Fruit Loops

John 15:1-8     Easter 5      May 3, 2015

“Seventy-five. That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.[1]” So writes Ezekiel Emanuel. Emanuel is an oncologist, a bioethicist, a writer, and vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania. Friends and family tell him that as he approaches age 75, he will extend his desired life-span, but he is certain. Currently, he is in excellent health at age 57. Ezekiel isn’t alone in the world. He has two brothers and a sister, and is father to three daughters.

Emanuel’s father was a pediatrician and his mother was a nurse and a psychiatric social worker. His parents actively engaged in caring for those in need and in matters of social justice. Conversation around the dinner table usually centered upon ethical questions. Ezekiel has given his life and his choices much thought. He says colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out after age 65. Regular medical testing will stop. Flu shots will be out.

Why would a well-educated, financially comfortable person with family decide that age 75 is it? People in Nepal who have lost everything are fighting to restore their lives, while Emanuel is thinking about his end. Dr. Emanuel explains that old age:

…robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic…By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life….I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make….We want to be remembered as independent…[2]

Jesus’ vision for us is different. Jesus doesn’t see us as independent. “I am the vine, and you are the branches,” he tells us. What wonderful imagery Jesus uses to explain that we are connected to him, and because we are connected to him, we are connected to each other. While in our time and place we tend to interpret scripture as being directed to us as individuals, usually Biblical writings concern community. This is the case here. English does not make it clear, but the “you” in Jesus’ discourse is plural.

“I am the vine, and you are the branches,” Jesus says, illustrating that we are connected to each other and to him. Equally important is that through this metaphor, Jesus reminds us that we are dependent upon him for life! At the beginning of our worship, we prayed, “O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live.” According to John’s gospel, this is why Jesus came. Earlier in John, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (10:10b).” How do we do that? “Abide in me as I abide in you,” Jesus tells us.

Abide appears eight times in just four verses. Abiding is allowing ourselves to be held, and to be at home. This is Jesus’ way of talking about love. For Christ to abide in us and we in him means that we are bound together in faithful relationship. For us to do this is so important, Jesus uses the imperative. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

“Ask” as Jesus uses it is also an imperative. So Jesus gives these two commands. First, abide in him and second, ask for whatever we wish. Remember, that “you” is us, and not an individual. “You” is a community. If we are in relationship with Jesus and with each other, what we would ask for, what we want is for the good of our community.

We are not used to thinking in those terms. In our culture we are autonomous. This is part of Ezekiel Emanuel’s erroneous thinking. He just “wants to be remembered as independent.” He values self-sufficiency more than relationship. We are never independent because we are always part of a community, be it church, family, our neighborhood or the world. John Donne said it well, “No man is an island.”

The other part of Ezekiel Emanuel’s thinking that Jesus would have issue with is how he assesses value. Listen again to his words. “ …By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life….I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make.” We are worthy because God created us. Our value is in being.

Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” There is no hierarchy to branches! No one branch can claim privilege or status over or under another branch. Sex, gender, ethnicity, and age do not make us more or less valuable. Working hard and completing projects does not make us more or less valuable. “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,” Jesus says. Jesus is saying that simply by being in relationship with Jesus we will bear fruit. Jesus did not say that if we work 50 hours a week, go to the gym every day, have a body mass index of between 18.5 and 24.9, or achieved summa cum laude that we will bear more fruit than someone else or move up 5 branches on the vine. These are not the things that give us life! It is the vine, it is Christ, who give us life! Thanks be to God!

~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/09/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/

[2] ibid.

I Just Want to be a Sheep

John 10:25-37     Fourth Sunday of Easter     April 26, 2015

I don’t want to be a sheep! Sheep are smelly, it’s hard to get a comb through their hair, they are stuck with each other in a flock, and someone fleeces them once a year. Their I.Q. is , well…let’s just say they are a few coals short of a bar-b-que. Recently, I read that sheep are not dumb at all, that it is the cattle ranchers who are responsible for spreading that ugly rumor. But my husband, who grew up on a farm, said that cattle rancher was trying to inflate his own ego. Both cows and sheep are not very smart. Research has determined that one of the reasons sheep travel together is for self-protection. They reduce their risk of getting eaten by moving in a larger group. Sheep are focused on their own preservation, and their behavior is determined by their fear[1]. I don’t want to be a sheep.

Shepherds, too, have their common characteristics. Abraham, Moses and David are all described as keeping sheep. When the 23rd Psalm was written, shepherding was not the despised position that it was in the time of Jesus. Biblical scholar Mark Allen Powell points out that shepherds were not held in high regard when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” The shepherds were despised mainly by “the elite,” including Pharisees, scribes, and priests[2]. By the time of Jesus, shepherding positions were filled from the lowest ranks of society, by persons who could not find what was regarded as decent work. The Pharisees classified shepherds along with tax collectors and prostitutes, people who were sinners by virtue of their vocation. Society stereotyped shepherds as liars, degenerates and thieves. They were held in such disregard that their testimony was not admissible in court.

The job of a shepherd was dangerous, risky and menial. Shepherds were rough around the edges, spending their time in fields with animals rather than with polite society. For Jesus to say, “I am the good shepherd,” and those who follow him are his sheep is a slam to the religious leaders of the day.

I confess that I’ve never seen a shepherd in person. Say shepherd, and my brain conjures up an image from Christmas pageants and Charlie Brown’s Christmas. I see a short person in a bathrobe with a towel draped over the head held on by a scarf. If your image of shepherds comes from pictures, you most likely envision a man with a serene look on his face and a lamb draped over his shoulders. But the most gripping and honest portrait of Jesus as shepherd is one written by Flora Wuellner about a painting she had seen:

It is not the [image of] the robed and peaceful person holding a small lamb with a flock at his feet that we often see depicted in stained-glass windows. Rather it’s a tattered and bleeding person who had crawled down a steep cliff edge to rescue a lamb that had fallen. The lamb was injured and a bird of prey circled overhead. I could not see the shepherd’s face as he strained down to the sheep, but I could see the knots in his muscles, the bleeding hands and arms gashed by thorns, the twisted garment torn in the steep descent…..The determined shepherd was paying a painful price to rescue the lamb, and the lamb would be saved.[3]

This is the shepherd who lays down his life. This is the shepherd who stays with us when the hired hand runs away. This is the shepherd who pursues us, the smelly ones who are focused on self-protection. We are his sheep, and Jesus says that the sheep hear his voice. I don’t know about you, but I suspect you are like me. Sometimes I need a hearing aid. Instead of trusting in Jesus, I follow the hired hand who always ends up disappointing and abandoning me. Have you ever had this experience?

The story of Luis illustrates God’s continued calling through Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle. Father Boyle founded a gang-intervention program in Los Angeles, in the neighborhood of the city that is considered to be the gang capital of the world. He has found that the people with whom he works have no realistic sense of themselves, let alone of others. Underlying their behaviors and attitudes is the belief that they are not worthy of love.

Luis was a young man in his mid-twenties. He had been one of the smartest and biggest drug dealers in the community. No one could catch him, not the police and not Father Boyle. But when God blessed him with a daughter, Luis asked to work at the bakery Father Boyle started as part of his gang-intervention program. Luis had natural leadership abilities, and worked his way up to foreman. He not only worked with his former rivals, he supervised them. Luis was transformed from someone who hated himself and hated his rivals into someone who understood the value of life that God created. He was able to pay rent with honest money, and he became a good father.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and Luis was looking forward to a couple days off. He was in the middle of packing up his car to go camping with friends. Two gang members, with their faces covered came into this particular neighborhood, –enemy territory for them. They walked right up to Luis and executed him.

At his funeral, Luis’ friends asked, “What’s the point?” Pausing for only a moment, Father Boyle answered that Luis was a human being who came to know the truth about himself, that he was loved by God. Boyle writes,:

Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth century female English mystic, saw the life struggle as coming to discover that we are ‘clothed in God’s goodness.’ This became Luis’ life’s work. He embraced this goodness—his greatness—and nothing was the same again. And, really, what is death compared to knowing that? No bullet can pierce it[4].

At the end of our Lutheran funerals, the pastor commends the dead to God with these words:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming.

Being a sheep doesn’t mean that we are never afraid, or that we subscribe to every word of the Nicene Creed, or that we never doubt, We do, in fact, go places where we shouldn’t. Being a sheep doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us. When we are in the valley of the shadow of death, Jesus crawls down the steep cliff edge to rescue us. Maybe we can’t see the shepherd’s face, but there are knots in his muscles, and blood dripping from his hands. God is right there with us when we go over the edge, and when we walk through the dark valley of despair. God has been there, too. God has gone before us. The Shepherd is the Lamb, who suffered betrayal and lies, had nails pounded into his flesh, and died hanging on a cross. Evil and death did not defeat Jesus the Christ. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The best thing about being a sheep is the Shepherd. Because of the Shepherd, I just want to be a sheep.

~ Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin

 

 

[1] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/lambs-on-the-lam-selfish-herd/ Web.

[2] In notes and conversation from the Fall 2014 ACTS class with Mark Allen Powell.

