Fear is projected all around us through commercials, political ads and speeches, and polarized news reporting. Marketers and politicians figured out long ago that fear is a powerful motivator to get people to buy things that they don’t need and to do things that might not be good for themselves and others. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by the continuous triggering of our fears that we lock ourselves in emotionally and physically and hope that we will be safe. Fear becomes a prison that stops us from being able to do anything to effect change.
Before they know that Jesus has risen, Jesus’ followers feel such paralyzing fear and they lock themselves in. But Jesus breaks through their prison of fear, offers them peace, and breathes on them. With his breath, Jesus invites the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit and then go out and exercise its power. He tells them that they have the power to forgive sins or to retain them. What a transformation—from a sense of total powerlessness to having the ability to forgive sins! As God’s breath creates and recreates, Jesus’ breath grants the power of the Holy Spirit. Through breath and through the Trinity, we—like the disciples—are empowered to break out of the prisons we have allowed our fear to build around us. Our faith can transform our fear into power.
What do you fear? Who or what triggers your fears? Who stands to benefit when you are afraid? What locks you in the prison of fear?
Jesus Christ, break into our prison of fear and empower us with your breath of peace, justice, and love so that we can be free from fear’s bondage and go out to do your work of healing and reconciliation—our true security. Amen.
Many contemporary Christians wrestle with the theology of the Holy Spirit. Some are perceived as emphasizing the Spirit too much, while others talk about the Spirit only vaguely or even not at all. Both extremes can mislead us. The Spirit is powerful and active, and we understand the role of the Spirit within larger truths about God and God’s activities in the world. God empowers the disciples on Pentecost by the Spirit, and the psalmist emphasizes the role of the Spirit in creation. Paul tells the Corinthians that the Spirit enables us to recognize Jesus as Lord and serve one another. Jesus gives the power of the Spirit to his disciples. May we also seek God’s help in receiving the power of the Spirit to serve and reach those far from God.
Read Acts 2:1-21. What moments from your lifetime might you consider Pentecost moments? How have you seen the Spirit empowering God’s people in these moments or movements?
Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. When have you experienced God’s rhythm of withholding and releasing? How can your breath remind you of your place in this rhythm of creation?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13. How does your faith guide you to a tension between sameness and difference that might help you create a diverse unity among your family or faith community?
Read John 20:19-23. How does your relationship with Christ help you break through fear?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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