As the Father Sent Me So I send You

Christos Anesti!  Christ is Risen!  Krishti u Ngjall!

Last week on the night of Pascha, at the Resurrection service, my son brought one of his best friends to our church service. In fact, my daughter also brought two of her school friends to experience the Orthodox Church’s way of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection. Anyway, after the service, all the guests came to our house to have a delicious meal at 2am. When I asked my son’s friend what he thought of the service, he responded, “Father Luke, it was quite interesting. But I have to be honest and tell you that this was only the THIRD time in my life I’ve ever been to Church. It was interesting, though, and I really did learn something new.” When I answered him what he learned, he surprised me by saying, “I never knew that Jesus rose from the dead!”

At first, I was a little stunned to think that some young man growing up in America wouldn’t at least have heard or known the most basic fact of our Christian faith – that Jesus rose from the dead. And yet, after I started to think about it a little more, I realized it really shouldn’t surprise me. I look around at many of my children’s school friends and understand that so few of them are connected to any Church. Only a small number go to Church regularly, and probably most of them have absolutely no connection to a Church. So if someone doesn’t go to Church, where will they hear the message that “Christ is Risen!” Where will they learn that Jesus died on the Cross for the salvation of the world, and by experiencing death, He conquered death by coming back to life? They surely won’t learn this in school. They won’t learn this from some TV show, or from the music they listen to? If their parents aren’t really interested in the Church or the Christian faith, then they won’t hear about it in their home. So, should we really be surprised that someone growing up in America doesn’t know the basics of the Christian faith, that Jesus is Risen?

Many people growing up in our secular society may simply think of Easter as having to do with Bunny Rabbits that lay colorful eggs. Just like they may think of the Christmas season as having to do with Santa Claus living in the North Pole and having elves that help him give gifts to children around the world.

How will a secularized generation of kids, as well as non-religious adults, learn about, or at the very least hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ?!? Good News that can change lives, transform lives, heal those who are broken, in despair, in need of a new life?!?

Well, one way for people to hear is for us Christians to invite our friends, our co-workers, our neighbors, to come and visit our Church. Come and visit us for Sunday Liturgy, for a weekly Bible Study, or for some faith-based experience at our Church. We can try to invite them. OR, we can try to share with them the Good News as we understand it. Tell them what our faith means to us in our own lives. How many of us are bold enough to share our faith experiences with our friends and others?

For those of us who attended the many moving services of Holy Week and Pascha, we just passed through what I would call the most beautiful week of the entire year! For those who experienced this week in its fullness and beauty, did you tell others about your experience – did you share with them what it meant to travel through the passion, death, and victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?!? Did you share with anyone the Good News that “Christ is Risen!” And explain how our Risen Lord makes a difference in your own life?

Today, on the 1st Sunday after Pascha, we heard in the Gospel about Jesus appearing to the 11 disciples a week after His first appearance, but this time with Thomas being present. We could talk about different aspects of this story – Thomas’ doubt and questioning of the truth of Christ’s Resurrection and his need to see the Risen Lord and touch His physical body, OR we could focus on Thomas’ journey from doubt to faith when he is the first to proclaim to Jesus “My Lord and My God!”

Yet there’s one other significant aspect of today’s Gospel, which relates to the story I shared about my son’s friend. When the Risen Lord Jesus appears to His disciples today, He says to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!”

As the Father has sent me, Jesus, into the world, so now I send you, my followers, into the world! Jesus is telling His disciples that just as the Father sent Christ to live among us, eating and drinking and entering into our homes, encountering others wherever they were, and bringing them the Good News of the Kingdom of God, in like manner, Jesus is now commanding His followers, He’s telling US, to go out into the world and do likewise!

Let’s think carefully about how the Father sent Jesus into the world. What did Christ do? How did He act? How did He connect with people? And then, let’s take up His challenge and realize He is sending us into the world to do the same thing. To continue His work in the world! Jesus went into the homes of sinners like Zaccheus the tax-collector. He welcomed prostitutes and unsavory people. He respectfully treated a woman caught in adultery, and gave her hope. He embraced the foreigner, the stranger, those despised by society. He even enjoyed a conversation with a woman married five times, a woman He knew was living in adultery with another man. Jesus didn’t wait for people to come to Him, but He met people where they were at in the world. He reached out to them with compassion, sharing Good News, and seeing within each one their divine beauty. He made the effort to go wherever others were, and befriended them!

Thus, when our Risen Lord said to His followers, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you!” we should hear these words challenging us to go forth. We should ask ourselves, “Am I going out as Jesus went out? Am I trying to enter into a friendly relationship with my co-worker who is an atheist, my neighbor who is non-religious, my doctor who is Hindu, or my child’s classmate who comes from another country?” And am I sharing with them Christ’s Good News by the way I act, the way I speak, the attitude I carry, and the joy that I radiate?

Once a parishioner said to me, “I wish I could convince my friend to come to church and talk with you. He doesn’t believe in God, but whenever I invite him to come and talk with you, he’s not interested?”  So I said, “It’s ok if he doesn’t come to church. YOU BRING the CHURCH to HIM! YOU be God’s presence! Show this person God’s love through YOUR friendship and actions and words! YOU tell them about the Good News of Jesus Christ in a simple yet clear way with YOUR own words!”

When was the last time you talked with a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, and yes, even that non-religious friend, or that co-worker from another religion, about the love of Jesus Christ? We are still in the Resurrection Season for 40 days. Can you go and share the Good News of our Lord’s Resurrection with someone who may know nothing about it? The Resurrection of Jesus is the greatest news the world has ever heard!  Death itself has been defeated. We no longer need to live in fear of death. Christ is risen, and life is transformed! Evil no longer has the final say in life. Don’t ever allow anything that happens in your life make you forget about this Good News. Make it central in your attitude and worldview, and share the joy of the Resurrection with others!

As Mother Teresa once counseled her Missionaries of Charity, “Just go and offer God’s love to someone else. Smile at them.  Treat them with kindness. Show them the joy that God has given you in your life. Don’t let anyone ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” This is an easy way we can share the good news of our Lord with others. As the Father has sent Christ, so now He sends us! Go!

Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen! Krishti u Ngjall!

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