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Believing God

(a sermon for April 19, 2020, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, based on John 20:19-31)

So… how about this morning we just say a few good words on behalf of Thomas?

That’s right… Thomas, as in 

Doubting Thomas,” that nickname that has forevermore been bestowed to anyone who has ever been even remotely skeptical about anything!  I mean, never mind that history has recorded Thomas as having been a fiercely loyal disciple of Jesus: it’s believed that after the resurrection Thomas brought the good news of the gospel to the ancient region of Khorasan, located in what is now Iran and Afghanistan, and finally to India, where to this day there exists an Order of St. Thomas which claims Thomas as its founder; in fact, legend also has it that it was in India that Thomas was martyred for his faith, pierced by four spears.  It can safely be said that Thomas lived a life fully devoted to Christ, and yet, what is it that everybody always remembers about Thomas?  It’s that he was the one disciple who would not, could not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead… unless and until he had proof.

And really, friends, who could blame him?

You know, it’s been said that each of the disciples in some way or another serve to represent an aspect of ourselves and our own personalities: Peter, for instance, represents our tendency to be bold and impulsive about things; Matthew, the tax collector, tells us of the importance of leaving our old ways behind to follow Jesus; and James and his brother John, the fishermen who left their nets behind, tell us a lot about the courage it takes to answer a call.  But of all the disciples, Thomas was the diehard realist of the group, and as such, represents the more skeptical part of our nature!

Thomas, you see, knew what was what; he knew how life works, where the limits are placed and what it is you have to look out for.  And if there was one thing Thomas knew for certain, it was that when someone dies, that person is dead and gone and cannot, under any circumstances, return!  And so, when he heard the other disciples talk about having seen Jesus on that Easter evening, and how they’d seen the wounds in his hands and side, Thomas was not about to take what they said at face value, for what they were saying broke all the rules.  Yes, he could hear the joy in their voices as they described to him how Jesus had appeared to them in the darkness of that Easter night; and he did remember how that very morning, Mary had run to them, breathless with the news that she’d seen the Lord!  

But you see, to Thomas’ mind this was all too incredible to even consider. Because Thomas knew exactly what he’d seen; and what he’d seen was Jesus die; in fact, Thomas could still feel the dull ache of emptiness inside of him because Jesus had died.  It was painful enough to have to accept the fact that Jesus was gone, but this?  Jesus… alive?  No… no matter what anybody else was saying, he hadn’t been there to see it, and Thomas, ever the realist, was not about to place any kind of hope in that which he hadn’t personally experienced himself!

Of course, this is not to say he didn’t want that experience.

We know this because, as John tells the story, when Thomas heard what the other disciples were claiming, he responded the only way he could: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  Bottom line, Thomas needed some hard evidence of this so-called resurrection if he was to believe, and therein lies the part of this story that makes us uncomfortable; mostly because, truth be told, we’d like to see that evidence ourselves!  Theologian John Westerhoff explains it this way:  “Poor Thomas,” he writes, “desired only sacrament, only an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual truth of the resurrection.  He didn’t doubt the stories told, but he did want some sign.  [And] that’s the story of our lives,” Westerhoff goes on to say. “It isn’t enough for most of us to be told that someone else loves us; we want that person to do something that expresses love for us.  So it is with Easter faith – it’s difficult to believe the words, but an action along with the words surely helps.”

I suspect we can all understand that!  I remember once way back when I was in the seventh grade, and one of the girls in my class came to me with the news that there was another girl in the class who really “liked me.” (And not just “liked me,” mind you, but liked me liked me, which, when you’re 13 is something altogether different!)  Now, I was way too shy ever to do anything about that revelation, and even at that ageI remained fairly skeptical as to how legitimate this confession of “like” actually was! But, oh, I wanted it to be true, and I remember waiting for some sort of outward and visible sign to come forth from my admirer: you know, the tell-tale look, the note inside the home room desk (the one that read, “Do you like me?  Check Yes or No”).  My doubt, you see, wasn’t so much as denial, as it was the desire for it to be true!

For so many of us, you see, doubt is not so much a nagging source of denial as it is the persistent push that keeps us searching.  It’s the way we seek to know and to name what it is that we believe, and then to live up to that belief.  Thomas’ doubt was not borne of any kind of weakness nor was it an exercise in mental or spiritual acrobatics.  Thomas doubted in order to become sure; he was not content with second-hand believing.  He asked questions, he pushed the envelope, he wrestled with truth as surely as Jacob wrestled with the angel; and in the end, what Thomas believed, he owned…

…and it seems to me that’s a pretty good definition for faith.

