In the Gospel story that we have just heard Jesus does two things. The first thing he does is he walks through a locked door, which is not a bad effort. They are gathered in an upper room, the apostles, because they are terrified and they have every reason to be terrified. They have seen Jesus executed in the most brutal way and they’ve seen him laid in a tomb. And they had every reason to think that he might have been first cab off the rank but they might be next. No wonder the door was locked. No wonder they are locked in a world of fear. The room is in danger of becoming a tomb. So Jesus stands among them. He is unmistakeably a body, he’s not a ghost. He has risen into some new dimension of bodily existence that’s exceedingly hard to explain but impossible to deny. So he stands among them as a body and therefore he speaks. He says ‘peace be with you’, and these are always the first words we find on the lips of the risen Christ. They are words he speaks here no less in the Cathedral of Brisbane than he did in the locked upper room all those years ago. So on this Pentecost Sunday he stands in our midst and says peace be with you. Now what does he mean? He means that on the cross, on the dark mountain of Calvary, the mountain of death, he has been to the very depths of human destitution and degradation. “I have seen it all”. “There is no dark corner, there is no dark depth that I have not seen.” “And I say to you, therefore, peace be with you because you have got nothing to fear.” “Here you are locked in an upper room of fear, the room that becomes a tomb, but your fears are a bluff.” “So call the bluff, live the peace and share the peace.” That’s what the risen Christ says no less today than all those years ago. Peace be with you. And a church without peace is not the body of Christ. A church that is locked in an upper room, sealed by fear, is not the body of Christ. The church in fact becomes a corpse, in so far as our fears are given the last word and we are bluffed by them.
So of what are we afraid as the church? That is the question of today. What are you afraid of personally? What is the fear that seems to have the last word in your life? What’s the fear here and now that threatens to have the last word in the life of the church? This is in many ways a dark and dangerous time for us all. And in such a time fear can take hold and becomes a kind of paralysis which in the end becomes death. Yet the word that he speaks, peace – the word that is power, takes us way beyond that. So I summon you as the church, the body of Christ, to hear the word that is spoken on this Pentecost Sunday. To make it your own so that we, as the whole church, can share with a world that does not know his peace. We can share with a world that is so often gripped by fear. We can touch that world with the peace of the risen Christ.
The second thing that he does, once he has spoken, is he breathes on them. He breathes on them and this is the breath of God. Now this takes us way back into the Garden of Eden when God creates the human being. God is walking in the garden, we are told, and he looks down and sees a rich clod of good, dark earth. He bends down and he picks up the clod of dirt, the soil, the good earth; looks at it and then he breathes into the earth, the soil that he holds. And what do we get? We get the human being, the soil of the earth bearing the breath of God. That’s what creation of the human being is. Now here you find the disciples in the upper room sealed by fear. A kind of death sits upon them and they run the risk of being no more than the soil of the earth. Dead men in a locked room. Jesus now does what God did in the beginning and breathes on them. And just as the soil produced the human being once it bore the breath of God, so now the disciples become not a corpse in a locked room , a tomb, but become a living body, the body of the risen Christ, radiant with the life that is bigger than death. Radiant with the life that is beyond all fear. So here again this morning in the cathedral, the same Jesus, risen from the dead, breathes into us. We who have been created as human beings are recreated as sons and daughters of God as St Paul has said, as those who are bearing the image of Christ crucified and risen. This is a time when the whole church needs to become more missionary and I do mean the whole church, including those whom we confirm here this morning. They are called into the great mission of the church. We were not baptised and confirmed for our own sake, for some kind of personal enrichment. This is not a moment when the church can afford, whatever the pressures, to turn inwards. We cannot become an introverted , inward looking church. A self-protective church. This is precisely the time for us to become more extrovert, to reach beyond ourselves and leave the locked room just as these disciples did. Once the breath of God is breathed into them, the Holy Spirit, the door is unlocked and they go out into the streets of Jerusalem and the world doing the very thing that would cost them their life. Yet these were men transfigured, lead beyond the world of fear where the room will always become a tomb.
So on this Pentecost Sunday, and hearing the great call of God, ‘just as the father sent me so I am you,’ says Jesus. On this Pentecost day we are sent out into the world, no less than Christ was sent into the world. ‘As the father sent me, so I am here today sending you, my body, into the world.’ As we hear that great summons, that great commission of Christ, and as we confirm these, our brothers and sisters this morning, we say ‘Come Holy Spirit’, into the very depth of our being. ‘Come Holy Spirit,’ into the very heart of the church. Fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and they shall be created, and you Holy Spirit , you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
May 19, 2013