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Mission

At St. Paul’s: “Our primary mission is to relate to, and minister to people who are living on the edge, who seek God’s will for their lives, struggling to find direction and purpose in a society that can be violent, insensitive and money-grabbing.”  

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John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31 The Voice (VOICE)

19 On that same evening (Resurrection Sunday), the followers gathered together behind locked 

doors in fear that some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were still searching for them. Out of 

nowhere, Jesus appeared in the center of the room.

Jesus: “Peace be with you.”

20 As He was speaking, He revealed the wounds in His hands and side. The disciples began to 

celebrate as it sank in that they were really seeing the Lord.

I give you the gift of peace. In the same way the Father sent Me, I am now sending you.

21 

Jesus: 

22 Now He drew close enough to each of them that they could feel His breath. He breathed on 

them:

Jesus: Welcome the Holy Spirit of the living God. You now have the mantle of God’s 

forgiveness. As you go, you are able to share the life-giving power to forgive sins, or to withhold 

forgiveness.

24 All of the eleven were present with the exception of Thomas. 25 He heard the accounts of each 

brother’s interaction with the Lord.

The Other Disciples: We have seen the Lord!

Thomas: Until I see His hands, feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to His side, I 

won’t believe what you are saying.

26 Eight days later, they gathered again behind locked doors; and Jesus reappeared. This time 

Thomas was with them.

Jesus: “Peace be with you.”

27 He drew close to Thomas.

Jesus: “Reach out and touch Me. See the punctures in My hands; reach out your hand, and put it 

to My side; leave behind your faithlessness, and believe.”

Thomas (filled with emotion): 

29 Thomas, you have faith because you have seen me. Blessed are all those who never see 

Jesus: 

me and yet they still believe.

30 

Jesus performed many other wondrous signs that are not written in this book. 31

These accounts are recorded so that you, too, might believe that Jesus is the Anointed, the Liberating King, the Son of God, because believing grants you the life He came to share.

It is the spring time of our lives.  We see the buds popping and the birds coming 

back and the weather is warmer and all of creation is coming alive. It is a time 

when our faith is renewed and we see evidence of the resurrection all around us.

Look around, alleluia, and experience new life in creation; see and hear and 

touch the Risen Jesus.  We see, and we believe. Like Thomas, the Resurrection 

28 You are the one True God and Lord of my life.

is physical; it isn't just something that happened a long time ago to Jesus, the 

Messiah.  It is not abstract and beyond our senses. The resurrection happens in our 

day-to-day lives.  It takes courage, though, to be an Easter people.  As the church, 

this community of believers, are we willing to take a risk, and are we willing to 

put our hands on the wounds of this broken world?   If we are willing, it makes us 

stronger; if we are, it will increase our faith; if we put our hands on the wounds 

of the broken world, we will witness the hope of the resurrection that sustains us; 

we’re going to rise again, the glory of salvation comes to us this morning. Every 

morning is an Easter morning.

William Sloane Coffin, a great prophet of the United Church of Christ who died 

several years ago, once said: "As I see it, the primary religious task these days is to 

try to think straight...You can't think straight with a heart full of fear, for fear seeks 

safety, not truth. If your heart's a stone, you can't have decent thoughts – either 

about personal relations or about international ones. A heart full of love, on the 

other hand, has a limbering effect on the mind." 

Thomas and the other disciples cowered in fear behind locked doors when good 

news arrived.  They were seeking safety, and so they tried to lock the door and shut 

out the light. They tried to harden themselves against the pain of losing Jesus. That 

crushing loss put them on a path of despair that had them cowering in the dark 

upper room.  

Jesus came to them and told them the truth. And that truth formed for them a 

new vision.  It was a vision of the religious community, the saving vision, the 

ancient prophetic vision of human unity, all of God's children on this earth coming 

together for a common purpose. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them and filled 

them with new life and new vision. It was a prophetic moment. 

Where are the prophets among us today?  We miss William Slone Coffin and 

people like him; people who name the truth no matter what the risk.  Where is 

this generation's William Sloane Coffins or Dorothy Days or Martin Luther Kings 

or Mother Teresas or Oscar Romeros?  Pope Francis may be the closest we have 

come to such a voice in many years, although Archbishop Desmond Tutu has 

certainly offered a powerful witness as well. And yet, in today's passage from the 

Gospel of John, the words of Jesus, "Receive the Holy Spirit," reassure us that 

God has given us the Holy Spirit, and has commissioned us, empowered us, to be, 

like Coffin and King and Mother Teresa, a holy and brilliant flame, each in our 

own way, breathing love and peace and justice in the midst of fear and pain and 

hopelessness. 

Let me say that another way: we are called to live the life of a disciple. We are 

called to be like William Sloane Coffin:  to "live the ordinary life extraordinarily 

well," or like Mother Teresa's words of encouragement not to strive to do great 

things, but instead to do small things with great love.  We must not be afraid to 

come out of hiding.  Even though we have felt pain, and have been bruised by 

living in the world of hard knocks we must muster the strength to go out and face it 

one more time.

We have lost loved ones. We have lost jobs.  We have lost the people, places and 

things that used to give our lives meaning and now we have to start over again. We 

are scared of this resurrection world that we live in because it is dangerous. But, 

God comes to us in the midst of our fear and says, "Peace be with you." Whatever 

doubts churn in our minds, whatever sins trouble our consciences, whatever pain 

and worry bind us up, whatever walls we have put up or doors we have locked 

securely, God comes to us and says, "Peace be with you." And just as God sent 

Jesus, God sends us, this day.

But what are we to do next?  First of all, we must acknowledge that we have been 

given the mantle of Jesus Christ.  With this gift comes great responsibility. People 

will see the Holy Spirit working in us, too, and we must exercise this gift, by that 

I mean, through prayer and reflection and Spiritual journaling we can grow in the 

spirit of the Resurrected Jesus.