It strikes me, you know, that right about now we’re all living in the midst of a modern-day age of doubt; a time when our natural -born skepticism has become mingled with fear.  I don’t know about you, but everyday I go to the news hoping for some good news regarding this current pandemic crisis; but what I get is not at all reassuring with mixed signals at best.  So not only do I end up not knowing what to believe, I begin to wonder if there’s any end in sight to this crisis and if life will ever get back to normal.  I think you’ll agree with me when I say that these are the days when doubt flourishes! 

Like Thomas, I suppose, we need proof; we want some empirical evidence that things are going to change for the better… but the kind of evidence that goes beyond daily briefings and data reports.  I dare say that right now you and I need the kind of assurance that will drive out our fears, calm our anxieties and ease our ever-increasing weariness we’re feeling over having to stay away and apart.  We need peace… the kind of peace that will strengthen us for the full way ahead and that will bolster us to face whatever obstacles and storms are still before us.

We need the peace that comes from the Lord.

What’s interesting about this story of “Doubting” Thomas, of course, is that when the risen Christ appears to the disciples a week later, this time Thomas is with them and he gets the “proof” that he’d insisted upon.  Jesus even offers him the opportunity to actually reach out his hand and touch his side so that he would “not doubt but believe.”  But in the end, Thomas never actually does touch Jesus.  Maybe all it took was to actually see Jesus standing there to shift his point of view; maybe it was the fact that Jesus had specifically reached out to Thomas in his doubt; or perhaps it came from a sudden profound awareness of God’s shalom, God’s whole peace, that had come in the greeting and the very presence of the risen Christ.  But whatever it was that moved Thomas, his response ends up being the single most profound and complete recognition of who Jesus is; and though it doesn’t say, I have to think that the words were spoken in barely a whisper, for such was his sudden wonder and amazement: “My Lord and my God!”  To which Jesus answers, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen yet have come to believe.”

And blessed are you and me when we believe, most especially in such difficult and uncertain times as these…. understanding, of course, that what we’re given in believing is not a clear slate of answers as to how and when things in this world and our lives are going to resolve themselves.  What we’re given in believing, beloved, is God… and all of God’s sure and certain promises that come to us in the Risen Christ.

It’s sort of like what Frederick Beuchner has said is the difference between “believing in God” and “believing God.”  Believing in God, he writes, “is an intellectual position.  It need have no more effect on your life than believing in Freud’s method of interpreting dreams or the theory that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Romeo and Juliet.

“[But] believing God is something else again,” he continues.  “It is less a position than a journey, less a realization than a relationship.  It doesn’t leave you cold like believing the world is round.  It stirs your blood like believing the world is a miracle.  It affects who you are and what you do with your life like believing your house is on fire or somebody loves you.  We believe God when somehow we run into God in a way that by and large leaves us no choice but to do otherwise.”

Beloved, in these times when doubt cannot help but daily run rampant through our minds and our hearts, we would do well to believe God… to believe his presence with us… to believe his power over the world… to believe his hope in which we abide… to believe his peace that passes our human understanding… and to believe his perfect love that casts out all fear. 

Our good news, today and every day and amidst every struggle we face, is that God is with us and loves us… and we know it, we have our proof, because Christ, our Lord and our God, has risen indeed.

I pray that even as these difficult days stretch onward, we’ll each and all open our eyes to the signs of his presence that are all around, finding in his wonders the joy of his countenance and the truth of his love.

And as we do, may our thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

© 2020  Rev. Michael W. Lowry. All Rights Reserved.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2020 in Current Events, Easter, Jesus, Sermon

 

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New Heavens, New Earth, New Future

(a sermon for April 12, 2020, Easter Sunday, based on John 20:1-18 and Isaiah 65:17)

Well, let’s just start by stating the obvious:  this year Easter feels different… very different.

