April 15, 2012
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
The reading this morning from Acts causes no end of trouble. For some, it smacks of the worst of modern day heresies: socialism. They kept all things in common? They gave as any had need? Any publically Christian candidate who ran on this platform would be running not for office, they would be running for their life!
This is one of those passages that gets even the fundamentalists to say, “Mmmm, maybe not.” But there these verses sit, staring at us.
Just a few verses earlier, these same disciples were locked in the room for fear of being found out to be Jesus’ followers, for fear of the same treatment that Jesus got. But now they are living their faith out loud, witnessing to the resurrection wherever they go, sharing all that they have fearlessly and fully.
For those who read this passage and lament how far from this we are, rest assured. Wait a few verses and they are back to bickering over not distributing things evenly.
But for this amazing moment in the life of the early church, they lived without fear, without anxiety, without greed, meeting each others’ needs.
What would it take to live this way?
In the Gospel reading this morning, the disciples are still locked in the house, for fear of the crowd: the crowd that welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday; the same crowd that just a few days later yelled for him to be crucified.
The Gospel does not say how, but in the middle of a locked up room, Jesus shows up. And Jesus speaks the word they need to hear: “Peace be with you.”
Jesus shows his wounds. And they know it is him.
The Gospel of John cannot even wait the fifty days until Pentecost, but Jesus breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Here is our entrance into understanding what it takes to live fully, freely, generously, and without anxiety.
First, where are we locked up? What parts of our lives have we shuttered and barred and battened down so that nothing can get in? We cannot live fully if we are locked up tightly.
What we need is for Christ to enter in, and speak the word of peace.
I think the problem with the Gospel is that we want to turn it into a self help manual. Do this and you will be fine. Follow this formula and you will receive eternal life. Here are the four steps, or the five practices, or the seven whatevers, and if you do these, you will be okay.
But the Gospel doesn’t work that way. Last week we read of the resurrection. Nowhere in there did it explain how to do it. Even the Angels use passive verbs. He has been raised. He is risen. God has done this, and we don’t know how!
The greatest moment in the Bible, and all we get is that it was done!
And on either side of the resurrection, there are impossible, impassible barriers. A stone, rolled in front of the tomb. A locked door.
Who will roll away the stone for us, they wondered. And when they got there, it had already been rolled away! The door is locked for fear of the crowd. Jesus shows up anyway!
I think one of our great anxieties is that we feel like we have to do it ourselves. And we sense, somewhere deep down where we keep those things we don’t want others to know about, that we are deeply inadequate to the task.
This thing it that we think we have to do but know that we cannot? I believe it is securing our future. I say this with fear and trembling. For where our pension is, there our heart is also. And yet, if we read the Sermon on the Mount, what do we hear? Give up your anxiety, God knows what you need, and will provide it.
Do not worry about what you will wear or what you will eat, God will provide it.
Can any one of you add a single year to the span of your life by worrying?
If it hadn’t been said by Jesus, we would probably consider such statements blasphemous, ruinous of capitalism, heretical, pie in the sky flights of fancy.
And so we go about our days trying to secure our future. Trying to guarantee our happiness not just for today, but for tomorrow.
There is much to plan and much to do. But realistically, do we add anything good by the amount of anxiety we have? How much energy do we put into trying to control our lives, the lives of those we love, the outcomes of all that is around us?
It seems to me that in the moment in Acts we see a group of people who have done what Jesus told them – they have repented of their anxiety. They have given up on worrying about their survival, and all of the energy they used to put into that, they now apply to the task of trying to be faithful.
What does a church look like that doesn’t worry about its own survival, and gives itself totally to being faithful?
What do people look like who do this?
What does it mean to trust in the God who does the impossible, who makes a way where there had been no way, who is faithful?
I think it would start to look like the story we just heard.
Thanks be to God.