They were in an upper room, huddled in fear behind locked doors, when suddenly Jesus was in the room with them. He said to them, “Peace be with you.” Twice he said that, and the second time he breathed on them, and said, “As I have been sent, so I send you.” It was the first of the post-resurrection commissionings.
A few weeks later, several of them were back in Galilee, fishing. A man suddenly appeared on the beach, and spoke to them. At some point they realized that it was Jesus, their teacher and friend. He had started a fire on the beach. He said, “Come and have breakfast.” After breakfast he said to Peter, three times, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Another commissioning.
Later he told the whole crowd of them in Jerusalem, “You shall receive power and you shall be my witnesses all the way to the far corners of the earth.”
Since that time, we—the body of Christ, ecclesia, the church—have been on a journey. It has been a journey of understanding—and many times misunderstanding. It has been a quest for what it means to be the church, a mission to bring the love and peace of Christ, without cultural trappings, to the uttermost parts of the earth.
On the day of Pentecost, the early followers of Jesus received the power that he had promised before he left them. They were energized and filled with love for one another, and took care of one another. They tried at first to live communally, sharing all of their goods, but they learned that this was quite difficult.
After a while, some of their love feasts turned into orgies of gluttony. They learned that they were not to call anything “unclean,” even when their scriptures had declared it so, but they soon forgot this. Sometimes they were greedy, selfish and petty—and sometimes they were magnificent. Just like us.
Sometimes we are greedy, selfish, and petty—and sometimes we manage to behave with the kind of love we ought to have. Sometimes we really act like followers of Jesus Christ, and sometimes we don’t. But, like Jake & Elwood Blues (from The Blues Brothers), we can say, in spite of our mottled natures, “We ’re on a mission from God.”
The task at hand is to figure out what that mission is—for each church, as well as each follower. Maybe—probably—we won’t know the whole answer to that question. Maybe we will only be shown the next step. Then, like the first generation of travelers, we muster the courage, the energy, the wisdom, to carry out the mission—to embark on the journey, to follow the quest.
By Katie Cook; adapted from “The Church on Mission: Journey and Community,” the 2004 Sacred Seasons Pentecost/Ordinary Time worship packet, Seeds of Hope Publishers.