On the evening
of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the
disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said
to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the
disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent
me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you
forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from
anyone, it is withheld.” (John
was what’s sometimes known as the “Little Pentecost.” The disciples were
gathered together in a small room. It was equipped with the rough and simple
furnishing of the age: Wooden tables and chair, a few small oil lamps,
perhaps. There was concern and anxiety. Hope was in short supply, and there
was no small measure of fear.
suddenly and miraculously, Jesus was among His disciples. He gave them His
peace—not once, but twice—a peace which St. Paul would later describe in his
letter to the church at Philippi as “surpassing all human understanding.” And,
as He would in more dramatic fashion fifty days later on the greater Pentecost,
Jesus also gave His followers the Holy Spirit, and gave His Church the
authority to forgive and retain sins.
a pretty rich treasury of gifts for that group to receive in one evening, don’t
you think? It might’ve seemed like it came too easy to the disciples, and
indeed it had: It had come freely by God’s grace, just as all of our Lord’s
good gifts come to us. They, no more and no less than we, were totally undeserving
of anything but the wrath and punishment of God that we so often confess when
we join together in worship.
of His disciples were gathered in a small room. It was equipped with the
latest advanced medical technologies: Monitors for respiration and heart
rate. Medication dispensers and oxygen tubes. Highly sophisticated
computerized equipment. Fluorescent lighting and air conditioning. There was
concern and anxiety. Hope was in short supply, and there was no small measure
suddenly and miraculously, Jesus was among His disciples. He wasn’t conjured
up because the pastor arrived. Jesus was there because Jesus is always where
He has promised to be: In the Holy Word, proclaiming God’s peace. Not peace
as we sometimes imagine it from our limited perspective. That is, it’s not an
ending of the strife among ourselves that arises out of our human animosities
the peace of God is reconciliation between God and man. It is a unilateral
amnesty, granted to us warring creatures by the Creator against whose perfect
will we have rebelled. It is a restoration once again of Eden, our paradise
once lost now found again.
was there in that hospital room because God’s word declared: This is my body,
given for you; this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. In
that room, Jesus was there with me, with several of you, and with Viola.
though she wasn’t able to consciously participate in the sharing of the Lord’s
Supper in that hospital room just three days ago, Jesus was there for Viola,
too. That absolution we all heard spoken was meant for her, too. That
forgiveness, life, and salvation which His precious body and blood conveyed to
us was hers, as well.
was hers every bit as much as it was ours, because 80 years and 8 days ago,
Viola had other words of God spoken over her, at a time when she couldn’t
really know what was going on, either.
words were spoken in German, I suspect, but they meant what God wanted them to
mean: “Viola, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit.” Every bit as much that day in May of 1928 as this past
Sunday at St. David’s Hospital, God’s Word was present for Viola, and so God
Himself was present for Viola.
when her breathing was shallow and labored, Viola’s eternal destiny was
assured, because Jesus had already done all the breathing that was truly
necessary for her: First when He bowed His head on Calvary and gave up His pneuma,
His Spirit, and later when He breathed the pneuma hagion, the
Holy Spirit, upon His Church and all who would come to be a part of it.
breath, this spirit of God, conveyed His gifts of forgiveness, life, and
salvation to His apostles and to all who would come to follow His teachings
which they were to pass along in the years to come.
many years, Viola was a vibrant, energetic, and valued member of this
congregation, serving both church and school with love and joy. In later
years, while not able to participate to the extent she would have liked, she
remained in our fellowship and in our prayers.
more importantly, for her sake as well as ours, it’s not what she did at one
time, or what she was unable to do at other times, that really matters. What
determined the eternal joy she now already enjoys with all the departed saints
at the heavenly banquet table and around the throne of God is what Jesus did
for her and for us: Giving His breath upon the cross, and giving the breath of
the Holy Spirit to the Church.
seen the Lord, Viola rejoices with all the disciples of our Savior, Jesus
Christ. May His true peace of the reconciliation we have been given by God be
upon each of us this day, and may He always keep us secure in His gift of the
Holy Spirit, which guards and protects us in faith, to life everlasting.
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.