“Peace be with you”

Jesus gives His peace and sends out the Holy Spirit in John 20:19-23. Can we share our peace and the spirit of our love with others as Jesus did?

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, commemorating the day when Our Lord shared with the disciples the Holy Spirit. It came at a moment of rejoicing.

“Peace be with you,” He said. I imagine it being a very calm and loving voice. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” I imagine in a very direct and yet softly commanding voice. Then deeply personal to those closest to Him I imagine Him opening up fully to them, breathing on them as He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Then He gives them the power, the gift, the office of forgiveness or retention of sins.

How does this apply to us? We all have the occasion to receive the Holy Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit. We should be prepared to receive it openly as the disciples did that first day. It is a gift from God. Receive the peace of God and His Holy Spirit. But here’s the other thing: We all also have the power to extend God’s peace to others. And we all have the power to forgive others their sins against us. These are powerful gifts to give and to receive.

When you think of the strife in the world, what can be more powerful than telling someone, “Peace be with you” or “Peace of Christ be with you”? Than telling someone who has wronged you, “I forgive you.” All along, Jesus’s message has been to love our neighbors — the others around us. This is a manifestation of that love. To grant peace to others and to forgive them their trespasses against us, even our enemies. And sending His Holy Spirit among us, God inspires us into action to do just that. Are we receptive to Him? Open yourself to Him! And open yourself to others.

Glory to God!

Now a personal aside: This will be my last Reading with God posting for a while. I am scheduled for major surgery this week, with a lengthy recovery and convalescence afterwards. I hope you will look through past postings for inspiration and words of God’s love in His teachings.

I don’t know how long before I will be strong enough to return to my keyboard to share God’s words and reflect on them here. Read the Gospels and remember that Jesus’s core message was about love and embracing others.

Until I return, Peace of Christ Be With You. I love you my brothers and sisters in Christ.


“Go into the who world”

In Mark 16:15-20 we read about the Ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to his disciples:
Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Today throughout the whole world we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven, where He took His seat at the right hand of God. Before He ascended, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Go into the whole world.

Go into the whole world. Not just among your own world. Not just among your family. Not just among your friends. Not just among your neighbors. Not just among those who smile at you. The whole world.

And proclaim the gospel. To every creature. Proclaim the good news. To everyone.

What does that require of us, who are disciples of Jesus Christ? Does that require that we go house to house, knock on doors, and teach the word of God? I don’t think so. God gave each of us spiritual gifts. What Jesus requires of us that we use those gifts to spread the good news, the gospel.

One way is to do as Jesus commands us and love others, whoever they are. To do so openly as professed followers of Jesus Christ. Another is to care for the needy — the poor, the sick, the disabled, the homeless, the widowed and orphaned, prisoners, and the marginalized, openly as Christians. Still another is to take on ministries in the Church, acting out of the love of Christ, humbly and with a sense of service. One more is to actively participate in Church services as part of the family of God.

How do we act openly and as professed followers of Christ, especially if we are introverts or shy? You don’t have to be aggressive. You can wear emblems or icons of Christian faith, such as crosses or crucifixes or fish pins. But when challenged or questioned about them, we must not waver in our acknowledgement of our faith.

And we should do these always as witnesses to our faith in God and to the Glory of God, not in credit to ourselves. Remember, Jesus tells us that public showiness garners no credit to us with God, for we have already reaped our own reward. Rather, we should show humbleness before God.

Of all the things we can do in sharing the gospel, the good news, of Jesus’s ascension, it would be to love Him and honor Him in our heart and do as He taught us. And that is to love God with all of heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul, and love our neighbor as ourselves. And we should go out into the world to lead others to do the same. For “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”

Glory to God!

“This I command you: love one another”

Jesus commands us in John 15:9-17: love one another.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

I cannot say this often enough. Despite what some preach, ranting on others for sin and abortion and homosexuality and other culture-war issues, what Jesus himself consistently teaches in the Gospels is love. And right here in this passage, Jesus clearly tells  us, “This I command you: love one another.”

So say what you want about today’s culture war issues and many others besides, until you preach love of others, you do not preach Jesus’s word. And when Jesus says love of others, He doesn’t mean just those closest to you. He means all others. Jesus even teaches us to love our enemies. It’s hard to do, but then remember, dying on the cross was hard to do, too.

Jesus was speaking here to His disciples, whom He chose. Well, Jesus also chooses us, His faithful. The Father chooses us, too. He created us all, His children. He loves us all. Can you not love God’s other children, whoever they are? Whatever their color, wherever they come from, whatever language they speak? Jesus spent time with people who were not favored by the scribes and Pharisees, people who were different, many times people who were viewed as sinners. And Jesus loved them as children of God. He pitied them in their many needs and taught His disciples to care for them. As his faithful followers, He teaches us to do the same.

Harden not your hearts. “This I command you: love one another.”

Glory to God!

