“Why are you afraid?”

Why Are You Afraid?

St. Dunstan’s 6.24.18

Lectionary: 1Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49

Psalm 9:9-20, Mark 4:35-41

So, last Tuesday, I sat down at our usual Staff meeting, and as some of you may know, we always have a devotional time before launching into the agenda and calendar items for the week.

We each take turns leading the devotional; this last week it was Fr. Kent’s turn, and he started the devotional with a question, “What would your life look like without Christ in it?”

Then, having dropped that crushing, gut-wrenching question on us, he sat back, smiled and looked around expectantly at each of us as we tried to imagine what it would feel like.

Well, at least for me, it was crushing and gut-wrenching.  Mainly because I didn’t have to imagine what it was like.

I knew what it was like.

Because that question swooped me up and took me right back to a time in my life when I was filled with fear, my life was spinning out of control, I felt lost and in a very dark place.

So, of course, I was the first one to blurt out, “My life would be full of chaos, fear and a very dark place…without joy.”

I thought I had no one to turn to and I didn’t have any idea how to fix it…because, you see, I thought I was all alone in facing this giant

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was a Christian, I went to church, I prayed, I taught Sunday School, I listened to the scriptures, I loved Jesus, I went to Bible study, but… I was still afraid.

I wasn’t willing to trust God …enough.

Deep down, I didn’t believe I was someone God would find worthy to save.  My life was such a mess, I couldn’t see through the fear to see the miracles Christ was doing in my life…HAD been doing all through my stormy life.

As I was studying the Gospel this week, preparing this sermon…(and I DID have a nicely organized, three point sermon prepared) – a good study on Mark, miracles, because the miracles are hard to ignore in Mark…and certainly the miracle in this passage -Jesus, telling the storm to cease and be calm was so spectacular, it even leaves the Disciples astounded, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him???”

So, I finish off a rough draft of this neat, tidy sermon, turn off the computer, and walk away thinking, “ok, I’m in good shape for Sunday.  I’ll go back tomorrow and tighten it up and polish it up a bit, but I’m good.”

Except I wasn’t. Even as I walked away, I knew there was something gnawing at me …and as I tried to sleep that night, Jesus’ words to his disciples after he calmed the storm –seemed like they were being shouted at me

“Why are you afraid?   Have you still no faith??”

Why were the disciples so afraid…they’d witnessed miracle after miracle even before getting on that boat with Jesus… and what better Gospeler than Mark to write about all the miracles Jesus did throughout his time in ministry…?

Because Mark’s Gospel is known as the “Miracle Gospel”.  (This is mainly because the amount of narrative he devotes to miraculous events in proportion to the entire Gospel is the highest among the Canonical Gospels).

In the first chapter of Mark, right after Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they went into a synagogue in Capernaum where he taught, and a man “with an unclean spirit” came in, and the disciples witnessed their first miracle, as Jesus drove out the unclean spirit from the man.

When they left the synagogue, they went to the house of Simon and Andrew, and Simon told Jesus about his mother-in-law who was bedridden with a fever and very sick, and they again witnessed a healing miracle, as Jesus reached out his hand to the sick woman, and she got up, well and full of energy, apparently, because she immediately began to serve them!

It was quite a day for the disciples, and it wasn’t over yet!  Somehow, word of Jesus’ miraculous healings of body and spirit spread…and at sunset, a crowd began to form with all who were sick or possessed with demons!  Mark says the WHOLE CITY was gathered around the door!

The next day, Jesus went to neighboring towns, and their synagogues —casting out more demons – and a man with Leprosy asks for Jesus to help him…and right before the disciples’ eyes, the man is cured of leprosy!

A few days later, they went back to Capernaum, and again the crowds filled the house where Jesus was teaching, it was so full of people, that four men were trying to bring their paralyzed friend into Jesus (on a mat), and couldn’t get in.

You probably remember the story, they went up to the roof, opened up a hole in the roof and lowered him down right in front of Jesus! They were determined!

And Mark writes, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven…” (and later)” I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home!”

The disciples are right there, WITH Jesus, and they see him healing, driving out “unclean spirits”, curing lepers, people who are crippled all their life get up and walk, people who are deathly sick, take his hand and they get up from their sick bed and are restored to health…!

