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 

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