FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – C – May 19, 2019

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27
A reading from the Book of Revelation 21:1-5a
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 13:31-33a, 34a, 

Dear Friends in Christ,

We have been celebration Easter now almost as long as we took to make our Lenten journey.  What is supposed to be happening to us in this time of rejoicing?  It is safe to say that in this time we are getting used to the idea that Jesus Christ is risen.  Death was not the victor.  Jesus triumphed over sin, suffering and death.  But we must be careful.  There is a temptation to see Easter as a conclusion.  Lent is over.  The Passion and Death narrative have been told.  We have heard the story that spells out defeat perfectly.  The world looked on and saw Jesus broken.  The disciples went away sad, caught up in Jesus’ defeat.  They had thought that Jesus was the one who would set Israel free.

In these days it is easy to get caught up in defeatism.  The signs are all around us.  You know what I mean.  There is no need for me to reiterate here.  Christianity is losing ground, caught in the backwash resulting from the sins of previous generations. We see political alliances between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light.  The children of those who suffered at the hands of those who abused power, those who should have been servants of the poor and the vulnerable, now rise up and say, enough!  No more!  Never again!  Faith in Jesus Christ has been tested and found wanting because those who witnessed to it professionally were themselves found wanting.  There are scars, physical and emotional, that attest to the tyranny.

Churches all around the world fill up to over-flowing for Easter Sunday services.  But what does that mean?  It is a testimony to the fact that somehow faith survives?  Is it people gathering, hoping against hope?  Are they the disciples, seasoned, gasping as they arrive because they are not as sprightly as they used to be, when their faith was young?  Do they peer in to soak up the signs as did those first ones at the entry to the Tomb, hoping their faith will be reignited?  Do they ask themselves how all this is compatible with what is happening in Iraq, this generation’s holy war?  Are they struggling to reconcile the church bells and the alleluias with the plight of those seeking asylum at the United States-Mexico boarder?  Where is the evidence for the triumph being celebrated when those gathered realize that it is often profit that gets in the way of making those medications accessible that could alleviate and even eradicate plagues multitudes of the poor in Africa.  That same lust for money keeps essential medications out of the reach of the poorer members of our country and of the world.

I noticed something today.  You may wonder what took me so long to get this.  It isn’t that I hadn’t read the texts before.  The difference was, this time I heard them.  What I noticed in a new way was that in these last weeks of Easter in John’s Gospel, we are back in the Upper Room, on the night before Jesus died.  Betrayal, that most bitter blow in Jesus’ sufferings, is at hand.  What does the Lord teach?  He is being glorified with the glory he he shares with God, the glory that is his own.  Now.  How?  How should we recognize his glory in what was about to transpire?  We are to hear the Passion Story in light of the triumph.  We are to see the Resurrection of the Lord as part of the whole.  All these actions mingle and commingle to emerge as the source of a new creation in which we are all called to participate.

The One we follow on The Way challenges us to see glory in defeat.  We are called to understand that if we recognize and follow Jesus Christ in resurrection, suffering should not surprise us.  That is the mistake I have made in Easters past.  I thought it was over when the Candle entered the church and scattered the darkness.  Christ, our light.  Thanks be to God!  The strife is over.  The battle done!  Now is the Victor’s triumph won.  That sounds finished.  And if that is my expectation, no wonder I leave myself open to disappointment when I am confronted by signs that the Victory is still a work in progress.

Think of those people who entered the Font during the Easter Vigil.  They emerged, gleaming with oil and dressed in white, signs of their identification with Christ.  Their sins all washed away.  Their new life now is theirs.  Now is the Victor’s trump won!  But what happens when they are confronted with the reality of sin that has survived in their lives, when they have to deal with the fact that the struggle must still go on.  They must press on for their participation in the Victory that lies before them.

If we recognize Jesus in his rising, we must see let the Lord help us to see all reality in a new light.  Sometimes what seems like victory will be a defeat.  What seems like triumph will be a failure.  We must struggle continually to say no to sin, to the temptations subtle and otherwise to lord it over others, to see ourselves as superior to others, to see myself as superior to others, to see myself in any other role than that of a servant  to the rest.

Hear Jesus’ words.  Let them wash over you in the midst of the Assembly listening with you.  As I have loved you, so you should love one another.  It is all about Love.  But this is not a love that takes anything to ourselves.  IT is love that empowers us to empty of self, to pour out self in service.  Sunday after Sunday will be marked by our celebrating Eucharist.  We will break Bread and Share a cup.  And each Sunday we will hear Jesus say, Do this in my memory. 