I realized at some point this week that as I’ve been talking with family and friends about my plans for our worship today I’ve almost always begun with the words, “Well, under ordinary circumstances…” as in, “Well, under ordinary circumstances we’d have a sanctuary filled with beautiful flowers (not to mention a sanctuary filled with beautiful people!)… under ordinary circumstances we’d be all here together singing out the triumphant hymns of our resurrection faith, and we’d be shouting our alleluias and our “Christ is risen, indeed’s” so loud and so often that our voices might go hoarse in the process… under ordinary circumstances, our Easter Sunday worship would be such a wonderful time of freshness and renewal and true celebration that we’d all leave church today with the feeling that everything around us had suddenly and gloriously become brand new… and us along with it!

But of course, these aren’t “ordinary circumstances,” by any means; in an unprecedented set of new circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 Pandemic we’ve had rethink and reconfigure how to “do” Easter… or at least how to do it from a distance!  So yes, this year Easter does feel very different; and I’ll confess that like most of you I’m really missing all the traditions, both in and out of the church, that have made our Easter celebrations so great every year!  But that said, I also have to confess that lately I’ve been thinking that maybe this idea of our “feeling brand new” on this particular day should maybe have less to do with how we “do” Easter than what’s been done for us on Easter.

Believe it or not, it’s reminded me of how once many years ago, on a whim I decided to shave off my beard.  Now I’ve had this protuberance of whiskers on my chin for over 30 years now (I actually grew it so I could look older (!); I know… so much for that concept!), and I’d never totally shaved it off before nor have I since.  But for some reason on this one day I got it into my head I needed something fresh and new in my life – I needed to be fresh and new – so literally just like that, off came the beard.  

Now at this point, (our youngest son) Zach hadn’t been born yet, and it was just Jake and Sarah; and Jake, who I don’t think was even in school yet, took one look at the “new” me and cried his eyes out!  On the other hand, my lovely wife Lisa – my lovely, supportive wife, Lisa – started laughing hysterically; as I recall, her first three intelligible words were, “Grow… it… back!”  But my daughter Sarah, who was barely a toddler at the time, eyed me warily at first and then as I drew closer to her, she took her two little hands, tapped me on the cheeks and said, rather nonchalantly, “Daddy.”  From that moment, you see, it didn’t matter to her that I looked so different; I felt the same and inside I was the same, so she could tell that I was still her Daddy!  I was grateful for that, but I also immediately realized that shaving off the beard wasn’t going to give me that “newness” of life, so to speak, that I was seeking!

My point here is though appearances may change and circumstances around us can and do drastically shift, who we are deep down inside remains the same; try as we may, we can’t make ourselves to be “brand new” simply by our own effort.  We can’t do it by wealth, it can’t happen through the exercise of power, and it doesn’t occur out of the sheer force of will and determination.  In the end, you see, no matter what kind of “extreme makeover” we attempt for ourselves, there’s nothing we can do that makes us brand new.

But here’s the good news of Easter, beloved, and the real reason for celebrating today: it’s that God can make us brand new, and does.  The same God who promised to “create new heavens and a new earth,” makes us brand new as well and has done it through Jesus, who is the Christ: Jesus, who in rising again has conquered the one absolute certainly of our human existence – our death – and has opened for us the gates of life abundant and everlasting.  By the resurrection, we become a new creation; a people of a new heaven, a new earth and a new future.  And the experience of that is what moves this day of celebration far beyond the realm of candy and flowers and new spring clothes; it’s what makes our worship this morning infinitely more than simply an exercise in hymn singing and alleluia shouting; and it’s how it can utterly transcend our being unable to gather together as the church “in person!”  It’s the resurrection that makes our lives – yours and mine – something fuller and greater than we had ever thought possible.  For you see, when God enters into our lives in such a way that we are enabled to see this world not as a place of death, decay and defeat, but as the place awaiting God’s final victory of life, we are, in fact and forevermore, made brand new!   

Christ is risen; and because of that, friends, this world and our lives in this world can never be the same as it was before; and thanks be to God for it!   In fact, in the words of the late British theologian Lesslie Newbigin, in this world the resurrection can only be viewed as “a total starting point… the ultimate protest against things as they are, in the name of what ought to be,” the proclamation that “the world as it is is not God’s last word.”   It is no wonder that throughout the history of the church, Easter has often been referred to as “Day of Days,” or, more pointedly, “The First Day.” Because from this first day on, everything is brand new.

