All Health Broke Loose

Sunday’s Gospel reading contained this passage from John 20, “‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'”

Shortly after Jesus inaugurated his Father’s New Creation by his resurrection, he commissioned his disciples to continue what he has started. Jesus instructs them to participate in the missio dei with, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” I truly believe this statement forms the core of any missional engagement. The New Creation is implemented by continuing Jesus’ incarnation of God’s Presence and Life into the world.

So that there is no mistake, Jesus summarizes the essential components of an incarnational mission. They must receive the Holy Spirit and they must forgive sins. They cannot engage in this daunting task solely relying on their own strength and strategies. Human participation in the missio dei requires Christ’s likeness and God’s divine energies. This is especially apparent when one reflects on what is involved in forgiving sins.

Jesus means far more than simply declaring to a person forgiven from personal sins. To Jesus’ contemporaries, the forgiveness of sins meant the return from exile. Based on their covenant with God, Israel’s sins had sent them into exile and it would be God’s forgiveness of their sins that would initiate their return. But Jesus offered more than a geographical relocation or deliverance from foreign rule. When Jesus offered the forgiveness of sin, he was offering a new world order from the desolation of death into the eschatological kingdom of God.

And that is our ongoing role in God’s mission. To borrow a phrase from my priest, “All health broke loose” at Jesus’ resurrection. I really like that. At the resurrection, the renewal of God’s creation is launched. As we are sent as Jesus was sent, as we forgive sins and offer the return from exile, as we embody God’s kingdom, all health should break loose in us and around us.

The Lenses Through Which I See

I read a beautiful Paschal reflection by Fr Ted Bobosh. His reflection reminded me of how God has shaped me to view life through a few crucial lenses.

First, salvation, as experienced personally, is the entire process of God rescuing me from sin and death and restoring me as his image-bearer. In other words, salvation is the actual process of being transformed into Christ’s likeness. As such, “forgiveness of sins” is the doorway to salvation, but not salvation itself. Forgiveness is a necessary aspect of a far larger process of renewal, restoration and transformation. Therefore, I don’t possess salvation. Rather, I’m on a journey of salvation, a journey toward becoming like Christ in his life and likeness.

Second, God is saving his entire creation. There is a global dimension to salvation. The promised New Creation is this creation renewed and overflowing with God’s glory. The New Creation was inaugurated at Jesus’ resurrection and God is actively restoring his creation, primarily through the renewal of creation’s stewards — the human race.

Third, Jesus’ very being and life saves us. God’s salvific activity cannot be pinpointed to just one event in Jesus’ life. All of the events save us. He saves us through his birth, his circumcision, his baptism, his ministry, his miracles, his teaching, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension, his return, his ongoing kingship, and all the bits in between.

Fr Stephen Freeman summarizes nicely, “The Incarnation of Christ and the whole of His work – suffering, death, burial, descent among the dead, resurrection, ascension – serve the same singular purpose – to deliver all of creation (including humanity) from its bonds and establish it in the freedom for which it was created – manifest in Christ’s own resurrection.”

The convergence of these lenses bring the world into pin-sharp focus for me and have helped me to shed much of the delusion from my past.