Sermons on Acts
God gives us the opportunity and ability to bear God’s grace to each other, to be God’s love and grace to each other. It’s a huge responsibility and a gift. It’s something of a miracle each time it happens.
We are celebrating the season of Easter, when our scriptures open up for us the many ways Jesus will continue to be revealed to us, through a new perspective on scripture, through the bread and the wine, through our love given and received. The scripture lessons during this season also present the framework for the way to be church. As our gospel story reveals to us today, Jesus, the grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, is the vine, that which connects us, that which gives us nourishment and life, that which draws us into one being, one Body of Christ. This connection can heal our soul and body, provide us hope in our times of darkness, reveal to us our belovedness, move us from despair to hopefulness, from fear to courage, from loathing to loving.
I used to think that when we feel the absence of life as it had been, or when the world we know comes tumbling down, or when we were enveloped by a cloud of disorientation or disbelief, God then showed up and responded by ushering us into a new life, by meeting us in that place of deconstruction, of chaos and disorder, in order to reconstruct or re-order our lives into something more whole and true. I still do believe God meets us in the place of letting go of what we knew before, but I have come to understand that God is also the force that pulls at the seam of the reality we have constructed in order to keep us on that ever-moving path of renewed life, which is one way to witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
The experience of invisibility can manifest as simply as being the last one picked for a sports or spelling bee team in third grade, not being invited to a party all your other friends are eagerly anticipating, or as complex as not being considered for a job promotion you believe you deserve. Whenever or however it happens, it hurts. It is humiliating. And it pushes back against one of the truths we hold most dearly: that each one of us has been made uniquely and creatively by a God who loves us and who sends us out into the world each week, after being forgiven, restored, and renewed, in order to make our particular contribution, as we join God in mission in our world.
I wonder if these stalled times of our lives, when it seems God’s message to us is to sit in the moment longer, rather than dash forward toward our own plan, can provide for us an invitation to a very different kind of prayer. Rather than asking God for what we need or want, could we echo Simeon’s words, when holding the messiah in his arms as Jesus was presented to him in the Temple, with the prayer in his heart, “I have you Lord, I have enough.”
These questions of “Does including the new and different mean that we are letting go of the values that have always defined us? Or do the values that define us compel us to be more inclusive and open?” represent a major turning point in the story of the early church. It is also the crux of much of the turmoil in the contemporary church as it takes little imagination to see how this same question applies to many of the controversies the Episcopal Church has walked through recently. The Episcopal Church continues Peter’s work by continually making the circles ever wider.
I sometimes showed up late at night, when I knew all family would have left, so I could spend some quiet moments in prayer with Francis, making the sign of the cross on her forehead, surrendering my soul into a prayer of offering a loved one’s life into the eternal force of love.
With the power of the resurrection made manifest through the healing offered by the apostles, we first know that healing is what the resurrected Christ is all about. The apostles were given this power so that they could continue Jesus’ primary mission: to heal the world.
If we don’t make enough contact with God, then it’s like lightly gliding the bow over the strings and no distinct sound is made. In our spiritual life, if there’s not enough contact with God, there’s often not clarity in one’s life. We tend to bounce around as the wind blows or life events happen, and there’s not clear sense of direction. If we have too much contact with the string and never release, we choke the sound. If we hold onto too tightly to the things in our lives, we can choke out God.
Do you know that your perspective in life can make all the difference in the world? Take, for example the little boy who got lost at the YMCA and found himself walking into the women’s locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, “What’s the matter? Haven’t you ever seen a little boy before?”