Of the four accounts of the resurrection that are contained in the gospels, I think I’ve always been drawn the most to John’s version of the Easter story. I love, for instance, how John tells us that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb that morning early “while it was still dark,” suggesting that the day hadn’t even begun yet, but rather that time between darkness and the dawn when things still seem so gray and uncertain.  I am always struck by how Peter and the other disciple race to get to the tomb first, but then, so amazed by what they discover there, end up wandering back home and leaving Mary alone, weeping outside the entrance of the tomb.  And I am always moved by how she cries; that so great is her anguish and  grief, first over the death of her Lord but now also over the apparent theft of his body that she doesn’t even recognize the voice of Jesus when he speaks to her… how she assumes Jesus to be the gardener, of all people!

Isn’t it interesting that it’s only when Jesus calls her by name, “Mary,” only then does she recognize him; only then that she can begin to understand this incredible thing that had happened; only in that moment did her world and her life become brand new, and the overwhelming tears of grief and anguish are replaced by tears of joy and even laughter.  Suddenly, despair turns to hope, defeat becomes victory, and what was impossible now becomes not only possible but real!   Where before there was nothing but death staring Mary in the face, now there’s life with this brand-new future laid open before her!

That’s an incredible moment; for what we sometimes forget in remembering the great theological and cosmic implications of the resurrection is that while God so loved the world, God also so loved the one.  In this exchange between Mary and the risen Christ we discover that God does indeed seek to bring each one home to him in a love that is as real and close as our very hearts. 

But then, this shouldn’t surprise us.  One thing Jesus was always teaching us is that God is not about to let us go, that he calls us by our names, and that he will transform heaven and earth if it’ll bring us home.  And now, through Christ, crucified and risen, God makes the world brand new, and makes us brand new along with it.

And that’s why, even in these most stressful and uncertain of days: even in these times when the struggles of the world have become our struggles; even as in life we suffer the slings and arrows of an outrageous, cruel and sinful humanity; even now, we can still dare to love; even now we dare to wonder and to trust that even in the bleakest of times that God is good. 

We dare to hope in God’s shalom to bring forth a new day of resurrection and hope to every dark place in the world, and we dare to work boldly as persons and as a people for the sake of God’s kingdom; all because we know that Christ has overcome the world, and that there is a new heaven, a new earth and a new future for you and for me.   And, friends, that is what makes all the difference for us not only today, but also tomorrow and every day to come.

Someone once asked the poet G.K. Chesterton what personifies a Christian, and he replied that “a Christian will do two things:  dance out of the sheer sense of joy, and fight out of the sheer sense of victory.”   Well, beloved, today on this day of resurrection, we dance!   Wherever and however we happen to be today, we sing and celebrate that Christ is risen, and we praise the God of resurrection and new life… today is for dancing!  

But tomorrow, when life continues in this strange “new normal,” we fight.  We fight out of a sheer sense of victory; we fight because by the power of the risen Christ we are not the same as before, but different; we fight because of a new sense of who we are and what our lives are about; we fight because we are made brand new and our lives are starting all over again! 

Can you imagine what that means?  What do you think could happen to us and to this world if we could just be bold enough to live that way?

My prayer for all of us amidst the “extra-ordinary circumstances” of this Easter Day is that the Risen Christ, the one who is alive in the world and alive in our hearts, will give us courage and grace to dare to live that kind of life: not only on this day of days, this first of days, gut also on every day that’s to come.  And may we always be joyful and bold in proclaiming…

…Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!)

Alleluia, and AMEN!

© Rev. Michael W. Lowry.  All Rights Reserved.

 
 

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From Failure to Fishing to Feeding Sheep

(a sermon for May 5, 2019, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, based on John 21:1-19)

It’s actually surprising – and a little bit odd – to realize that what our text for this morning is really all about… is failure.

I know; not exactly the message we’ve all come to hear, especially right now when we’re in the midst of what the church refers to as Eastertide, the 50 “Great Days” between Easter Sunday and Pentecost.  Fourteen days in, we are meant to still be in the afterglow of our Easter celebration; and Easter is supposed to be the joyful victory of God, not the sad defeat!  And yet, it doesn’t take very long in this last chapter of John’s gospel to discover that there’s an air of defeat and failure that permeates the whole story! And it all starts with Simon Peter announcing to his fellow disciples, “I am going fishing.”

