By The Very Reverend Sam Candler
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” goes the old adage.According to the Gospel of John, Jesus said three “first” words to his gathered disciples in the upper room after his Resurrection. These were the statements that would continue Jesus’ ministry, through the disciples, and into the future Church.
The first word: “Peace be with you.” Jesus appears as a man of peace, especially since the disciples were huddled together, maybe even hidden, out of fear (John 20:19). “Be at peace,” Jesus advises. The words indicate a presence of peace, too. The resurrected Jesus enters the world in peace.
The second word: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Ah, this word is delivered with a corresponding action; Jesus breathes on them. According to John, this is the moment – before the Day of Pentecost—when the disciples receive the power of the Holy Spirit. The physical and historical ministry of Jesus is now completed. In the power of the Spirit, the disciples will continue the ministry of Jesus.
The third word: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” Here, we might have the heart of the Christian Church. Sure, the Church’s power to forgive sins has been exploited, and even abused, over the centuries. Despite our mishandling of the gift, however, the gift is still here. In the Spirit of Jesus, the community of faith has the power to forgive sins.
Oh, yes, there is one more element to Jesus’ resurrection words; “as the Father as sent me, so I send you,” he adds. Those who are the disciples of Jesus are now meant to include us. We are to be sent in the same was as Jesus was. And his resurrection words indicate that way: peace, the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins.
Martin Luther once said that every morning was like an Easter morning, an experience of resurrection. What are the first words you say in the morning?
How does your community of faith, whether it is a church or not, forgive people?
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Resurrected One who appears to us in peace, in the Holy Spirit, and in the forgiveness of sins. Send us forth into the world in the same way you appeared to your disciples. AMEN.
The Very Reverend Sam Candler is Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia