Preached on Sunday, 28 April 2019 at Church of the Ascension in Seattle, Washington
The Second Sunday of Easter, Year C
I never thought I would see the end of apartheid in South Africa – but I did.
I never thought I would see the Berlin Wall come down – but it did.
Mary of Nazareth never thought she would see her beautiful baby boy one day die on a cross – but she did.
Mary of Magdala and the other women never thought the tomb would be empty – but it was.
Thomas never thought he would see Jesus again – but he did.
Peter never thought he would be freed from prison in the dead if night by an angel! –
but he was.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ opens up the possibility of the unimagined. God shows up in unlikely places. God is proclaimed by unlikely people. What seemed impossible, what was unimagined, just might be possible.
What does the resurrection mean for you?
What impact does it have on your life?
What if you were to live like it’s true?
Throughout Eastertide, we will be hearing readings from Luke, the sequel – also known as The Acts of the Apostles. This isn’t “The heroic adventures of Peter and Paul and the early church.” No, it’s an invitation to us in our church, in this parish, in our lives. Each week, we will be invited to consider “what are the contours of authentically Christian witness?”
It’s an invitation to an Easter state-of-mind.
The story we hear this morning, for example – well, let’s get some context, first.
The apostles are still in Jerusalem after the coming of the Holy Spirit. They’ve been teaching and preaching, proclaiming Jesus, and healing in his name. They’ve gotten into trouble with the Temple authorities who have ordered them to stop using Jesus’ name.
Peter and John have been arrested and jailed overnight; they’ll be taken to court in the morning. But an angel comes in the night and leads them out of the prison, telling them to go back to the Temple, where they were arrested. In the morning, of course, their cell is found to be empty, but everything else is in order. So, men are sent to find them and bring them back to answer to the Sanhedrin. That’s where we come in today.
Peter and John are answering charges before the most powerful men in the city; perhaps in all of Judaism. These are the same men who had Jesus crucified. What is their answer? “We can’t keep quiet,” they say, “We will obey God; we must proclaim the Good News.”
The life of the apostles isn’t easy; it’s downright dangerous! They are imprisoned, flogged, threatened with death, and most of them do die for the sake of the gospel. They proclaim the gospel despite the danger and darkness of the world. God’s light breaks through the darkness. No matter what the powers of the world use against them, the Good News can’t be silenced. New, even unlikely expressions of God’s grace continue to emerge – even in the darkest times.
We see in these stories that nothing is hopeless. Mercy, goodness, joy, light, LIFE shine through even the most awful stuff in the world and in our own lives.
It’s not that the resurrection of Jesus fixed the world – it didn’t. Rather, it shows us that the world isn’t hopelessly broken. God still has hope for the world; God still believes in us.
God doesn’t reach in and “fix” the world; neither does God rely on us to “fix” it on our own. In our baptismal covenant, which we renewed last week, we are asked a series of questions – promises or vows about what we will do. Our response is always, “I will, with God’s help.” In the last few years, we’ve added a promise to care for the earth, recognizing that in Scripture, God charges us, humankind, with the responsibility for the good of the earth. It’s in our Eucharistic Prayers too.
I never thought, though, that we would face the kind of darkness that global warming presents. I never thought people would be so blasé about such a dangerous threat.
A headline caught my eye this week, “The Christian case for embracing a hippie holiday.” Of course, I had to read it. It points out that creation, all of life, is prominent in our holy scripture. Trees are mentioned more often than any living thing other than God and human beings.
Today, we commemorate Earth Day or Earth Month. We celebrate and give thanks for the gift God has given us in Creation. And we embrace our vow to lovingly care for it, to challenge the darkness that threatens it.
We have seen this morning that no darkness is beyond hope. What shape would authentically Christian witness take in the face of this particular darkness?
We are invited into an Easter state-of-mind.
We are invited to live like it’s true:
Live like it’s true that God has hope for the world.
Live like it’s true that new expressions of God’s grace and love and creativity are always emerging in unlikely places through unlikely people.
Live like it’s true that the unimagined is possible.
Live like it’s true that the tomb is empty;
that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead.