Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009. Second Sunday of Easter

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen..

The collect emphasizes that we should walk the talk. It emphasizes that unlike the old covenant of the law and rules, the new covenant is one of being forgiven and one of forgiving as we are forgiven -- that is, a covenant of reconciliation.

What would reconciliation look like as straight people confront their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered neighbors?

What would reconciliation look like as the Anglican Communion confronts the Episcopal Church for seeking to be reconciled with lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered?

There is much talk of Covenant in the Anglican Communion right now, but the Covenant Committee seems bent more towards re-establishing the Old Covenant of the Law, with clear boundaries of who is in and who is out. Rather, let us be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven each of us.

Acts 4:32-35

“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.”

In his book The Rise of Christianity, Rodney Stark reports that one of the major reasons Christianity grew rapidly in the third and fourth centuries was that it was one of the few institutions, perhaps the only one, that cared for its members. They showed this especially when someone was hungry, or sick, or in prison... More and more people wanted to be a part of a place that cared substantially for its members.

Centuries after Christ, these Christians were living into the model that Luke describes of the early church in today's text from the book of Acts.

I join with those who have suggested that the Episcopal Church ought to provide health care for all of its members. With more than two million in the insurance pool, the rates for any one person, or congregations of persons, would be dramatically reduced compared with rates available to them from other sources.

Those who “own lands or houses,” the wealthier among us, would have a Gospel incentive to live in a community of persons who manifest this much care. We would be modeling for the nation what care and concern looks like. We would be walking the talk of the Gospel. Doing so, we would no longer need to have retreats and conferences and parish meetings on how to increase our numbers, especially our pool of donors, in the face of dwindling resources.

Even in these especially hard times, our resources are more than adequate to meet our needs and the needs of the world around us. Our resources are abundant, but our imagination is shriveling from fear and selfishness. Revive us, O God!

Psalm 133

Oh, how good and pleasant it is, *
when brethren live together in unity!

And the sistren.

Would that it were so!

Our disunity is the Episcopal Church’s major block to bringing the Gospel to the world. There is no “good news” in disunity.

There is plenty of good news in being a church large enough to contain many points of view and to have respectful disagreement. Disunity is quite different from disagreement. Disunity derives from insisting on having one’s own way and insisting that others agree with us, or at least say that they do.

It [Dwelling together in unity is like fine oil upon the head *
that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron, *
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

This passage must send shivers up the spines of members of the Altar Guild, and hair stylists who would have to deal with the messes.

This is “conspicuous consumption” that probably won’t work right now in the West -- “I have wealth enough to have fine oils run down upon my beard and get my fine clothes oily."

In the psalmist’s context the image is one of comfort and harmony; in the modern West, it is one of discomfort. It does not travel well culturally, much as the image of hell as a place of fire was not effective to scare Eskimos.

1 John 1:1-2:2

Summary: Don’t sin, but if you do, God will take care of your sins, indeed, the sins of the whole world. Walk in the light.

John bases his claims on being an eye-witness and on reporting the accounts of other eye-witnesses. John makes this claim not only for what he has seen and heard, but on what he believes it means: “and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.” Two thousand years later we may be eye-witnesses to the effects of the gospel on lives changed by it.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit” need not be a dry intellectual assent. “I believe in the Holy Spirit: I have seen the Holy Spirit happen! I have seen the Holy Spirit at work in others. I have known the Holy Spirit to be at work in me, calling forth the fruits of the Spirit that I cannot account for on my own.”

John 20:19-31

The Episcopal Church is so safe for doubters that we have named 153 of our 7945 parishes (2%) for Thomas the doubter saint.

Although I can pass a lie-detector test when I say the creeds, I am glad that The Episcopal Church does not require a lie-detector test.

I know many who struggle with the creeds, whole or in part, but live more faithfully than I do.

I rejoice that the Episcopal Church welcomes that kind of struggle. Alfred Lord Tennyson said, "There is more faith in honest doubt than in all your creeds."

Thank you, Thomas for showing up late. Thank you, Thomas, for refusing to believe until you had seen the risen Christ with your own eyes. Thank you, Jesus for your patience with him; thank you for allowing him to put his fingers into the wounds that the cross had made.

The Apostles’ Creed did not appear until the second century, or possibly late in the first. The Nicene Creed did not appear until 325 and was not widely adopted until 381. I am glad that Thomas did not have to “pass” them. I am glad that Jesus did not turn to the thief on the next cross and say, “Well that’s nice of you to sympathize with me, but don’t expect cheap grace if you plan to be with me in Paradise. First you must repeat after me, slowly and convincingly, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord…….’”

It’s okay to say to God: “Show me.” Keep you eyes open; She just might.

See also

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