[3] Duckworth Penelope. Teaching Sermons on the Incarnation. “The Lord is My Shepherd.” Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998. 52-33. Print.

[4] Boyle, Gregory. Tattoos on the Heart. New York: Free Press, 2010. Print.

Witnesses of These Things, in Joy, Disbelieving and Still Wondering

 

Luke 24:36b-48     Third Sunday of Easter     April 19, 2015

 

There it is again: “Peace be with you.”  In the gospel readings during this Easter season, the empty tomb has provoked “terror and amazement” among the first witnesses,[1] and Jesus’ risen body is causing his followers to be “startled and terrified.”[2]  And so, when Jesus appears in his resurrection body, his first words have to be, “Peace be with you.”

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”   They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.   He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  My question is the same as the one Jesus asks.  Why are they so startled?  By this time, there have been multiple reports of the risen Jesus.  In Luke, there are many women in the group who journey to the tomb and find it to be empty on Easter morning.[3]  Later that same day, two of Jesus’ followers – one name Cleopas and another who is unnamed – discover that they have been talking with risen Lord as they are walking from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus!  They come to know that is Jesus when he breaks the bread, sharing a meal in communion with them.[4]  Immediately these two followers return to Jerusalem to tell the others, and they find that the risen Jesus has also appeared to Simon Peter![5]

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.   He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?   Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.  Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.  Once again, as in last week’s appearance stories from the gospel of John, notice the physicality of the risen Jesus!  He’s not a disembodied spirit.  He shows them the wounds on his hands and feet.  And he’s hungry!  He asks for something to eat!

            Then [Jesus] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.

We are witnesses of these things.  Our proclamation is this: “Christ is risen!   He is risen indeed, Alleluia!”  This is life in the resurrection!

*  *  *

            How does God the Holy Spirit speak to us through a story in the Bible?  It’s when we pay attention, as we read a story we may have read many times b efore, to notice what seems to be important.  As I read this story in Luke, this time through, here is the short phrase of words that catches my attention: While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,…  What a mix of emotion and confusion.  Joy, but also disbelieving and still wondering.  “Christ is risen!   He is risen indeed, Alleluia!”  Isn’t it true: that you and I are witnesses of these things in the midst of that emotion and confusion: in joy, disbelieving and still wondering?

You are if you take death seriously!

All the evidence is that death wins, doesn’t it?  To many, that’s too much to deal with.  Many times, people simply deny the reality of death.  For instance, that’s what’s happening in newspaper obituaries that describe a loved one as “flying into the arms of Jesus,” and even when we use “passed away,” or “expired,” as a euphemism for “died.”

Sometimes we feel despair in the face of death.  That’s what the two followers of Jesus are feeling, while they are walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus – Cleopas and the other, unnamed disciple.  They are utterly crushed by the tragedy they have witnessed, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

The reality of death may provoke us to feel anger.  Those who are plugged into the College community have been struggling with the news that a student named Paul Soutter killed himself this past Monday.  One of our Lutheran students who recently graduated posted this remarkably articulate expression of anger on her face book page: “I’m not going to write about my friendship and my connection with Paul or how I wish he knew what he meant to those who knew him.  But I will write about how William and Mary fails as an institution to provide a community of safety and charity.  We are a school that is known for its academic rigor, but what we fail to realize is that this rigor, this environment of stress and pressure, is so entrenched in our identity, that we perpetuate an environment of over-work and over-stress.  We celebrate how many hours we study, how few we sleep, the time we lack to do anything but study and breathe.  This environment is unhealthy, and we break under the pressure.  But when you are already broken, living through the anxiety that comes from and perpetuates within this school is unbearable.  Literally too much to bear.”

That’s powerful stuff.  Not all students feel angry, though.  Others are sad.  Others are frightened.  Another Lutheran student turned to the question of how we can help each other.  She posted on face book: “Suicide sucks.  I lost a friend in September to suicide.  It sucks knowing someone felt their life wasn’t worth living anymore.  No one should ever feel like they’re alone, I promise someone does care about you and someone will listen to you.  It’s scary letting people know we aren’t okay.  Sometimes it feels easier to hide our wounds, but sometimes you need to let people know you’re not okay and that’s okay.  If you ever feel depressed or suicidal please talk to a friend, a counselor, or even call the national suicide prevention hotline.  I am always here to talk if anyone needs me or hug if anyone needs one. Things will get better if you keep fighting.”

What an amazing opportunity I had, this past Wednesday night, to gather with LSA students in the College Room, to talk about all of this.  What warrior courage students showed, becoming powerfully open and honest, giving their own witnesses of how hard it is to ask for help and how much we need to do that and how we can help each other to do that.  Why do we hide our wounds from each other when our risen Lord was so open about showing his?  (It was worth adjusting my schedule to student time, and not getting home until 11:00 PM!)

