Google “what does Jesus want me to do?” and get an answer.

      There are as many ways to have life in Jesus’ name as there people. Each of us can be doing what Jesus sends us out to do—and all of us can be doing different things.

      Look back to Jesus greeting for his disciples. “Shalom.” Shalom is multi-faceted. Wholeness. Completeness. Reaching out to help others.

      We heard and saw Shalom in many ways yesterday at Jim Terry’s funeral.

      The family spoke of his love that reached out beyond “normal” family. Rob spoke of Jim’s time at Bible study and how he dealt with questions that some might call doubts.

      And behind the scenes some of the women of the parish had put together a wonderful lunch for us to share.

      Shalom is not just a strange foreign word. It is a way of life that incorporates all of Jesus’ teaching about being loving and caring for everyone.

      Shalom is not something we do today and then forget about tomorrow.

      Shalom is a way of life. Shalom is life. It is being grateful to God for our salvation, and sharing that gratitude everywhere. It is being a loving, caring friend and neighbor, everywhere.

      It is, as I keep reminding myself, letting others into the flow of traffic. It is letting others help us, even if we think we can do it better.

      Shalom is being so filled with Holy Spirit that God’s love becomes our lives. It is God’s grace in us and through us without measure.

      Shalom, my friends.

The Rev. Noel Bailey

The Reverend Noel Bailey was born in Providence, is now back in RI for the 4th time, and hopes that this stay is longer than some of the others. She was ordained Priest at St. Michael's, Bristol, in May 1988, More details