I mean, think about this with me for a moment.  This is what is referred to by biblical scholars as a “post-resurrection narrative;” in other words, John’s account of what happened after Jesus was raised from the dead.  So what we’ve already heard about in John is about Mary discovering the empty tomb, the two disciples racing to investigate and Mary mistaking the risen Christ for the gardener; and then, of course, there’s the story of Thomas’ lingering doubt and subsequent belief in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  By this point, we’re told, Jesus had already made his presence known to the disciples on several occasions: he’d appeared to them when they were behind closed doors, he’d spoken to them directly, he’d breathed on them the breath of the Holy Spirit (!); and yet, what was the disciples’ collective response to all of this?  They went back to fishing!  I actually love William Willimon’s assessment of this response; of the disciples he writes, “You must be a really dull person to walk away from a resurrection, to have been personally met by the risen Christ, and [then] still go back to fishing!”

Then again, it kind of makes sense… especially when you consider the failure involved.

Because when you think about it, there’s actually two kinds of failure running through this decision to head out on the waters.  First, there’s the corporate failure, if you will: what Willimon refers to in his piece as “the apparent or assumed failure of Jesus and his mission.”  Remember, just a few days prior those disciples had watched everything they’d previous held to be true unravel right before their very eyes.  They’d left everything to follow Jesus and had walked with him for three years; they really did believe that he was in fact the anointed one, the Messiah who would redeem Israel; and they’d seen that belief confirmed in a triumphal entry along the streets of Jerusalem!  But then after having stood by and watched Jesus suffer and die on the cross, that dream was dead and gone.  Not even the presence of a Risen Savior could change the fact that at a crucial moment the people had all turned against them and that the old guard – that is, the “collusion” of Romans and Temple Leaders – had put an end to their hope of “a kingdom with no end” once and for all.

So… yes, he had risen… but maybe the initial rush of the having seen their master alive again had faded away a bit; perhaps this whole series of events was more than a little overwhelming to even think about at that moment; or it could be that they just didn’t know what to do with themselves except to go back to the last point when everything had seemed normal to them.  They went back to fishing; something they knew, something that made sense, something they could embrace without fear of anything else going wrong!

But that was, as I said before, the corporate failure; be assured that as they sat out there in their boats that night, there was also the enduring pain of personal failure as well.  Because also remember, friends, that there was not a single one of those disciples who had stood with Jesus on that fateful night of “betrayal and desertion;” so the sheer weight of guilt and responsibility for everything that had gone down that night and on the “Good” Friday that followed had to have been more than they could bear.  And that sense of remorse could not have been deeper than in the heart of Simon Peter: Peter, the one who was so outspoken in his resolve to remain steadfast and stand with Jesus; Peter, who promised that even if all of the others fell away, he would not; Peter, who in the heat of the moment, had actually taken up arms in the form of a sword with which he cut off the right ear of a high priest’s slave (John 18:10)!  Peter, who for all his bravado and promises, “ended up denying Jesus three times and breaking down in tears at the failure of his resolve.”

So never mind, for a moment, that Jesus had risen from the dead; there’s still this insurmountable amount of guilt around how he’d died in the first place, which was more than the disciples, and in particular Peter, could take!  What do you do in the face of all that, especially when you consider that the one you thought was dead was now alive and almost certainly would soon be standing before you demanding a reckoning for what you’d done, or more accurately, what you hadn’t done?  I’ll tell you what you do:  you get out!  You go fishing!  You do whatever it takes to put some distance between you and your failures!

Of course, the great irony of all this is that once Peter and the rest of them had put out to sea and had cast their nets into the water, they ended up catching nothing at all!  To quote William Willmon once again, “their empty nets must have seemed to them a symbol for just how they felt.  Empty. Failures. Defeated.”  Three years of following Jesus had ended terribly, and now they couldn’t even manage to catch a stupid fish?  Humiliating, that’s what it was!

See what I mean about this story being literally awash with failure?

But that having been said, friends, isn’t it interesting that it’s directly into the midst of all their defeat and failure that the Risen Christ actually appears?

First off, while the disciples are all out there not catching any fish, Jesus (though they yet don’t know it’s Jesus) calls to them, shouting, “Good morning! Did you catch anything for breakfast?” [The Message] No… Well, then, “throw the net off the right side of the boat and see what happens.”  And just like that, there are so many fish in the net the disciples can scarcely drag it ashore (without, it must be added, the help of Peter who now is so amazed that Jesus is with them – again (!) – that he immediately throws some clothes on – because for some reason the gospel fails to explain, he was naked –and swims for shore!).  In the end, there are 153 big fish in the net (John is very specific about that number, and it’s been the source of great fascination amongst biblical scholars and numerologists across the centuries – St. Augustine, for instance, had this theory that it was based on 10 commandments plus 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit plus all the numbers from 1 to 17 adding up to 153 – but truthfully, in the end this number most likely has to do with historical record and a symbol the literal overabundance of God’s blessing in that catch of fish); and it makes for a huge and hearty breakfast barbecue on the beach, hosted by Jesus himself, who not only passes out pieces of broiled fish but also breaks bread and gives it to the disciples… just like before.