So, when we hear or read about the disciples just NOT GETTING IT about Jesus, most of us shake our heads, and think, “How can the disciples be so dumb?

I mean, they had Jesus right there with them for all that time, and they still don’t get it??

We think, “I’m sure I would!”

Would we?   

DO we?

“Why are you afraid?  Have you still no FAITH?”

Hmmm…there’s that word “FAITH” again…

What did Mark actually mean by the word, FAITH in his Gospel?

Mark uses faith in relation to Jesus’ miracles.

Jesus notices the faith of the sufferers in 5 of his miracles in Mark and tells them it is because of their faith they are healed.

Mark sees faith as trust in the power of Jesus to meet physical need or spiritual deliverance… Basically, the trust in the power of God to sustain and protect us.

But I think we have to look further, it’s a little more than this…

If you remember, Jesus himself tells his disciples in Matthew, when they are complaining that they aren’t able to drive out unclean spirits like Jesus told them they would be able to…he says,

“[it’s]Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and [nothing] nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus is teaching them that the key in exercising such faith ISnot it’s quantity, (how little or how much faith we have) BUT the GOD TO WHOM our faith IS DIRECTED.

THE TRUST IN THE POWER OF GOD TO SUSTAIN US AND PROTECT US.

That POWER of GOD.

Let that sink in a bit.

Absolute trust and total and complete faith in the power of GOD.

Could it be that the disciples didn’t recognize the REAL miracle on the boat that night?

The miracle, curled up on a cushion, asleep; The Almighty Power and infinite LOVE of GOD, if we just have a little faith?

After that dark, joyless, fearful time in my life, I began (little by little) to trust Christ…I began to realize God loves me!

He loves me just the way I am at that moment! Even during those times when I am so afraid.

I was learning it’s always infinitely better, (with outcomes that I would’ve never imagined) when I remember to faithfully trust Christ in his power to protect me and sustain me in all things.  

About 15 years later, another Goliath stood before me.  This one; tall and seemingly very strong, gearing up for battle with ammunition filled with heartache and loss.

I found myself, (all 5’2” of me) standing on the battle ground before this Goliath; calmly and fearlessly relying on my super power: the REAL miracle of the POWER of God to protect me and sustain me …confidently knowing the peace and the light of Christ, the JOY of his love would fill my heart through this battle and all those to come.

Bring it, Goliath.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Mysterious ONE

Sermon Trinity Sunday 5.27.18

St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church

Propers: Isaiah 6:1-8, Canticle 13, (or Psalm 29) Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-17

I have always loved reading…my mother did too, some of the fondest memories I have as a child is my mom reading stories to me as a toddler…and how she so wanted me to learn how to read so that I would could have that mysterious experience of wonder -exploding in my own imagination …opening up worlds of adventure, mystery and knowledge all from black and white words on a page.  So much so, that she patiently taught me how to read by the time I was 4 years old. Now I wasn’t reading War and Peace at that time…! And that instilled love of reading my mother gave me is with me to this day.

When I look back now, I remember the books I enjoyed the most were books that made me curious…wondering and reading to find out:  Why? How? And What?

I think I read every Nancy Drew novel there was … Mysteries were and still are my favorite genre

I’ve come to realize mysteries are everywhere… not just found in books, but also in history, science…geography… (Think about the wonders of the world), even math!

Mysteries in the wonders of the human body, … the human brain and psyche… in God’s beloved creation- the mystery of God’s presence in EVERYTHING.

Most of us are captured by the exploration of the mysteries-we search out the wonder, the “clues” the “evidence” to find the answers to the Why? How and What…

And, maybe that’s why Theologians have been trying to understand, define and explain the Mysterious Holy Trinity for almost 2,000 years. PAUSE

Theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, says “Praise of the Holy One of Israel made Israel a people.  That is why the Psalms are the heart of Israel’s life.  Israel did not begin with an idea of God, what we might identify today as monotheism, but rather she learned to worship the One who alone is worthy of worship… “[1]

Theologians, Jewish and Christian, came to recognize that through ancient Israel’s praise and worship of the Holy One, they discovered a firm line had to be drawn between God and creatures (those created).  This later came to be known in Theological circles as “the distinction”.  Or, as many of us are familiar with: “God is God and we are NOT.”  Now I’m going to put you to work here for a moment…Please open your BCP to page 620– this is Psalm 29-(Also in the appointed in today’s Lectionary readings)

In this Psalm, the distinction is clearly stated…let’s read together, verses 1 & 2:

Psalm 29:

Ascribe to the Lord, you gods,*

     Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name;*

     Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

What distinction means is no matter how high, lofty, high-ranking, and glorious any creature may seem – (including the gods in verse 1,) all creatures will never be worthy of worship. ONLY the HOLY ONE is.