In the midst of all that seems to spell the defeat of Christianity, those who have peered into the empty tomb and seen the garments of death and the cloth that covered Jesus’ face, lying apart by itself, those who have seen must dare to enter, and seeing, believe.  They and we  must dare to be signs of contradiction.  The triumph is in the Cross.  The Victory is in the dying.  The glory is now.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

Didymus  

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FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – C – May 12, 2018

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52
A reading from the Book of Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 10:27-3

 

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

In this Sunday’s reading from the Book of Revelation we see the throng, armed with palm branches, standing near the throne of the Lamb.  They are the ones who have fought the good fight and persevered faithful to the end.  They now share in the Lamb’s glory.  

As we gather for Liturgy we see among us those clad in white who emerged from the waters the Night of the Vigil of Easter.  In the waters of Baptism they died to all that was.  By the side of the Font where they entered were piled the vestiges of the past.  From the other side they emerged and were clad in the white garments, the sign of their having been clothed in Christ.  They then started on the way to the Altar where they were welcomed to the Table and invited for the first time to share the one Bread and the One Cup.  Oil gleamed on their foreheads as they experienced the unity that is theirs with those who gather for the meal.

Revelation’s white-robed throng looked on these Neophytes, the newly baptized, and rejoiced in the hope for the next generation of believers embodied in them.  They cheered in the midst of the Easter event and urged the baptized on to victory and to share in their victory in Christ.  The Assembly applauded their entry and prayed for their strength to witness Christ and the power of his dying and rising as, for the first time, they would be sent forth to be bread broken and cup poured out for those starving to know Christ and the love that comes from God through Christ.  Radiant smiles wreathed the faces of the newly baptized.  They exuded confidence as the Easter sun rose.  They exited to imitate Jesus in their pouring out of self in service of the little ones.

We have been in Easter now to this Fourth Sunday.  The flowers that adorned the worship space begin to look a little tired.  The new candles are shorter than they were that night, their wax being consumed in the sacrifice of self that is necessary to give light.  The white robes may show smudges picked up along the way.  The faces of the Neophytes still give off the joyous glow seen Holy Saturday Night; but already there may be signs of the realization that it is easy to begin this journey, but the successful completion of it cannot be done alone.  They have begun to understand that they need the strength and support of the body that is the Church.  They need the strength and support that is Christ’s life within them

By this Fourth Sunday they may know Easter is bittersweet.  There was not a way to warn them that some who were their friends would choose not to talk with them any more because of he change perceived in them.  They could not be prepared for the experience of discomfort in once familiar places that now seem inimical because of the stark contrast caused by Christ’s presence in their lives.  The glitter and glitz, the glamour and gold all scream of a materialism and egocentricity that they rejected in the Waters.  Like toddlers taking first steps, there is a fear of slippery slopes and steep inclines unless they have a hand to hold for security’s sake.  They strain to hear the Lamb’s voice and to remember.

It is about familiarity with Christ and his Way.  The implications can be shocking.  It is about love.  By now, four weeks into the journey, they are experiencing the demands of the love expected to be lived by those who follow Christ, the weight of the cross Jesus said should be taken up every day as they walk in his footsteps.  Are they beginning to understand that the cross means to love in spite of betrayal?  The cross is the vulnerability that comes with the unconditional love that is the pouring out of self in service.  Should they be told that Jesus experienced this in his ministry?  If they minister in imitation of Jesus, they will experience emptiness, too.  The ultimate cross is the kiss of the friend who betrays.

But I wonder if one has to experience emptiness, to taste the bitter wine of betrayal, to enter into desolation, and even to face persecution in order to know the all consuming love of God that comes to those who walk with Christ and persevere in, with and through Christ.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  As Church we should pray that the Spirit help them, and help us to experience silence and not be afraid, to experience rejection and not be afraid.  If we listen in the emptiness we will recognize Christ’s voice reminding all of us, caught up in the unity that is Christ’s with the Father: No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father has given them to me.

If we listen, if we trust, then one day these Neophytes and we who have been on the way for years longer will stand in the company of those around the Lamb’s heavenly throne and with them sing Alleluia.  Amen.  Amen.

