my miscellany

Easter 3, 2017 — 30 Apr 17

Easter 3, 2017

RCL A Easter 3
Acts 2:14a and 36-41, Psalm 116:1-3 and 10-17, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Saint Luke 24:13-35

“The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.”[1]

Of all the things priests do, examining and pondering the Gospels of the resurrection are the most engaging and challenging. On Easter Day and last Sunday we were firmly in the early resurrection appearances in Saint John. Today we are in Saint Luke.

And today’s Gospel is Jesus’ first resurrection appearance in Saint Luke. Earlier the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb at the end of Chapter 23. This Chapter, the twenty-fourth, begins on the Day of the Resurrection with Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women visiting the tomb. They find the stone rolled away. They go in, and they do not find the body. Two men in dazzling white appear and say to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”[2] They remind the women of Jesus’ predictions of the resurrection. The women go back and tell the disciples. The disciples do not believe them, but Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself. He finds the tomb empty except for the linen cloths. No Jesus and no men in dazzling white for him.

Then we have the Gospel today, Jesus’ first resurrection appearance in Saint Luke. He appears to Cleopas and an unnamed companion. Jesus appears to them and not to any of apostles or named women we know. The thrust is outward, to new people. Cleopas and his friend recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread at their meal together.

I find this remarkable. At the Institution of the Eucharist in Saint Luke, Jesus says that the broken bread is his body and commands his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.”[3] And after the resurrection, his first appearance is to disciples breaking bread: not the well-known ones but Cleopas and a friend.

All the people who recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread are as close to Jesus as it is possible to be. No one, not Peter, not John, nor any other disciple featured in the Gospels is closer to Jesus than Cleopas and his friend. In his resurrection life, Jesus is accessible to all, just as the angel of the Lord told the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.[4]

He is our Savior and Lord. By his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus traverses continents and centuries to be our Savior and Lord. May our eyes be open to recognize him in all his redeeming work.[5] And may we stay near him. By being near him may we be a marker of his presence, so that others may come to know him.

[1] The Hymnal 1982, S 167.

[2] Saint Luke 24:5.

[3] Saint Luke 22:19.

[4] Saint Luke 2:10.

[5] BCP, page 224.

Easter 2, 2017 — 23 Apr 17

Easter 2, 2017

RCL Easter 2
Acts 2:14a 22-32, Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Saint John 20:19-31

On this the Eighth Day of Easter, we have a Gospel that occurs on the Eighth Day after the Resurrection. There is no wonder at the Church’s decision to proclaim this Gospel on this Day every year.

The disciples are gathered together in their usual place, where they were gathered a week earlier when Thomas was not with them, and today Thomas is with them. Jesus appears to them for the second time and shows Thomas his hands and his side, where the nails and the spear had been hammered and thrust, and Thomas believes. Having been absent from them at Jesus’ first appearance, Thomas disbelieves the disciples’ report of Jesus’ appearance. And so, Jesus appears again and gives Thomas what he needs to believe.

Saint John’s Twentieth Chapter specifies the process whereby four followers of Jesus come to believe that Jesus has been raised. And the process of each of them instructs us how we may come to believe.

You remember how John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and Peter have a footrace to the empty tomb. John arrives first but does not enter. Peter arrives and enters. John follows Peter in and believes. They return to their homes.

The process is a little more complicated for Mary Magdalene and Thomas. Mary stands weeping outside the tomb as Peter and then John enter. They leave, and Mary remains outside when Jesus approaches her. She thinks he is the gardener, and Jesus speaks her name. She recognizes him.

Thomas, who was not with the disciples for Jesus’ first appearance to them, tells them he will need to see the mark of the nails and to put his finger there and his hand in Jesus’ side in order to believe.

In every point Jesus accommodates Thomas. There is nothing that John, Peter, Mary, and Thomas need to believe that is withheld from them. I believe that Jesus gives to each of us what we need to believe. I think that is the theme of Saint John’s Twentieth Chapter. God gives us what we need to believe.

I would say to you also that the disciples are not out looking for Jesus. They are not singing, “My sweet Lord…I really want to see you.” They are shut up, fearful of being out of doors—what happened to Jesus could happen to them for following him. They could be next. Peter and John catch on right away. The burial cloths are all they need to see to believe. But Jesus approaches those, Mary and Thomas, whose reason clouds their faith. And he gives them what they need to believe.

The Lord is in a conversation with them, and he provides everything they need to believe that “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”[1]

It is enough to believe that Jesus reveals himself to us, for he responds to us that way. That is the witness of the Gospel to us. The words of the Epistle may well apply to us. “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”[2]

[1] Saint John 20:31.

[2] 1 Peter 1:8=9.

Easter Day, 2017 — 16 Apr 17

Easter Day, 2017

RCL A Easter Day
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2 and 14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, Saint John 20:1-18

If you think we were powerless on Good Friday, as Jesus suffers on the cross, we are doubly powerless today. With Mary Magdalene we see the stone rolled away from the tomb, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Like a bird long-held and set free, we may not know what to do with our new-found freedom. Indeed, as the Psalmist says, “On this day the Lord has acted; * we will rejoice and be glad in it.”[1] It’s up to us to accept God’s gift and to live accordingly. How do we do that?

For quite a long time, I’ve thought that today’s Epistle is a sequel to a brief passage in the Epistle to the Romans: “We have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”[2] That idea, that by baptism we die and are raised with Christ, perfectly precedes in thought today’s Epistle addressed to the Colossians: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is.”[3] Since we have been raised with Christ, we leave death behind. We are free, completely free, to set our minds on the things that are above.

Our freedom extends from and is the result of God’s power. As I often say from the pulpit, God has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. And by the instrument of raising Jesus, of the empty tomb, God has set us free from death. We are free to be the people God created us to be. We are free to set our minds on the things that are above. We are free to be in our lives and in our actions signs to those around us of Christ’s resurrection. Our old selves have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God, as we heard in the Epistle.

As always, we have a choice between dying and living; and since we have already died, we may as well live.

I would put that choice to you in this way. We all know, in one endeavor or another, the fear of failure. But since we have died and have been raised, there is no fear of failure to intimidate us. We have, on the other hand, the fear of success. Each of us possesses what we need to have to do the hardest and most intimidating things. We have what it takes to forgive. We have what it takes to share. We have what it takes to tell someone how we have survived death. We have what it takes to write a happy ending to our own stories. We have been set free from all the things that hold us back.

Our journey has just begun. With eyes that have seen and known the Resurrection, we are on our way. At the end of today’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”[4] And like her, we are likely to see nothing else except the Lord, except the opportunities given to us by the Lord, and except the good works the Lord gives us to walk in. For we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.[5]

[1] Psalm 118:24.

[2] Romans 6:4.

[3] Colossians 3:1.

[4] Saint John 20:18.

[5] Colossians 3:3.

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