Sermon Easter 3B

April 22, 2012 at 6:52 am 1 comment

Easter 3B 2012
April 22, 2012

It is the Third Sunday of Easter in the Church’s calendar.
But first a word about Earth Day.
The word is this:
Earth Day is not a Christian holiday.
The Church today celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
We indeed have a responsibility to steward the resources
of the planet upon which God has placed us.
There are all sorts of Scripture passages which support this.
And so I do not want to say anything against stewardship of the environment.
Stewardship of the environment is a positive response to the fifth commandment,
‘You shall not kill,’
and it deserves our attention, our consideration, and our efforts.
But in today’s world that is without the Gospel as a unifying mission,
environmental stewardship has become, for many, a mission that replaces it.
This is idolatry,
to believe that we must save the world,
when it has already been saved.
Christ’s death and resurrection frees us to act as creatures of the Earth,
to serve the many peoples of the world,
without fear and without hatred,
and also knowing that the world’s ultimate destiny is in better hands than ours.
I don’t think this is a ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ position to take.
Christ is risen,
and this is the central faith of our lives,
and our central mission is to glorify him and witness to him in thought, word, and deed.
May it always be so. Amen

I have always found the texts on the Third Sunday of Easter hard to preach.
On Easter Sunday, we’ve got the Resurrection,
on the second Sunday, we hear about the Holy Spirit and Thomas,
but the Third Sunday is full of theological reflection on the suffering of Jesus.
We seem to be back in Holy Week in today’s readings,
especially the first one.
The Apostle Peter,
now filled with the Holy Spirit
and freed from his cowardice that he showed in the courtyard of the High Priest,
is boldly testifying to the people of their complicity in the death of Jesus.
Strange enough that he would be doing so,
stranger still that he would be telling a group of people
who probably were not present at Jesus’ trial and execution
that ‘they’ did this to Jesus.
But people a long time ago and in different parts of the world
had and have a far different sense
of individual responsibility, indeed of an individual ‘self,’
than we do today in our part of the world.

I don’t say that I landed on Plymouth Rock,
or that I declared independence from the British,
or fought at Gettysburg or in Vietnam or in Iraq or Afghanistan.
That was something that happened to other people.
But even so, in some sense it was ‘we’ who did this,
in the sense that what my people do affects me,
and I participate, even at a distance of miles or years,
in the actions of my people.
This sense is even more strongly felt in other cultures and in other lands.
For a devout Jew, even though the events happened thousands of years ago,
God rescued them from Egypt, not just the people living then,
God rescued them.
And it is with this backdrop that we can understand Peter saying,
‘You did this to the Messiah,’
and the people to understand what he meant.
We have the same thing in our hymn ‘Ah, Holy Jesus.’
‘’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee.
I crucified thee.’
Or even, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord.’
We share in humanity’s rebellion against God,
and to that extent we can say, ‘it was I.’
We cannot escape our complicity in evil.

But what Peter says next is even stranger to our twenty-first century ears.
‘In this way God fulfilled what he foretold through his prophets,
that his Messiah should suffer.’
Jesus himself says the same thing to the disciples in our Gospel reading:
“ ‘‘Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them,
‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer…’ “
Far from the conquering figure that all Israel expected,
Jesus came in weakness and died in shame.
It was this that led many to reject him.
But the Old Testament is full of stories of those who have suffered
and were vindicated by God.
Abraham, Joseph, Moses;
Hannah, Naomi and Ruth;
David, Job, Jonah;
the suffering servant of Isaiah;
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego,
and a host of countless others.
The psalms are full of lament and meditation
on the whys and wherefores of suffering,
and conclude that there is no hope but to put one’s hope in God.
In Jesus, Christians believe that the writings of the Old Testament were fulfilled;
that God himself came and shared the lot of his people,
in bondage to sin, evil, and death.
The Son of God was rejected by all,
but he put his trust in his Father,
and was vindicated by his Father.
Victory, yes,
but victory through suffering and trial,
victory through death and resurrection.

We would do well to remember this way in which Jesus fulfills the Scriptures.
For we are promised victory in Jesus,
and yet we forget that this victory will also be through suffering.
St John says, ‘The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.’
We wonder why, if Jesus is victorious, we should be under attack
and why we don’t sometimes see Jesus’ victory clearly in our lives or in the life of the world.
The reason is simple:
Jesus’ life is the paradigm, the pattern, for ours.
We need to have our minds opened to understand the Scriptures,
that as the Messiah suffered, put his faith in God his Father, and was raised,
so we too may look beyond our suffering in the world,
may look beyond our bondage to sin,
and raise our eyes to the forgiveness and resurrection that is ours by faith
and will be one day ours by sight.

God raised Jesus from the dead.
He vindicated his servant, when the world rejected him.
Just as he vindicated Abraham, Hannah, Moses, Daniel,
and that whole host of forerunners who lived by faith.
The Father vindicated the Son so that through him,
we might have forgiveness of sins and life in his name.
As we are part of God’s people, we may believe that Jesus died for us;
not just for Peter and the other apostles,
not just for those to whom they preached,
but to us,
who have heard their witness over the years,
who have acted in ignorance but hear God’s gracious invitation
to live a life of repentance, turning to him who has been revealed in his Son.
We rejoice in the promise of being God’s children,
and the promise that one day we shall see the earth restored to its original glory
and ourselves fully conformed to the image of God
revealed in Jesus Christ.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. singinjenny  |  April 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    I should so be heading off to slumberland, but here i am reading your easter sermon…I must be a fan 😀

    Reply

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