Saturday, May 10, 2014

4 Easter Yr A May 11 2014

Audio 5.11.2014

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. We have this very funny lectionary thing happening with this story. We've been reading the post resurrection stories, and today we go back. We go back to this story that follows right after Jesus heals the blind man. I think the lectionary gods select this story for this place because it is important for us to hear about what it is that God accomplishes in Jesus in the resurrection. And resurrection has everything to do with abundant life, the abundant new life that the blind man receives as he is healed, and the abundant life that Jesus calls us to. 

Jesus stands at the gate and invites. Jesus stands at the gate and says everyone may enter here. Jesus stands at the gate welcoming everyone of us as he calls our names. This is what abundant life looks like. Resurrection is about abundant life. We are Easter people, Jesus has and does invite us in, and abundant life is available to us, to everyone, right now, not just at the end of our lives, not just at the end of time, but right now. Alleluia, Christ is risen.

Resurrection is a kind of miracle, a miracle of awareness, aliveness, an awakening. We have stories that help us roll away the stone of our tomb-life. We have stories that remind us that others have suffered as we do, and as those we love. We have stories that reassure us unexpectedly and unpredictably, that on the other side of suffering there is life. We have stories that help us to awaken and live. These are resurrection stories. These are the stories that will set us free. 

In the introduction to his book, Celebrating Easter and Spring, Mark Harris says, "If we believe in a creative power that shatters the icy tomb of winter with the life-giving miracle of spring, we have seen a resurrection. If we believe in a creative power that moves tens and then tens of thousands of people to cry out against injustices of society, enabling the downfall of hatred and prejudice, then we have fomented a resurrection. If we believe in a creative power lying within each human breast that enables us to break the bonds of personal pain and know the hope of new tomorrows, then we have experienced a resurrection."

This is what Easter is about; this is why we are Easter people. In the book of Acts, from which we hear this morning, is the story of people who live in the reality of resurrection, who are Easter people, and who formed their lives and community around that reality. Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. The response to resurrection is awe. 

I am in awe because of the wonders and signs of resurrection. It is because of resurrection that we are baptized and we devote ourselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. What is it about resurrection that causes such fervor? Resurrection is a present and future reality. Resurrection, what happened at the first Easter, is about God’s interruption of human history, God has created this amazing new thing. God has raised Jesus from death to new life. The promise is that the same will happen to each of us. That is what is meant by the present reality, and the future reality.

It is this reality in which we live and die. It is the promise that on the other side of suffering and pain there is abundant life, life that is unimaginable. It is the promise that in the midst of suffering and pain, in the midst of the muck and mess that sometimes just is life, God is with us, God loves us and cares about us. It is when we say, I cannot bear this suffering, that we remember that God's love for us is so great, Jesus bears that suffering for us on the cross. 

In this Easter season we live on the side of abundant life. We live in the reality of new creation. The Good News is that death does not have the victory, the Good News is that love Wins. Life finds a way. Baptism, teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers is our response to the gift of abundant life. 

We also live in the promise of the new creation of the future. There is a popular story out there about what the future holds. It is a story called rapture, and we have heard it told in the Left Behind novels. That story goes something like this. We are now living in the end times, in which all the great prophecies are to be fulfilled at last. Central to these prophecies, it is believed, is the promise that Jesus will return in person, snatching the true believers away from this wicked world to be with him and then, after an interval of ungodliness, returning to reign over the world forever. In the fictitious scenario of the Left Behind books, the rapture has happened; all true Christians have been snatched away from the earth; and those left behind are now struggling to survive in a godless world. This end time speculation has been closely associated with and connected to the agenda of some of America’s leading politicians. But this scenario is far from resurrection that is the truth of Easter, and it is far from the promise of new creation that we read about in the book of Revelation. 

But what is promised in Revelation 21 is a new heaven and a new earth replacing the old heaven and the old earth, which were bound to decay. So, far from sitting on clouds playing harps, or even floating around as disembodied spirits, the redeemed people of God, that is you and me, in the new world will be the agents of God’s love going out in new ways, to accomplish new creative tasks, to celebrate and extend the glory of God’s love. 

So at the moment, by the Spirit, the word, the sacraments and prayer, and in those in whom we are called to serve for Jesus’ sake, the absent Jesus is present to us. So in the midst of our pain and suffering, our joy and delight, we are to be agents of new creation. We pray daily to our Lord, that the Kingdom should come, that God’s will be done. That is about the present reality of word, bread and wine, and prayer and the future reality of the new creation right here on earth. 

We need to get to the work that God has given us to do. God's mission is healing and forgiveness of and in the world, and our mission is to bring that good news that God's love wins into the world. God continues to teach us to be compassionate, to listen to others whose opinions and beliefs are different than our own, to listen to each others faith stories, to identify our gifts and talents, to live out our baptismal ministry. We need to walk through that sheep-gate, and invite others to come with us.  

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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