I see my light come shinin’
From the west down to the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released
Our story from the gospel of John for today – a story we hear every year on the second Sunday of Easter – is a story of release.
The disciples, huddled in fear after all the death and absence, are released from fear into peace. In the story, Jesus is felt, known, sensed, experienced among them. They’d been holding their breath in fear of what was next; a spirit of peace releases them.
A deep breath right now puts us into the story.
The American Institute of Stress promotes something called the Relaxation Response, which is “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension).” The key to eliciting this response, you won’t be surprised, is focused deep breathing.
To be released into peace is only a deep breath away. It is an experience of the sacred in our midst.
The disciples, first invited to release themselves from fear into peace, are next invited to release each other from judgment and negativity. “If you release the sins of any, they are released,” says Jesus, and “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
A good news story this week about a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio: it’s a high-end French restaurant owned and operated by a chef named Brandon Chrostowski. Brandon’s vision is to provide ex-offenders with a second chance, and so the staff is made up of ex cons who receive 40-50 hours of training every week in everything from the front to the back of house operations of a fine dining establishment. To date 114 students have graduated from his program, 90% are employed, and no one has re-offended. The restaurant is called “Edwins” named after his grandfather but also as a nod to the idea that Education Wins. Brandon says, “to overcome challenges, through education, is to win again. No one forgets the taste of winning. It’s not on our tongue, but it’s in our soul, and it’s contagious. So if you can overcome a hard challenge here at Edwins, it’s a win. It gives you confidence. That’s our secret ingredient.”
Now that’s a breath of fresh air.
Our gospel today releases us from fear, encourages us to release each other in freedom, and releases us all to go out from here. Jesus says to the followers, “As I have been sent, so I send you.” Where will you go, whom will you love, how will you live when you accept again that you are sent to be alive and well in this world; to be a breath of fresh air in every stale situation. Do you believe it? Better still, do you trust it?
When Jesus speaks to Thomas, it is often translated, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” It is better translated, according to linguists, “Do you trust because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to trust.”
Take a deep breath and follow your gut.
Feel your way forward, out of doubt.
Believe whatever you want – in science, in proof, in reason.
In the power of story and the possibility of miracle.
These are precious gifts.
Believe what you want.
And – or but – or also: trust.
Trust what can be known more deeply: you are loved; you are released.
(all the best, Jana)