Ascribe and Worship are key words …we often skim over them as we read or recite the Psalms- Ascribe means in modern terms, to give credit and acknowledgement.  In this Psalm, it means to give credit and acknowledgement to God for the Glory and Strength and Beauty he already possesses; Worship is literally the bowing down, making yourself as lowly as you can, before the Most High.

And that is what Isaiah sees in today’s reading, …he sees the Glory of God, with just his hem filling the whole temple…and the Seraphs were calling to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of HOSTS; the whole earth is full of his GLORY…”

Their voices of praise and worship make the thresholds in the temple shake…

And Isaiah sees the beauty of the Glory of God illuminating all of creation…

We, as Christians, have learned from Israel’s praise and worship of The Holy One the “distinction” of God and Creation…and that is at the center of what we do when we worship God, praise and worship Jesus.

But, in the words of Nicodemus today, “How can that be?”

How can we worship God and his creation AND Jesus, who for our sake became a creature…How can we worship like that and honor “the distinction”?

It’s the mystery we call the Holy Trinity.

And, to be a mystery, it can’t be an explanation,

It isn’t an explanation of how one god can be three…Trinity is not a further explanation of a prior idea of god, an idea we call “monotheism” … for this makes God a thing, instead of the One Isaiah and the Psalmists praise as the Holy One of Israel.

And like Israel, we worship not with an abstract idea of god, we worship as: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.”

Hauerwas writes, “That is why, the heart of our confession that God is Triune is the church’s insistence that the God we worship, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is Israel’s GOD…like Israel, we have learned we cannot know who God is in himself…the whole earth is full of the glory of God…and that glory found its decisive home in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Only God is able to make his home among us while remaining God. That is what Trinity names.”

[2]The Holy Spirit directs us and draws us into the life of Christ, the LIFE of the One “who has come” to reveal to us the beauty of his holiness…

Trinity names for us over and over again, the love God has for all of his creation, how he is unrelenting in pursuing us in relationship with him.  He never abandons us.  He wants us to join in his glory manifested in creation.

And it is through Love, that He is with us and for us!

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are incorporated into the Triune Love; The Father’s love who redeems through the Son and Spirit, the Son’s love for the Father and the Father’s love of the Son…

1600 years ago, St. Augustine, after writing over 800 pages on the Trinity searching for clues, observed: “We are now eager to see whether that most excellent love is proper to the Holy Spirit, and, whether the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Trinity itself is love, since we cannot contradict the most certain faith and the most weighty authority of Scripture which says: ‘God is love’…, therefore one must ask if love itself is triune”.[3]

Augustine found the answer to his question to be YES!, He said the Triune consists of “three: the lover, the beloved, and the love.”[80][81][4]

We are pulled into that mysterious Triune God, the One who is LOVE…

My prayer is as we continue our worship now, the words that reach our ears will not come as simply words spoken, black and white letter read off of a page, but will come to our ears and hearts as Triune LOVE …as we, through our worship, (from today’s collect) “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty worship in Unity” …

We will soon hear these words “… we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you O LORD of all; presenting to you, from your creation…we pray you gracious GOD, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.  Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit…

By him, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever”.

And as the Eternal, Triune Love draws us into union with itself, let us be content in being a part of the Eternal Mystery of the Trinity.

AMEN

[1] Hauerwas, Stanley.  The Cross Shattered Church. Pgs. 53-59

[2] Hauerwas, Stanley. The Cross-Shattered Church. Pg. 56-57

[3] Wikipedia. Article Perichoresis; Trinity and Love, quote from Augustine of Hippo, De trinitate 399-419.