Sincerely yours in the Risen Christ,

 

Didymus 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – C – May 12, 2019

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 13:14, 43-52
A reading from the Book of Revelation 7:9, 14b-17
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 10:27-30

 

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

I see them clad in white like those standing near the Throne of the Lamb in this Sunday’s reading from the Book of Revelation.  That throng armed with palm branches are the ones who have fought to good fight and persevered, faithful to the end.  Now they share in the glory of the Risen One.  The ones I see are those who emerged from the waters of the Font in the night of the Easter Vigil.  In the waters they had died to all that was.  By the side where they had entered were piled the vestiges of the past.  On the other side, they stood in their white garments, the sign of their having been clothed in Christ, and started on their way to the Table where they would be welcomed and invited to share for the first time in the One Bread and the One Cup.  The oil gleamed on their foreheads as they experienced the unity that is theirs with those who had supported them on their journey as the Elect and with them now gather for the meal.

Revelation’s white robed throng look on these Neophytes and rejoice in the hope for the next generation embodied in them.  Those in heaven became a cheering  section in the midst of the Easter event and urged the newly baptized on to victory, to share in their victory in Christ.  The Assembly applauded their entry and pray for their strength to witness to Christ and the power of his dying and rising as for the first time they would be sent to be bread broken and cup poured out for those starving to know the love that comes from God through Christ.  Radiant smiles wreathed the faces of the newly baptized.  .  They exuded confidence as the Easter sun rose.  They exited to imitate Jesus Christ in their pouring out of self in service of the little ones.

We have been in Easter now to this Fourth Sunday.  Notice that the flowers that adorned the worship space have begun to look a little tired.  The once fresh candles are shorter than they were that night, their wax being consumed in the sacrifice of self necessary to give light.  The white robes show smudges picked up along the way.  The faces still give off the joyous glow seen during the Vigil, but there also can be signs of the realization that it is easy to begin this journey, but the successful completion of it cannot be done alone.  They realize that they need the strength and support of the body that is the Church.  They know they need the strength and support that is Christ’s life within them.

By now they know that Easter is bittersweet.  How could they have been warned that some who were their friends might choose not to talk with them or be their friends anymore because of the change perceived in them.  They can not be prepared for the experience of discomfort in once familiar places that now seem inimical because of the stark contrast caused by Christ’s presence in their lives.  The glitter and glitz, the glamor and gold scream of a materialism and egocentricity that they rejected in the Bath.  Like toddlers taking first steps, there is a fear of slippery slopes and steep inclines, unless they have a hand to hold for security’s sake.  They strain to hear the voice of the Lord proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word and to remember.

Their ongoing formation is about familiarity with Jesus and learning his ways, or as we say, accompanying him on The Way.  The implications can be shocking.  It is about love.  By now, four weeks into the journey, they can experience the demand of the love Christ expects to be lived by those who follow him.  Perhaps they are feeling the weight of the cross Jesus said should be taken up every day as they walk in his footsteps.  Are they beginning to understand that the cross is to love inspire of betrayal?  Are they coming to recognize that the cross is the vulnerability that comes with the unconditional love that is the pouring out of self in service? Jesus experienced this in his ministry.  If they minister in imitation of Christ, they will experience the emptiness too.  The ultimate cross is the kiss of the friend who betrays.

Does one have to experience emptiness, to taste the bitter wine of betrayal, to enter into desolation and even face persecution, as Paul and Barnabas do in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in order to know the all consuming love of God that comes to those who walk with Jesus and persevere in and with him.  My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.  

May the Spirit help us all to experience silence and not be afraid, to experience rejection and not be afraid, to listen in the emptiness and recognize the voice of the Lord reminding all of us, caught up in the unity that is Christ’s with the Father: No one can take them out of my hand.  My Father has given them to me.

We are in Easter, a time of rejoicing, but it would be a mistake for us to ignore the fact that these are troubled days for the church.  Pope Francis is urging reform and renewal on the faithful.  Clericalism and an elite hierarchy he sees as being contrary to the Gospel.  The sexual abuse of minors and others by priests and religious men and women, is a horror.  The victims must be lifted up and supported in their recovery.  Many scandalized have left the church.  All the clearer is the demand for us to serve and to live the Gospel’s call to love.  As church we must shepherd in the midst of the sheep, and seek the lost and bring them home again. 

If we listen, if we trust, then one day the neophytes and we who have been on The Way years longer, will stand in the company of those around the heavenly throne and with them sing Alleluia.  Amen.  Amen.

Sincerely yours in the Risen Christ,

Didymus