“We will come to him and make our dwelling with him”

Jesus reveals in John 14:21-26 the love of God.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him,
“Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us
and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit 
whom the Father will send in my name —
he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”

Here, Jesus lays it all out for us. As Christians we focus our faith on Jesus, but let us not forget that Jesus acts to lead us to the Father. Jesus does the will of the Father, and when we do as Jesus teaches us, when we love Jesus, we should also love the Father and do His will, for they are one and the same.

Jesus explains that when we love Jesus, He and the Father love us. When we keep Jesus’s word, the Father loves us, and together they will dwell in us. And the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s name to teach us and remind us of what Jesus has taught us. But we must be receptive to Him. We must be receptive to all three persons of the Holy Trinity and to their love.

Jesus is all about love. We know that is his commandment. And the Father is all about love, too. If our life is rooted in hate, we do not “have” His commandment. Give that some thought as you navigate through our current world, where hate and disparaging rhetoric and fear mongering create a solid wall blocking love. Are we contributing to it? Or are we resisting it? If we truly love Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit, we will let God dwell is us and love emanate from us.

Glory to God!

“Remain in me, as I remain in you”

We learn in John 15:1-8 that when we remain faithful disciples of Christ, we are never alone.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,” says Jesus. “Without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.” This sounds like a threat, but his earlier words are really an invitation: “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” An invitation to bear much fruit. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

Now, this is no idle invitation to personally benefit. This is an invitation to do good. To do the works of Christ. All along, Jesus has taught the disciples how to cure the sick and care for the poor and feed the many, among other miracles. If your faith remains in Jesus Christ and his words, his teachings, remain in you, ask to do what good you desire and it will be given to you. Yes, the Father will provide for you as you ask Him. But all along, Jesus has called on His disciples to be people of service to others and to be compassionate, merciful brothers and sisters to those in need. And sometimes the needs of other people can seem overwhelmingly difficult. But ask as a truly faithful disciple of Christ and it will be done. “By this will my Father be glorified,” says Jesus.

We are never alone. As we act on behalf of others, as faithful disciples of Christ, we are never alone. Jesus is at our side. With the Father. And the Holy Spirit. One God. When they are with us, what can we not accomplish? “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”

Glory to God!

“These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice”

Jew and Gentile alike, the Father brought us His only Son to be our shepherd, as we learn in John 10:11-18.

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

Why have I highlighted this line of the passage? Because I think it’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t just the Messiah for the Jews. He was and is the Messiah for all of humanity. The Jews were God’s chosen people and Jesus first preached to them, but He also knew that there were others whom He would shepherd — the Gentiles. And He says, “They will hear my voice.” And “There will be one flock, one shepherd.” And Jesus laid down his life for all of us.

God so loved the world that He came down in human form to be among us as the Son of God. He walked among the Jews and was rejected by many but not all of them. And then He welcomed the Gentiles and was accepted by many but not all of them. But among all the believers, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And we have that faith because Jesus, the Son of God, was commanded by the Father. God so loved the world.

It doesn’t matter where you come from, whether Jew or Gentile. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit love you. And their gift to you for your true faith in Jesus as your savior is forgiveness of sins, resurrection after death, and everlasting life.

Glory to God!

“Why do questions arise in your hearts?”

Jesus made himself known in the story in Luke 24:35-48. Do we recognize Him, too?

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them 
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish; 
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

Can we empathize with these disciples? They have seen Jesus arrested, beaten, humiliated, crucified, and die on the cross. His body is buried in a tomb. To them, He has died and He is gone. They are abandoned. Then suddenly He appears again, in bodily form. They are mystified, many of them unbelieving what they see at first. And then Jesus opens their minds, which were “incredulous for joy” and “amazed”. How would you have reacted to all this?

We are often told to look for Jesus in those around us. If we encounter someone, if we do something to or for another person, do it as if it were Jesus. Can you see the Jesus who is inside them, even if that person does not look like what you envision Him to look like, even if that person doesn’t act like you expect him or her to act?

These disciples, who knew Jesus, didn’t even recognize Jesus after He was risen from the dead. It took Jesus revealing Himself to them, for the truth of His presence to become apparent to them. How difficult, then, might it be for you to see it in others. Yet, Jesus tells us, as you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, so you do to me. We should be vigilant for Our Lord in others. They may not even be aware of it themselves.

And is Jesus present in you? Do you make room for Him within yourself? Do you make it easy for others to find Him in you? Do you let Him act through you? Do you act as Jesus has taught us to act, showing love for others, helping others in need, sowing peace instead of discord or hate?

And for yourself, do you let Jesus into your heart to heal you, to give you peace, to love you, to forgive you?

Jesus rising from the dead was not a one-time event. It has everlasting effects. He died for our sins and rose in fulfillment of scripture to bring us to everlasting life. At the same time, He showed us in body that all He taught was true and for us to act in His name.

All this, we see in today’s passage. It is part of the Good News that is the Gospels. We are part of that Good News story.

Glory to God!