[4] Wikipedia. The Holy Trinity; Trinity and Love.

 

 

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Sanctuary

It’s Wednesday night, at the courtyard at the Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach…

The time for the Eucharistic service was fast approaching, 5:30…and we were scurrying to set up the altar, the chairs , distribute bulletins and invitations,  find volunteer readers in “the congregation” …

The congregation of The Right Here, Right Now Church…the congregation of people gathered outside the locked courtyard gates ….waiting to see someone in the clinic, waiting to get in line for the Wednesday night supper, waiting to pick through some clothes and shoes offered on a table in the courtyard…And some, when invited, were waiting for the services to begin.

Some were waiting just to have a place to sit down other than the street…waiting to lay down, other than in a doorway or alley, or behind bushes hidden from those wishing they weren’t in front of their businesses or homes. Because then, they were fully visible: the homeless, hungry, sick, the exhausted; exhausted from keeping always on the move. Because then, when fully visible, those businesses owners and home owners had to deal with their own sense of shame, their own selfishness.

This particular Wednesday evening was lighter than usual…a few remarked, “It’s been lighter these last few Wednesdays for the dinner too.” It’s now against the law to sleep on the street, or doorways.  Now, tickets are issued, to those found sleeping in public places, people are “moved along”, their belongings thrown away. Some say that’s why. Others say there are other places to go on Wednesday night.

This particular Wednesday evening, after the gates were finally opened,and our service began,  a small, slow-moving woman came in and laid on the bench closest to the gate.  She covered herself up to her chin with a worn blanket, and was shivering, as if from a fever.  We came by and offered her communion…but she wasn’t able to take it…she thanked us for offering…but she seemed almost too weak to lift her head.

Later I saw the priest who officiated at the service anoint her, pray with her, and gently pull the blanket up to her shoulders, bringing a small amount of comfort to her.

And it occurred to me; we are embroiled in heated rhetoric, spending money, time and energy over securing sanctuary cities for the undocumented immigrants coming into our country; and with those same voices, with the same money, using their energies to keep our homeless, poor and sick on the streets away, dislodged, and without sanctuary- except at places like the ECC; and even then, the gate is locked until WE are ready to let them in.

Prayer 35 in Book of Common Prayer: ” Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick and all who have none to care for them.  Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy.”

Can we be strong enough to say, “Here we are LORD; at your service. Send us to care for them…to heal their brokenness, with your love and comfort”?

Maybe the first step is to pray, “Unlock the gates of our hearts LORD. Help us to offer them sanctuary there, where your healing love and light resides”.  Amen.

 

 

 

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Three Sad Words

Easter 3 Sermon

“We had hoped.” Perhaps the three saddest words in the Gospels- and our own lives.

“We had hoped…”

When the stranger on the road asked them what they were talking about, they stopped still on the road, and with downcast faces, looked at each other with eyes full of grief, knowing and remembering and recounting what happened…

“We had hoped…”

For the last three years of Jesus’ ministry, despite what Jesus told them, they had hoped he was the messiah, the one, at last, to redeem Israel, overthrow their oppressors and sit on the throne of David, restoring Israel to glory.

But, instead of a warrior, they received a servant

Instead of a judge, they witnessed a loving healer of sinners

Instead of defeating the oppressive Roman rule he taught forgiveness and love for their enemies

Instead of a king, they saw him crucified as a criminal

Crucified on a cross, the symbol of Rome around the world to anyone who would dare to defy their domination and oppression: a sign that “this will be your painful, brutal fate if you dare cross the line”.

A feared and hated symbol.

Christ dying on the cross broadcasted a message to everyone following Jesus; “We crucified him, put him to death, there would be no “kingdom come”. Your Jesus is no king, no messiah and never was”.

They had hoped “he was the one to redeem Israel…” Yet when Jesus was crucified, every single disciple knew what it meant; they thought, “We had put our hopes in Jesus. ‘We saw him as a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and all the people’ … but he was crucified. We got it all wrong, he wasn’t the One. We “backed the wrong horse”[1], they confessed to the stranger.  All their expectations were demolished…their hope in those expectations died with Jesus on the cross.

