19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
We began NYALC on Thursday with an invitation to come on a journey – a journey with the Risen Christ.
A journey which included all the participants of NYALC.
A journey that held within it the possibility of transformation.
How has the journey been?
I invite you to call out words that describe the journey you have been on:
The journey has been joy-filled, passionate, Our hearts burned within us.
It has been poignant. There were moments when we shared our personal grief, and our communal laments.
The journey has been a source of encouragement.
The journey has been challenging and confronting.
The journey has invited us to draw closer to God, to recognise Christ in our lives, calling us to transformation and hope.
We hope that you have been encouraged – in your faith, in who you are – as a beloved daughter or son of God, in exploring God’s call on your life.
I invite you to remember and hear the words of encouragement from God, from each other, from being together that you have received this weekend.
In these final moments of NYALC, God commissions us – blesses us with grace, hope and courage.
In John’s Gospel Jesus comes to them and brings them peace.
Their fear turns to joy: They rejoice when they see him. Jesus commissions them – to be sent as he was sent – by God. And in this commissioning - Jesus breathes on them – “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
A fearful group of followers are transformed – and commissioned to proclaim the risen Christ to the world. It cannot be contained in that room!
We know this because we are beneficiaries of their proclamation.
The presence of the Risen Christ, breathing the Holy Spirit into them, liberates them from fear and despair and gives birth to courage and hope within them.
I pray that what we have experienced at NYALC will not be contained in these four days, that we will continue to know God’s deep love for us, shaping our lives and our sense of identiy.
That we will draw strength from the community we share across the nation.
That we will find joy in remembering moments when we encountered God and each other in ways that continue to remind us of who and whose we are.
The disciples in John’s Gospel go on to be witnesses, risking their own lives for the sake of this One who is God come among them. Jesus the Christ.
Jesus commissions them and us - “As the Father has sent me so I send you.”
Remember when Naomi engaged us in the exercise, where a whole group of leaders sat down, and left a few standing.
And we were reminded that all of us are called to share the good news of the Risen, Crucified Christ, and contribute who we are and our gifts to the life and mission of Christ’s Church.
PARAGRAPH THIRTEEN – BASIS OF UNION GIFTS AND MINISTRIES The Uniting Church affirms that every member of the Church is engaged to confess the faith of Christ crucified and to be his faithful servant. It acknowledges with thanksgiving that the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts, and that there is no gift without its corresponding service: all ministries have a part in the ministry of Christ..
As the Uniting Church, we affirm that none of us are spectators.
We are all called to be participants in God’s mission – giving who we are – our gifts and whole being to embody Christ’s reconciling love in the world.
What do you hear the Holy Spirit inviting you to contribute to the life and mission of Christ’s Church?
How will you be part of the story of liberating hope, that we are living as followers of Jesus? (share in small group).
We are taking this journey into the future in the midst of vast and rapid changes – 21st Century issues and opportunities that our mother and fathers in the faith had not anticipated.
We are called like them to respond to the radical call of Jesus on our lives – to be part of a movement of the Holy Spirit.
The Uniting Church believes that God’s mission calls us to participate in the world in ways that address our whole reality – it addresses meaning making, it includes our spiritual, psychological, social, economic and political realities.
We understand that our participation in God’s mission is toward the transformation that God desires for the whole creation – reconciliation, love, justice, peace, abundance and flourishing for all people and the whole world.
The Holy Spirit gave the early followers of Jesus courage and power to take the risks in living out the call of God on their lives.
The same Holy Spirit who comes to us today.
The Spirit among us is generating hope and courage, challenging us to live lives of justice and compassion.
The Spirit moves through the work of our church agencies, schools and congregations– in our acts of compassion and justice.
In the compassionate presence of Christians in our neighbourhoods, workplaces and family life… in our partnerships with the global church.
The Spirit’s movement in the whole of creation – bringing life and healing.
God pours out God’s Spirit upon everyone of us gathered here.
God comes to us and we hear the words “receive the Holy Spirit”
As the Father has sent me, so I have sent you…”
To be the Body of Christ, a people of hope witnessing to God’s deep love for every person and for the whole creation.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Go in peace;
May God our Creator, Renew and refresh us.
May Christ Jesus, fill us with joy and love
May the Holy Spirit give us courage to embody God’s love, justice and peace in the world. Amen.