Acts 4:32-35, Easter 2B, John 20:29-31, Sermons

Life in His Name

(A sermon for Easter 2B–April 15, 2012–Acts 4:32-35; John 20:19-31)

A long time ago, in a land far away, people started sharing and writing down stories about Jesus. They wrote the stories down because they wanted everyone to have a chance to know something they believed: that God loved people very much and showed that love by living among us as Jesus. It was a strange idea then, a new idea. John’s gospel, in particular, assures us repeatedly that these stories are true, and the witnesses are reliable, mostly to counter what other people had to say in his day, 60 or 70 years after Jesus was crucified.

Most people in that time thought there was some kind of a God, or maybe an array of gods and goddesses, but those powerful creatures were supposed to be distant. No one thought God would come and walk around on the earth like normal people, being born and getting hungry and thirsty. No one thought God would let God’s own self be killed by people.  But a circle of believers, getting wider and wider in the decades after the Resurrection, believed it, very much. They told the story of Jesus, passing it down now for two thousand years, and last week we celebrated Easter, proclaiming, “Christ is risen!”

Now what?

This morning we baptized Baby E. His mom and dad and godparents made promises on his behalf, to raise him in an awareness of our Christian faith, in the hope that someday he will affirm his Baptism not just with words, but in living his life. We hope he will grow up with a sense of right and wrong informed by the Gospel stories about Jesus and the other scriptures that record the story of a long relationship between God and humankind. We hope he will find an extended family in this body of Christ’s people, that someday he will come and sit up front for the Children’s Time, that someday he will light the candles that symbolize the presence of God in our worship space.

And maybe, if he’s especially smart and trustworthy, he’ll learn how to run the dishwasher after coffee hour, just the right way.

We hope that in his life in the wider world, in the classroom or on the playing field or at band practice, when he faces a question about how to treat other people or how to conduct himself, he will draw on the lessons he will learn in Sunday School – the basics –
Jesus loves me –
Jesus calls on me to love God with everything I have,
my heart and my soul and my strength—
Jesus calls on me to love others as I love myself –
–which also means to love myself-
From there it gets harder –
Jesus also calls on me to love my enemies –
To show I am one of his people by looking out for other people who are in need:
People who are poor and hungry or homeless, people who are ill or in prison.

These are the things Jesus stressed.

His first disciples listened to him give these instructions over and over—we can imagine that he repeated himself as he moved around the countryside telling people about the way God loves us and forgives us.
They loved being with him – but they didn’t expect what was coming. They didn’t expect him to die.

So they sat, shocked and grieving, in the Upper Room that had been rented just a few days before – an Upper Room where they ate with him the same evening the soldiers came to arrest him and take him away.

They sat in the room remembering, the way we do when we miss someone we have lost too soon. They remembered the sound of his voice, the way he touched them, the last words they heard him say.
They sat there and remembered, locked in because they feared deep trouble for themselves.

And then he appeared to them.

They received a strange reassurance. He was not dead. He came right into the room with them, through a locked door, to share his peace with them, to promise that all he said on Thursday night would come to pass, and to encourage them in the ministry he would send them out to do.

And then he was gone again.

Christ is risen!

Now what?

I don’t think there’s a major life milestone that isn’t followed by that question.

(Full name of adorable baby), you were just baptized! What are you going to do?

I don’t know if there’s a family trip to Disney planned, but most of the time after these big events, we go back to life as usual. In Evan’s case, there may be a well-deserved and slightly postponed nap. Next week his mom will go back to school and keep teaching. After a time at home, his dad will go back to sea. And this major milestone, baptism, will remain important but also recede into history, a reference point but not an everyday recollection.

Christ is risen! Now what?

For the disciples, there was a time of hanging around to see what would happen next. The Book of Acts records their life together as they formed what we think of as a church. They had to be calling in memory on the things he said to them, as the drama of that week in Jerusalem shifted from present circumstances to a vivid memory, and then a story to tell, and then a life to live in his name.

He sent them out to share the Good News, the basics:
Jesus loves me –
Jesus calls on me to love God with everything I have,
my heart and my soul and my strength—
Jesus calls on me to love others as I love myself –
–which also means to love myself-
From there it gets harder –
Jesus also calls on me to love my enemies –
To show I am one of his people by looking out for other people who are in need:
People who are poor and hungry or homeless, people who are ill or in prison.

It’s easy to feel far away from this. First, all that selling everything and sharing it in common sounds un-American. Turn on the TV and you’ll find preachers telling you that if you believe in God just the right way, you’ll get rich!

You’ll have that new car!

That perfect job!

That trip to Disney…

I sometimes wonder if those preachers have read the Book of Acts.

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 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. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35, NRSV)

They remembered what he taught and did their best to create a community expressing values of care for one another and emphasizing the spread of the amazing story of Jesus, who died and lived again.

Christ is risen!

Now what?

Every Easter we relive their fear and their joy, and then, like them, we have to decide whether he will still be part of our lives.

If we choose him, now comes the day to day of living into his teaching, and I think it’s the case that all by themselves they are good rules for how to treat others, instructions that would make the world a better place, but there’s more.

We have more than his teachings. We have the hope of the Resurrection.

His Resurrection assures us that God cared enough to let us do our worst and to let us learn from it and to forgive us for it in the end.

His Resurrection assures us that even though the world teaches us to hold on tight to what we have, God is asking us to open our hands and hearts and take care of one another.

His Resurrection assures us that some things we feel certain must be dead forever can take on new forms of life.

It was Good News on Easter evening and Good News when the apostles started the first church, and it’s still Good News today: Christ is risen!

Now what?

Now comes life in His name. Amen.

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