When we are open and honest about the realities of life and death, aren’t we often in the midst of emotion and confusion: in joy, disbelief and still wondering?  It is into that reality that God took on human flesh in Jesus the Christ.  “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!”  We are witnesses of these things – in our daily joy, and in disbelief and still wondering.

We are witnesses of these things in community.  When one of our Council members was offering devotions this past Tuesday, he began with “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!” and he said, “When we say that together, it’s easier to believe.”  How much we need each other, we who embody the risen Jesus in the world, through our actions and our words, witnessing to the risen Jesus.

God the Holy Spirit formed those of us in the Council meeting on Tuesday night into a community of witnesses to these things.  On Wednesday night, God the Holy Spirit formed those of us in the College Room into a community of witnesses to these things.  Right now God the Holy Spirit has gathered us as a community of witnesses to these things – we who have brought into this event of worship the experiences of this past week that cause us to feel joy, disbelief and still wondering.

Stephen Ministers with their Care Receivers form such a community of witnesses to these things, as they journey together through experiences that cause joy, disbelief and still wondering.  Don’t we become such a community of witnesses to these things when one of us visits a patient in a hospital bed, when both have the courage to talk about what the patient is really feeling?  I think of a parishioner in one of those beds, telling me what he felt like the night before he was admitted into the hospital.  He was struggling for breath: “I thought I was going to die.”  It was one of those moments when it is existentially obvious that death is real.  (I remember feeling the same way, when I was sick and the fungal infection hadn’t been diagnosed.  I remember getting up in the middle of the night and beginning notes of what I want for my funeral.)

Isn’t this life full of experiences of joy, disbelief and still wondering?  “Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed, Alleluia!”  We are witnesses of these things.

In the name of God who is Father and Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Pastor Andy Ballentine

 

[1] Mark 16:8, from the gospel reading on Easter Sunday.

[2] Luke 24:37.  Also, see last Sunday’s gospel reading: John 20:19-29.

[3] Luke 24:1-12

[4] Luke 24:13-32

[5] Luke 24:33-35

Christ’s Wounded Body

 

John 20:19-31     Second Sunday of Easter     April 12, 2015

 

When you are hurting, aren’t you good at covering that up?  Aren’t you good at pretending that you’re strong and self-reliant – even when you’re not feeling that way?  I know you are!  I know you’re hurting, and I’ll ask, “How are you?”  What will you say?  “Fine!  Fine!”

In our culture, we’re supposed to cover up our wounds.  But this morning’s gospel story is all about being wounded!  Even the risen Jesus is wounded!

In the gospel of John, Jesus appears to his followers four times after his resurrection.  The first time is on Easter morning.  Mary Magdalene is weeping outside of Jesus’ empty tomb.  The risen Jesus comes to her and speaks to her.  Mary runs and tells Jesus’ disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

Now, it is the evening of that same day, and it doesn’t look like Mary’s witness has had much effect on Jesus’ disciples, who are hunkering down together, fearful, confused.  The story begins with this: When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  The doors are locked.  Obviously Jesus’ followers are not in “fear of the Jews,” since all of them are Jews!  They are in fear of those religious leaders who had had the Romans crucify Jesus.  What if those guardians of orthodox religion would come after Jesus’ followers next?

Do the locked doors keep Jesus out?  What a strange description this is: Jesus comes and stands among them?  I think the gospel writer is trying to describe Jesus’ resurrected body.[1]  Jesus has a physical body, but it is different in appearance, somehow.  When Jesus had encountered Mary that morning, outside his tomb, she hadn’t recognized him.  She thought he was the gardener!  Now the risen Jesus can pass through solid, wooden doors, but that he also has the physical wounds of crucifixion.  If this was a Bible study, we’d spend some time with the Bible’s witness that we will have a body in the resurrection; that we won’t be ghosts floating around.  St. Paul writes that our bodies will be changed, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet,” into resurrection bodies.[2]

Jesus came and stood among them, and what is the first thing he says?  “Peace be with you.”  Well, yeah!  He would need to say that, wouldn’t he?  Think of his followers’ state of mind.  They have been traumatized by Jesus’ crucifixion.  They have been  trying to figure out what Mary meant when she said, “I have seen the Lord!”  They have locked themselves behind closed doors in fear that they will be the next ones arrested for insurrection and treason.   Now, what is this?  An apparition of some sort of a human figure who has materialized in front of them?!

