I want to ask you to think for a minute about this somewhat rag tag group of followers that had banded around Jesus and imagine yourselves as an observer of the situation as it as two thousand years ago. Picture this guy Jesus coming on the scene and preaching a message of love and acceptance of all people and try, for a moment, to grasp the entire situation.
Jesus does have a sense of calm assurance around him, a charisma you’d call it today, that attracts people and brings a sense of healing peace to those who he encounters. The Roman government is somewhat tolerant of the local religious authorities. The Romans, when they conquered an area, used the dominant authority to assert their control. In this case it was the Sanhedrin, the chief priests, who also had been the political leaders and they were also using them, to control the people.
That’s what happens when the government gets in collusion with religion, the one uses he other to control and even intimidate the people. The authoritarian Roman government was the one with the real power, and Pilate the local Roman authority, used and abused his authority to oppress the people.
That was Rome, in Jesus day.
Then up from the Podunk, backwater, nothing of a town called Nazareth comes this guy jesus preaching and teaching that the Law of Moses, had become too legalistic, it was to be understood differently, it was to be seen instead through the eyes of the rule of love.
Jesus suggests that all people should follow the way of love and acceptance and ought to be serving one another from a place of humility.
His followers, they all love the message, they aren’t quite sure they totally understand it but they are seeing the healing peace it brings to people and they are certainly appreciating it. The government and the religious powers they realize how this is about to totally upset the delicate game they are playing. (people tend to get more authoritarian if they fear losing control)
They see that the people are all fired up about this guy coming in and they are all afraid that Jesus just might fulfill the people’s wishes and try to take over. So they kill him. We’ve been there last week.
But today we have to consider just where that leaves his closest followers! They are not quite sure they know what’s going on, they are fearful and running for cover. And so, the text says, they barricade themselves into the room, lock the door and huddle together afraid that their lives are going to be the next ones.
This is what we have to think about now
… what happens?
There in their midst, they knew the presence of the Christ Spirit.
Be calm. Feel the peace. Know the pain and hurt that Jesus experienced. Know that if you forgive someone for doing things that separate them from one another, that they are forgiven period. Receive the spirit of the sacred and be one with all goodness.
And they knew the peace of Jesus as they had before. In their hearts Jesus became the Christ, the Messiah, both words mean … the deliverer. Knowledge and awareness of the Spirit of the deliver – The Christ Spirit – brought them the calm they knew.
+ + + +
What does it take to know the presence of the sacred? How many different places have you known or experienced the essence of the Holy and Sacred? When have you felt closest to God? For the disciples it was, initially, as they gathered together with like-minded people.
You know why testimonials work? Because people can readily identify with the emotion a person conveys. Testimonials work because in their heads the listeners are thinking,
“yeah I have felt lost and alone, given up on, or cast aside; I know what that feels like.”
Stories, personal stories work from standing up here, because you can, hopefully, feel, or identify with, the emotion or the event that is being shared. The Gospels are testimonials.
They are the personal stories of some of the followers. Thirty years later the disciples are telling and retelling the stories, the good news, and they are out in the world proclaiming
a story they really want their audiences to hear. And they are telling the audiences how scared they were in that moment.
“We locked the door, we barricaded it shut, we wanted to keep out any of the bad guy government people that might want to take us into custody and put us up there on the cross next and in the midst of that fear, we knew the calming presence Jesus brought to us and we felt assured and reassured that the Spirit of the Holy was upon us. It was as if Jesus had given us his breath.
The way the story is told, is the way any story gets told, with emotion and feeling. What does it take to know the presence of the sacred? When have you felt closest to God?
It certainly does not have to be in a barricaded room. It very likely has been in nature.
Surrounded by the elements of nature, the sounds and smells of being in the midst of or immersed in the natural world. It certainly could have been a time when you may have been delivered from a fearful situation. IT could just as easily have been in the midst of a special family time, the birth or even the death of someone special. It could have been in the quiet of a moment alone with your spouse or a friend. It could have been with someone you cared nothing for but found yourself experiencing a special moment.
Maybe, at one point or another, you may have experienced the sacred presence of the Holy and Sacred… in a church, it’s been known to happen!
I have known the sacred essence in meditation, in typing a sermon, in the laughter at a committee meeting, and at the bedside as someone passes from life as we know it. I have experienced the Sacred attending worship, leading worship, gathering after worship. I have experienced the presence of the deliverer here … often.
Here is what I really would like people to hear. While a person can experience the sacred in a myriad of other places, there are good reasons to come here. This place and churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques around the world; are places you can consistently go to learn more about what is good and right and just and sacred in the world. These are places where you can intentionally be with others pursuing a common goal of understanding the presence of the sacred. These churches, these are sanctuaries, they are places where you can be in the habit of seeking the sacred moments with others who are also seeking the presence of the sacred and this is a place where we can choose to seek the love of God quite intentionally.
This is a SANCTUARY … a place set apart to seek the peace of God. Come and encourage others to be with you in that quest.
Be calm. Feel the peace. Know the pain and hurt that everyone else here has, at one time or another, also experienced. Know that if you forgive someone for doing things that separates them from one another that they are forgiven, period. Receive the spirit of the sacred and be one with all goodness.
THAT is what we do here for one another that is different.
This you see, is a safe place to be present with the sacred.
Come ye apart and rest a while.