They had seen him dead and wouldn’t even believe the women of their community when they insisted he was alive and they’d seen him the very morning they had started to walk to Emmaus.  This, to them was their new reality. They expected a very different outcome.

Their expectations blinded them. Expectations of their own personal and political redemption. Expectations SO much smaller than what GOD intends. They totally misunderstood how God was working to save the world.

Their eyes were so blinded by their own personal expectations they didn’t see the risen Christ, in the flesh, on the same dusty road to Emmaus, walking beside them.

Then Jesus, the resurrected Jesus, himself, as Luke tells us, begins to tell the entire story of God and Israel, and God and the WORLD in a new way to the disciples; in the glowing light of his resurrection.

The story re-told in the light of Christ’s resurrection…brought awareness of God’s presence and God’s all-encompassing, unsurpassable love for the world…From Genesis -right down to those two on that dusty road.  

Then they asked him to stay with them, have dinner with them at a stop in Emmaus. 

“He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” They see!

They see God’s grace freely given …faith restored. They were blind, now they see! “

Their personal expectations could no longer match what God had done. Instead of their hope being confined by their expectations, hope soared to the heavens. This new reality was more than they expected. Much more.

——————

Hope restored. Hope not just for those two disciples on their way to Emmaus…but for the world. For US.

Most of us have been on that dusty road to Emmaus at one time or another…walking slowly, with downcast faces. Our hopes crushed, our fears paralyzing us, our hearts broken.  There are some here today who are walking on that road…

“We had hoped she would recover,” “We had hoped to save our marriage”, “We had hoped the cancer was in remission,” “We had hoped …”

We are disappointed because we don’t see God doing what we expect him to do. We feel lost and without the presence of God near.

We might feel like those two disciples, and say, “How could you let that happen, GOD?!”

But remember what Jesus does first in his walk alongside the two disciples? He asks questions…he asks them to tell him what is making them so sad, and then he listens.

Jesus knows their pain and grief are real…But he invites them to “name” their pain and grief so it would be possible to move beyond it on the road; to create room in their hearts for God’s grace, (“were not our hearts burning?”) room for them to believe God would show up in their lives – just where they least expected it. [2]

Some of us only need seven miles on that dusty road to find Jesus walking beside us, others may feel like it’s 70 or 700. Some never get to Emmaus. It takes time to move from despair, doubt, grief and fear to faith, hope, and love-

I believe this congregation is willing and ready (as some already have) to travel on that road to Emmaus with those of us who are feeling crushed, paralyzed and broken by events in our lives …events in our lives we don’t understand…events that leave us longing for a different outcome…events our own small expectation of GOD just didn’t live up to.

We can take a cue from our Lord Jesus…We can walk alongside those who are walking on that road with downcast faces, and ask them to name what is troubling them, ask them to “confess” all the difficult elements in their lives out loud; instead of keeping them all bottled up inside…and help them allow God’s grace, forgiveness and acceptance make a space in their lives for a new reality; A reality filled with joy for God’s amazing grace and love.

We can take that journey together from the cross to empty grave and from death to life. We can turn each other’s disappointment into joy. We can help open eyes to the Risen Savior walking next to us…

Throwing our own small, limited expectations of God aside, knowing God will exceed our expectations and surprise us with his love… and be willing to trust God and each other with our hearts.

I’d like to end with a quote from William Gurnall, author and clergyman in the 17th century:

“Hope fills the afflicted soul with such joy and consolation that it can laugh while tears are in the eye, sigh and sing all in a breath”

Open your hearts to Joy. Open your hearts to Grace. Open your hearts to God’s incredible Love. All these are right next to you on the road to Emmaus.

 

 

 

[1] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Joy pg. 40-41

[2] David Lose, In the Meantime

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OPEN YOUR HEART DOORS

Homily preached at ECC Courtyard  Right Here, Right Now Church: 3/6/16

John 15:1-11

In John’s Gospel today, Jesus is teaching his disciples and preparing them for his departure from this world…assuring them of his love.  Teaching one last time before Judas brings the Temple guards into the garden to arrest him.