But the risen Jesus is not simply an apparition.  He has those physical wounds!  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Isn’t that interesting?  It is necessary for them to see Jesus’ wounds, for them to know that it is Jesus.

Think of this: Jesus’ followers recognize Jesus by his wounds.  I’ve been thinking about Christ’s wounded body.  I’ve been thinking of us: the body of Christ in the world.

If Jesus was so open about showing his wounds, why are we so afraid to show ours to others who are the body of Christ with us?  Why is it hard for you to allow other followers of Jesus into those places where you have been hurt, where you need healing?

In this morning’s story from John, I’m impressed by how it is essential for Jesus’ followers to be in community with each other.  When Mary sees the Lord she doesn’t keep it to herself.   She immediately has to find Jesus’ other followers and to tell them the good news of the resurrection!  The others are hiding in fear.  But they aren’t scattered.  Except for Thomas, they’re hanging on to each other, relying on each other.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  But “it is not sufficient to sing glad hymns and to rejoice in the celebration of the resurrection: we must change our lives and live the new life.”[3]  The new life is to be the resurrection community!  Do you remember how Jesus commissions his followers to be that community?  Jesus said to them again, “peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  Jesus sends his followers out to bear witness to who God is, as Jesus has revealed God to be – the one who brings forgiveness, grace, peace into the world God has created.

Of course, that is our work, too – we who are followers of the risen Christ, even though none of us actually saw his resurrected body that could pass through a solid door.  Jesus includes you and me when he says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  The risen Christ sends us out into the world, bringing  forgiveness, grace, peace into the world God has created.  The risen is Jesus continuing his work through us.  We are the body of Christ in the world.

That is according to St. Paul.  Paul writes to followers of the risen Christ in the town of Corinth:[4] For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ….If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.[5]

I have been thinking about Christ’s wounded body.  I have been thinking about this: we who are followers of the risen Christ are the very body of Christ in the world.  And, certainly, this is true, too: we are the wounded body of Christ in the world.  If one member [of the body] suffers, all suffer together with it.

As members of the body of Christ, we are wounded when the policies of Israel cause nearly every Christian in the Holy Land to have to leave to find work.  We are wounded as the body of Christ when Christians are massacred in Iraq and when Christians are murdered in Egypt, in Kenya, in Nigeria.

In our community of Williamsburg and surrounding counties, we are wounded as the body of Christ when Christians are homeless, or suffering from addiction, when children who are Christian are abused by adults who should be protecting them, when Christians of different races are suspicious of each other and mistreat each other.

In this body of Christ named for St. Stephen, all of us are wounded when any one of us is suffering from physical illness or disability, spiritual emptiness, emotional distress.

Why do we cover up our wounds?  Why do we pretend to be strong and self-sufficient?

Here’s the big question.  When we are hiding our wounds, are we able to receive God’s peace, forgiveness, or grace from each other?  I think this is true: it is only when we are wounded that we are even able to know God, present with us!  If we are whole, unscathed, strong, self-reliant, then who needs God?

St. Paul (again, writing to the Corinthians!) witnesses that it is only in our woundedness that we come to see that it is all up to God.  He is confronting his opponents in the Corinthian congregation who are boasting of their exalted knowledge and wisdom and insight, and Paul writes, If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  Why?  He then begins writing about a thorn [that] was given [him] in the flesh.[6]  We don’t know what that malady was.  It could have been a physical illness or disability.  It could have been a mental illness, or something like depression.  Paul writes, Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”[7]  Do you see what Paul is teaching us?  It is only in our weakness that we can receive the grace to understand that any strength comes from God!  Only when you and I are not trying to cover up our wounds, only when we can let go of the need to save ourselves, and that it is up to us to save the world, and to “fix” things and people; it is only when we let go of that are we able to come to know that it is all up to God.

We are the wounded body of Christ.  And this is our radical call: the risen Christ has given us his Spirit, so we can continue his work; which means bringing peace, forgiveness, grace right into the world that wounds us, in the midst of those who wound us.  This is life in the resurrection, as we wait for Christ: Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

In the name of God who is Father and Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Pastor Andy Ballentine

 

[1] I think that’s true in all four of the appearance stories in the gospel of John.  See John 20:11 – 21:25.

[2] See 1 Corinthians 15:50-54

[3] Philip Pfatteicher, Journey into the Heart of God: Living the Liturgical Year (Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 247.

[4] See 1 Corinthians 12

[5] 1 Corinthians 12:12, 26

[6] 2 Corinthians 11:30

[7] 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

(If you would like a copy of an earlier sermon, e-mail Pastor Ballentine or Pastor Griffin and s/he’ll send you a copy!)