Preached on 22 April 2018 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
The fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
Easter is more than an event in the life of Jesus. It is certainly more than a day each year for remembering that event and it’s even more than a season celebrating it.
Easter is a way of life. It’s a way of life founded on the promise of God that Life is more than what we accumulate, more than what we can see, more than what we do. It is based on the promise that in the power of God’s Spirit, as we share life and love, they increase, they multiply; and as life and love increase, fear loses its grip on us. We experience and enjoy Life in Abundance; the abundance of life that Jesus promises when he says, “I have come that they might have life, life in abundance.”
This Easter season, we have been talking about what it is to be an Easter Church; what characterizes it. One of those characteristics is the sharing of this very Easter way of life; sharing life and love in the Spirit of God and letting go of fear, that all might revel in the abundance of life offered in God.
We have been looking to our readings from The Acts of the Apostles to see what characterizes the Easter church and what it might mean for us. As we look at today’s reading, I feel like I should start with “previously on Acts of the Apostles…” because otherwise, we don’t understand what’s going on here.
So, here goes.
We see Peter and John going to the Temple to pray in the afternoon. As they approach the gate, they see a beggar who is always there, who can’t walk. Peter calls on the name of Jesus and commands him to walk. He reaches out his hand and helps the man up. Then, as we heard last week, Peter speaks to all the gawkers who run to see what’s going on. He proclaims to them that it was Jesus who did this amazing thing.
Now, here’s what the lectionary leaves out. Peter continues speaking to the crowd:
“You are heirs of the covenant of God made with your ancestors when he told Abraham, ‘All the nations of the earth will be blessed in your descendants. It was for you, in the first place, that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you.’
Now, while Peter and John are still talking, the religious leaders show up. They’re annoyed that they are teaching about the resurrection and arrest them.
Today, we hear Peter talking to those religious leaders. You may recognize some of the names, like Annas and Caiaphas, as the people who arrested Jesus and turned him over to be crucified. Peter is accusing them, pointing fingers. And pointing out that in this life and death power struggle, God won; they lost. God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus is the only source of salvation.
What does it show us about the Easter Church?
Here again, we see Peter bearing witness to Christ. That has been a recurrent theme. He turns to Scripture for help in interpreting what is happening now. And, as he talks about salvation, we see that salvation is about more than life and death. Salvation is about wholeness of body, mind, and spirit in this life as we see in the man who is cured. Salvation is about human flourishing; it’s about God’s promise of Abundance of Life.
The Easter Church is characterized by sharing an Easter way of life. It’s sharing, in the Spirit of God, our life and love not only in this flock, but others who are not of this flock, as Jesus said, that there may be one flock. It’s sharing our life and love that all might have abundant life.
Abundant life, human flourishing, goes hand in hand with the flourishing of all Creation. Humans can’t flourish in a disintegrating or degraded environment.
Today is Earth Day and it is Good Shepherd Sunday. What happens when we hold that alongside our question about what it means for us to be an Easter Church? How do we bear witness to Christ as we remember our responsibility to care for the earth?
The human race has developed the capacity to harm the earth far beyond the earth’s capacity to heal itself. How might the Easter Church respond?
Last week, we heard that the Easter Church proclaims forgiveness and repentance – realigning our view of the world and seeing it through God’s lenses.
Today, we heard that the Easter Church proclaims salvation that is about wholeness of body, mind, and spirit in this life, about human flourishing and abundant life.
We heard that we, the Easter Church, are heirs of the promise of God made to Abraham that we are to be a blessing to all nations.
As we bring all of this to our own day, we know that the salvation of God must extend to all of Creation, not just humanity. And so we might say that the Easter Church proclaims God’s desire for the flourishing of all life, indeed all of Creation, and repentance from that which harms Creation.
The church is recognizing our responsibility to God’s Creation and is adding a promise to the Baptismal Covenant to care for the earth.
Easter is a way of life. A way of life founded on the promise of God of life in abundance for all the whole earth. May we embrace and live into that Easter life.