Did you catch the word that is said about 12 times in this short passage?  What was it?  Abide

Now, abide can mean many things, but in this Gospel reading today, the word abide means, “to make your home (in)” Jesus tells his disciples that he has made a home (lives in) their hearts, and they live in his heart-

He tells us that he loves us just the way the Father has loved him. He invites us to be at home in his love.  There is one catch; we need to “keep his commands” to stay in this home.

But his commands are pretty simple: Love the Lord God with all your heart, all your mind, all your strength AND love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus is telling us to love one another, to abide, to live in each other’s hearts…to find our home there, in a place like no other.

While the world outside doesn’t seem to have a home open for you…Jesus does.

And he’s here, right now, opening the door to his heart – for you to live and abide in forever.  All it takes is for you to open your “heart doors” to Him; and the address will never change, you will never be foreclosed upon, you won’t be evicted, you can unpack all the burdens you’ve been carrying around for years and they will be taken care of, lifted off of your shoulders, here… at this, your new home.  Your forever home.   AMEN

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FLOOD THIS PLACE

Sermon Preached at All Souls’ Episcopal Church, San Diego

Second Sunday of Easter: PS 118:14-29, Acts 5:27-32, John 20:19-31

“Holy Spirit You are welcome here, Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what our hearts long for, To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.” — These beautiful lyrics are from a popular contemporary Christian song by The Jesus Culture…

Holy Spirit “Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere”. What a visual that is for me…

In Acts and in the Gospel today, we see the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the lives of the disciples…giving courage, boldness, strength, guidance and new life in Christ. It overwhelms them with the power of the Presence of God.

Sometimes, we (myself included) think of the Holy Spirit only in terms of the New Testament…but the Holy Spirit has been moving in all things since, well, The Beginning.

This is the same Holy Spirit who swept over the face of the waters at the dawn of Creation.

The same Holy Spirit David begged God not to take from him after his transgression with Bathsheba.

The same Holy Spirit that was full of sorrow at the rebellion of the people of Israel that Isaiah passionately prophesied about.

The same Holy Spirit that was with John the Baptist, in the womb, before he was born.

Mary was overcome by the presence of this same Holy Spirit and conceived the Son of God.

Jesus assured his Disciples when they were persecuted and brought to trial for spreading the Good News, the words of this same Holy Spirit would be on their tongue.

There are over 111 mentions of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testament. The Holy Spirit was moving throughout God’s creation from Day 1-

Just one week ago from this podium, Fr. Joe declared “Alleluia!  Christ has Risen! And we all boldly answered,  “He is Risen INDEED!  Alleluia!”

Today, John’s Gospel take us from that heady morning when Mary Magdalene discovered Jesus’ tomb was empty, and ran to tell Peter and John …who saw the empty tomb for themselves, and still did not understand, leaving Mary behind, crying.  And then Mary meets two angels, and then Jesus himself- and he gives her information to pass on to the disciples…

Later that same day we find the disciples, in hiding, doors locked in their “safe house”- confused, depressed, afraid… John doesn’t tell us if they believed Mary’s story or not, but she is likely there too…

And then Jesus does an incredible thing- he miraculously stands before them, in spite of the locked doors and closed windows…in the flesh, alive!

Once the disciples let go of their fear and shock, they were giddy with relief and excitement!

After the jubilation had died down, and Jesus had shown them the wounds from the crucifixion, to prove to them it was REALLY him and not a ghost- he got right to it…not skipping a beat from death, resurrection, he goes right to Mission.

He tells them, in so many words, “No more hiding and crying and feeling sorry for yourselves…I have work for you to do- important work- work that is a matter of life and death.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you” … I want you to spread the word, the Good News to all the world, about the love and forgiveness of God for all …” a dangerous assignment, given the religious and political environment at that time.

And then he equipped them with the Holy Spirit.  The same Holy Spirit that gave life to creation, gave courage, power, boldness and guidance to David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Mary, …and countless others. THAT Holy Spirit.

 

In Luke’s Book of Acts, we are brought into a scene where Peter and John are being hauled up before the Jewish High Council, for teaching about Jesus in Jerusalem, and for drawing crowds of people in towns all around Jerusalem for the healing of the sick and tormented; healing them all in Jesus Christ’s name. (Basically doing what Jesus instructed them to do).