Second, we must put ourselves in places where God sends us.  We reach out to our 

fellow human beings in the same way, with the same compassion as Jesus used.  

I want to tell a story: A few years ago, a deacon walked into a hospital room to 

visit a member of the church and was asked to serve Holy Communion. She had 

never served communion alone before and she was scared.  The communion ritual 

was printed out on a laminated card, and so the deacon read the opening prayer, 

they said the Lord’s Prayer together, the Prayer of Confession and the Prayer of 

Consecration; and then just before the patient was ready to receive communion, 

the deacon read, “Hear these words of comfort from the scriptures.”  The card was 

blank there so the person in charge could quote a favorite verse. But when she got 

to this point in the service, the deacon said, “Hear these words of comfort from 

the scriptures...” and went absolutely blank. There was a long pause, and then she 

blurted out the only verse she could think of at the moment: “Jesus wept.” 

Later she was talking to the patient, who told her it was perfect, realizing:  “When 

you quoted that verse, ‘Jesus wept,' that was so meaningful to me because it made 

me suddenly realize that… the Healer of our pain is the feeler of our pain!”

The shortest verse of the Bible -- John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.”  It is located in 

the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. The disciples were all there, including 

Thomas, and they saw Jesus weep for the loss of his friend Lazarus.  In that 

moment, all seemed lost.  Jesus was taken up in the emotion of the situation. It had 

been four days since Lazarus was buried. He might have wished he could do more 

to stop this tragedy. He might have been angry at himself for being so far away 

when Lazarus was near death.

Whatever the reason, Jesus wept.  But then Jesus got himself together and boldly 

commanded, “Take away the stone.”

The people removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes and prayed, “Father, I’m 

grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always listen, but on account of 

this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.”

Jesus was certain now that God would answer his prayer.  Then he shouted, 

“Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and 

with a kerchief over his face.

Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”

To me, the most important part of that story wasn’t the resurrection. Sure, Jesus, 

well actually God, saved a man from death. But, God’s plan and Jesus mission 

on this earth was to show us how to love each other. Jesus wept. And you know 

what, maybe sometimes that is the best any of us can do for others. And, for 

God’s sake, let me tell you that is enough . . . “the Healer of our pain is the feeler 

of our pain!”

There is a minister named Al serving a church in West Virginia. He came charging 

out of seminary ready to be “super preacher.” Single-handedly he would solve all 

the problems of the world. He had been trained, he was well prepared, and now as 

a pastor in a little community in Virginia, he was ready.  He had all the answers, 

and he was ready to spout them to the world with pious religious authority, and 

that he did, as the months passed quickly into a year.

Then one evening the phone rang. The chairman of his Board of Trustees had 

suddenly died. This is the man who had been there from the beginning of his 

ministry.  He had been on the search committee. Had taken him around and shown 

him the ropes.  As Al started to the family home, it hit him: “I don’t know what to 

do. I’m their pastor and I’m scared. I don’t know what to say to them.” He had 

only done one funeral but remembered his classes in pastoral care. Quote a 

comforting scripture passage. Be ready for emotional overload.  He plotted his 

strategy: “I know what I’ll do… I’ll go in boldly and take charge. I’ll gather all the 

family in the living room and quote the 23rd Psalm. Ok, plan.” said Rev. Al.

When Rev. Al got to the home, the entire family of the beloved Trustee was 

gathered in the living room, from the now widow, on down to the newest 

grandchild.  He looked at their faces with great compassion and their pain became 

his pain. He suddenly realized how much he loved these wonderful people, and his 

heart broke with them. He was overcome with emotion.  He started to quote the 

23rd Psalm, he said, “The Lord is my Sheph - - - ”… and then Rev. Al exploded 

into tears. He cried so hard that the family had to rush over and minister to him. 

They helped him over to the couch, mopped his brow with a cold cloth, and 

brought him a glass of water. Al was so embarrassed, so ashamed. He felt that he 

had failed miserably. He never really got over the humiliation.

Well, the memorial service went well.  Rev. Al put on a good show.  And several 

months passed.  Al tried to hide from that family. He could not face them. But then 

one afternoon he came around a corner in the hallway and there was the oldest 

daughter of the beloved Trustee and he couldn’t avoid her. He couldn’t hide. Her 

face lit up when she saw Al. She hugged him hard, and said:  “Oh, Al,” they said, 

“I am so glad to see you. The service and your visits when dad passed were so 

wonderful.  Our family loves you. We appreciate you so much. We talk about you 

all the time. We have loved all of our pastors, but you, by far, are the one who 

helped us the most.” “Oh, really?” Al said with genuine surprise. “Oh, yes,” she 

said, “We’ll never forget how you came and cried with us when Daddy died.”

Sometimes just our presence with someone on the journey is enough. To be with 

those who have lost loved ones; To be with those who have lost jobs; To be those 

who are troubled by addiction or depression or sadness.  Truth is, we have all lost 

the people, places and things that used to give our lives meaning and sometimes,

we have to start over again. And it is scary. And we want to hide.  But, God 

comes to us in the midst of our fear and says, "Peace be with you." Whatever 

doubts churn in our minds, whatever sins trouble our consciences, whatever pain 

and worry bind us up, whatever walls we have put up or doors we have locked 

securely, God comes to us and breathes new life into us and says, "Peace be with 

you." And just as God sent Jesus, God sends us, this day.

We are located at 4427 Franklin Blvd, Cleveland, Ohio, 44113 in the heart of the Ohio City neighborhood - just a few blocks north of Lorain Avenue. We're located at the corner of Franklin Boulevard and 45th Street.

Please call us for more information on our many activities and programs - (216) 651-6250.

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