Saturday, April 26, 2014

Easter 2 2014

Easter 2

"Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

How many of us have given this sort of ultimatum in a relationship?  And for how many of us was the ultimatum an emotional reaction to an unfulfilled hope or a cover for some other wish, one that perhaps we don’t know or don’t recognize?

I call this redlining God, and I’ve learned over the years that it is not possible to contain God inside my red lines any more than it is possible to contain God within the four dimensional box of my own imagination. Our minds are conditioned by what we can experience in length, width, height, and time – the space/time box of our senses.  We live much of the time inside that space/time box.

And it is inside that space/time box that much of the time we experience God’s love and grace. But many of the really important things we experience by God’s love and grace both inside and outside the space/time box.

The most common experience of God’s love and grace both inside and ourside the space/time box is human love. Those of us who are blessed with relationships of love – parent and child, husband and wife, family and friends, know love that is expressed both within the space/time box and love that transcends the space/time box.  We express in what we say and do a love that is greater than anything we can ever say and do.

In Genesis 1:26 we read, “Let us make humanity after our own likeness.” One way we are made in God’s image is that we have the gift of love. This side of the Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit is that we share God’s spirit of love. As St. John says in his first Epistle (4:8, 10-11) “God is love . . .  and sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him . . . not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, is God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 

We who love learn that red lines, ultimatums, have no place in relationships of love. Perfect love is without conditions.   But we are not perfect, and sometimes we do as Thomas did and give ultimatums like his. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

God is good to us. He loves us, and he gives us what we need.  So when Jesus appeared to his disciples again the Sunday after the Resurrection, he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

The gospel continues, “Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

We are not told that Thomas followed through on his ultimatum. We are not told that Thomas did in fact feel the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side.  Jesus offer was sufficient. In Jesus’ presence Thomas knew the divine love, love gave him the gift of faith to believe and confess, “My Lord and my God.”

          In late July this year we will remember another ultimatum, made by Austria-Hungary to Serbia July 23, 1914 after the terrorist assassination June 28 of the heir to the Austrian and Hungarian thrones which resulted in World War One, and reverberates today.

 There have been other ultimatums since, internationally, nationally, in churches, in families, in relationships. It is hard for us to learn that ultimatums don’t work.

Ultimatums come from a mind-set like cement, all mixed up and firmly set.  Jesus calls us to be flexible.  Our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic church are celebrating Pope Francis’ declaration that Popes John 23rd and John Paul 2nd may be venerated as saints. The traditional rule is that God makes saints and the church recognizes God’s action by the evidence of at least two miracles. But in the face of complaints that this evidence of miracles has not been proved for two popes Pope Francis has apparently declared that the evidence of their lives is sufficient to demonstrate the sanctity of his predecessors.

Jesus calls us to be flexible, to respond to his presence, to his love shown forth.

The example of Thomas may help us learn the love of God shown in Jesus, love that brings us to repentance and faith in him, “Our Lord and our God!”

Our risen Lord Jesus continues to come to us. He continues to do “ many other signs in the presence of his disciples . . . that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Vigil 4-19-2014 St. John’s Haw Creek

          “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed, Alleluia”   And then . . 
          The take home is at the end of the Epistle reading, St. Paul to the Christians at Rome, “The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

We’ve heard a lot of Scripture tonight. We began with the story of Creation. The constant refrain is “And God saw that it was good. . . . God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good. ” As created, the world was good.

But in a good world Korean ferries wouldn’t capsize and high school students wouldn’t be trapped and drown. The world as we experience it does not seem to be the good world God intended. Theology calls it “the problem of evil” and particularly since the Holocaust the problem of evil has troubled our society. It is not new. The great Lisbon earthquake of November 1, 1755 troubled the easy optimism of the Enlightment.

One response is to deny the goodness of creation. In 1651, over 100 years before the Lisbon earthquake, Thomas Hobbes wrote that the natural situation of humanity was to live in “continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” But we are Christians, Easter people, and like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the empty tomb we meet the risen Jesus and hear his voice, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers . . . they will see me.” We have seen the Lord; we have tasted his goodness; we know that as created, the world is good.

Another response to our experience of evil is to look for someone to blame. We see lots of that in our political life. But the truth is that we are all to blame. We live in what St. Paul calls “the body of sin.”  We are enslaved by our willing participation in a sinful and corrupt society.

But when Jesus died on the cross the body of sin was destroyed, and we are baptized into that death. Jesus’ resurrection sets us free, free in Christ, forgiven sinners, free to do what we can to live to God.

The first reading was about Creation. As created, the world was good. God continues to work in his creation. He works to restore his creation, not by coercion and violence, but by the exercise of our free will as we seek to know and do God’s will.

God called Abraham, blessed him with Sarah as his wife, with Isaac as his son. Abraham’s descendants were invited to Egypt and there fell into slavery to Pharaoh. And God called Moses to lead the people into freedom through the Red Sea waters. With Miriam we also “Sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously.” We pass through the water of baptism into new life in God.

The people came to the promised land and eventually were taken prisoner to Babylon. There they heard the prophet Ezekiel’s vision that the dry bones would live, that the people would receive God’s spirit and live.

When we are baptized not only is the body of sin destroyed, but we also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth and power, to know and do the will of God.

Jesus’ resurrection was a great work of God, not just then, but now.  “The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Our yearly celebration remembers the past event. But Easter is not a past event; it is a present reality and a continuing reality.

The Paschal candle we lit tonight continues to be lit for the great 50 days of Easter until Pentecost, when we celebrate the fire of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in all who “profess and call themselves” Christians. The new fire dwells in each of us, fueled by Christ’s body and blood received in the Eucharist.

“The death Jesus died, he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Amen.

Will you stand and turn with me to page 292 in the red Prayer Book for the renewal of baptismal vows.