They’d already thrown Peter and John into prison for their fearless and powerful preaching of the Good News …and when we see them here, they are fresh from being broken out of jail by an Angel of God, mind you, during the night, and, being told by the Angel to go right back-but to the Temple this time!  And tell “the people the whole message about this life[1]and as soon as the sun came up, with resolve, with determination, there they went, into the danger-zone….and continued their teaching.

You can imagine the frustration and anger of the High Council.  They might’ve thought, “These two guys, uneducated, ordinary men, fishermen, to be exact,

now speaking out in eloquence, knowledge and boldness,

they’re healing people from all over, drawing hundreds of people to this,

this Jesus movement…somehow escaping from our formidable prison, hoodwinking the guards, somehow …and they don’t seem afraid of anything…and now they openly defy the High Priest and Council by refusing to stop this nonsense which is really making us look bad.”

The Apostles, persecuted, beaten, imprisoned…yet they continue to preach Jesus as the Messiah. [2] Are these the same men who hid in an upstairs room, afraid for their lives? Fearful to unlock their doors or be seen in public?

In this short passage, Peter and the apostles fearlessly state to the Religious ruling powers in Jerusalem, that they will not obey men, only God. …and God, the Lord and Savior has given Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven for all time…no more sacrifices, no more scapegoats.  Jesus has done it once and for ALL.

And the Holy Spirit who is with all who obey him, gives testimony to the truth of what they are saying.

Yep. That’s what being equipped with the Holy Spirit does.  Strength, courage, boldness, power, urgency- new LIFE…ready to burst with the Good News!

The fact of the matter is, Brothers and Sisters, that same Holy Spirit lives in each of us from the moment we are baptized.

When is the last time you have felt your heart longing for the Presence of God in your life?

When is the last time you’ve prayed for strength and courage to walk through a difficult or heart-breaking time?

When have you asked God for the words to say to comfort or console or convert a loved one?

Come FLOOD THIS PLACE…and fill the atmosphere!

We are equipped.  We are called, by name.

“As the Father has sent me, now I send you.”

Let us call upon the Holy Spirit to give us the courage, boldness and power to fearlessly proclaim the Good News to the Glory of God, as we leave this place today…to a world that so desperately needs it.

Let us call upon the Holy Spirit to light a fire within us… to fill the emptiness in our hearts and lives with the presence and love of God…to fill it so full…it overflows to others…let us be ready to burst with the Good News…

“Holy Spirit You are welcome here, Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what our hearts long for, To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.”

 

AMEN
 

 

 

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God is a Circle

No wonder Jesus was troubled in spirit as John writes in today’s Gospel. He knew what was about to happen: his arrest, trial and execution…and one of his disciples, Judas, was about to betray him.

How painful it must have been for Jesus to sit at the table with Judas, looking him in the eye, hoping for a change in heart…not for his own sake, but for the sake of Judas’ own soul.

Jesus watched him as he dipped the bread into the dish, and gave it to Judas, one last chance to turn back…looking him in his eyes, hoping he would take the bread as a sign of love and friendship, and not go out into the dark, to throw his soul away.

Judas takes the bread, but he remains committed to what he has promised the Council leaders. In taking the bread, “Satan entered into him.” And he immediately left…but not before Jesus catches his eye once again, as he goes out the door – and Jesus, with words that surely broke his heart for Judas’ soul, says, “Do quickly what you are going to do”.

Isn’t it the same with us? It’s that pesky self-will, that God gave us all that separates us from Him.

When our Lord God, almighty and all merciful faces off with our souls in conflict – it is our self-willed souls that usually has its way.  But Christ does not stop loving us. No matter what we do, how far into the darkness we go, His love is always still there.

John Donne, a 15th century priest wrote, “One of the most convenient hieroglyphics of God is a Circle; and a circle is endless; who God loves, he loves to the end: and not only to their own end, to their death, but to his end, and his end is, that he might love them still.”

So, as we take the bread dipped in wine tonight, feast on it with your souls…think of Jesus offering you this bread and wine Himself… remember, no matter how far we have gone, no matter how quickly we’ve slammed the door to go and do whatever we will our souls to do…God is still with you, loving you with arms wide open- to come back out of the darkness and into the brilliant light – the Light of the World!

AMEN

ECC The Right Here Right Now Church

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