Now it might well have seemed odd that the same man who had previously fed 5,000 with a just a few a few scant loaves of bread and a few fish now was serving seven disciples with 153 fish (!), but then again, this wasn’t about the fish; this was about Jesus restoring their relationship with each other.  Indeed, this meal was about grace and forgiveness, friendship and love.  In such an ordinary circumstance as a morning meal, Jesus managed to bring forth yet another miracle:  that of healing and new life to these disciples still so mired in the pain of defeat and failure.

And the best part of all?  Jesus wasn’t done yet.

After everything Peter had done, you see, after every one of the ways that he really had failed Jesus by his fears and his denials, even right now when he’d demonstrated that going to sea was preferable to having to endure any kind of face to face encounter with Jesus, at the end of the day and the end of this barbecue, it’s Jesus who comes to Peter to offer him something more than he could have ever expected.

Jesus simply asks, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

You’ll notice that there’s no berating Peter for his lack of faith, nor any judgment regarding his failure to stand by Jesus in his hour of need.  Jesus doesn’t ask, “Are you sorry, Peter… really sorry,” nor does he smile wearily and say, “and what have we learned here today, Peter?”  He doesn’t even push for any kind of assurance from Peter that this sort of thing would never, ever happen again!  It’s simply, “Do you love me?”  Three times, in fact (speaking of numerology!), Jesus asks the question, “Do you love me,” once for Peter’s every act of denial on that horrible night of failure.  And of course, Peter’s answer is, “Yes… yes…. yes, Lord, you know that I love you!  I know I’ve disappointed you, I know I’ve not been a good disciple, and yes, I’ve denied you… but I do love you!”

And here’s the miracle: not only does Jesus clearly accept this confession of love, he then re-calls Peter to discipleship, giving him the assignment of feeding his beloved sheep.  In spite of Peter’s utter failure in anything having to do with being a disciple, here’s Jesus now putting Peter in charge of his flock; tending to, feeding and keeping the sheep of Jesus’ pasture.  No, this was not about to be the end of Peter’s story; in fact, as Jesus then points out to Peter, it’s only the beginning.  It was never about about the failures of Peter’s past, nor even the dangers that would most certainly lie ahead of him; rather it would be about Peter’s love for Jesus and his willingness to answer Jesus’ call to “Follow me.”

Like I said before, this is a story all about failure and defeat; but it seems to me to be not only about Peter’s or the disciples’ failures, but ours as well!

So often that’s how we’ve misunderstood Easter, you know: after that long and arduous journey of the cross we get so caught up in the good news of an empty tomb and all our alleluia shouting that we falsely assume that all the discouragement, frustration and failure of life is gone forever!   The truth is that even after Easter, the struggles of life and living go on, and our fears continue… not only that, but we keep on making the same mistakes over and over again; so much so that the miracle of resurrection ends up seemingly overcome by the sheer weight of our perceived failures! But the good news is always that the Risen Christ stands right there before in the midst of those failures.  Jesus will not let us walk away – or even sail away (!) – from his presence; nor will he let us remain mired in all that is wrong with the world or with our lives.  In fact, it’s there that he speaks to us, reassures us and once again calls to us, “Follow me.”

We’re not meant to be perfect disciples (which speaking personally, I find to be a very good thing!)   Really, the first and only requirement from you and from me is that we love him… that we love Jesus.  The rest of it – the feeding of lambs and sheep, the caring for and healing of all of God’s people here and away, the endeavor to be the church in the world – all of that and so much more will find its form and substance in that love…

… and at the end of the day, that will be more than enough.

Do you love him?  I hope and I pray that you do; and that out that love you will choose to follow the Risen Christ where he leads.  And in all the ministries in which by grace we are strengthened and empowered…

…may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2019  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2019 in Discipleship, Easter, Faith, Jesus, Sermon

 

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