April 8, 2018 Easter 2
Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen. Psalm 19:14
Alleluia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Do you know the word ‘reconciliation’? What does reconciliation mean to you?
Reconciliation is a term indicating the changed relationship for the better between persons or groups who formerly were at enmity with each other; the act of restoring a once harmonious relationship. In our baptismal vows we promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”
You may have heard of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in Chile, South Africa and Canada. Before reconciliation can happen the truth must be told about what has happened. The injured party must be free to tell how they have been injured and the offender must be willing to quietly listen. Whether the relationship between black and white citizens, victims of sexual abuse, indigenous people and the government and church or a husband and wife, many simply want to be heard and to receive a sincere apology for what should never have happened and be reassured that measures have been put in place to ensure it never happens again.
Our reading from Acts shares a vision of what a truly reconciled community might look like with the powerful and the wealthy caring for the poor and the marginalized so that none may be in need. This does not mean those with abundance giving away all that they have and being left destitute, it means that he who has two coats giving one of his coats to him who has no coat so that both may have a coat. If corn is grown not for profit, but to feed the hungry, then we would find that there is more than enough for the farmer and their family, for their neighbor and for the stranger across the globe, for the domestic animals and for the deer and kangaroo of the field. As we sang in Psalm 133, “Oh, how good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity!’, so is that my prayer for our community today.
But reconciliation is also about our new relationship with God as accomplished by Christ’s redemptive work. God does not need to be reconciled to us, but we need to be reconciled to God. We don’t know how to make things right with God. We may not even care to make things right with God. The good news that we hear in this Easter season is that God provided this reconciliation by the death of his Son upon the Cross so that we can find peace with God. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Through the mercy of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ our trespasses have been forgiven and likewise we must forgive those who trespass against us, not because of anything they have done to deserve our forgiveness but because God first forgave us, not because of anything we have done but because God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.
We tell the story of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hear of the tremendous suffering that he went through, torture, humiliation, and crucifixion. Yet from the cross we hear Jesus say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”, Luke 23:34. I cannot hear myself saying those words. Can you? With Jesus’ arrest and execution his followers have scattered, even his closest friends and disciples have fled and deserted him. Yet as that first Easter Sunday came to a close we hear the story of how Jesus appears in their midst and offers God’s peace to them. Jesus offers reconciliation to his disciples, to those who betrayed him, denied him and deserted him.
The disciples fear the Chief Priests and the Roman leaders, that they will be the next to be arrested and killed. Into this scene of fear and despair Jesus enters offering peace and reconciliation with himself and with God. Even though Jesus had told them three times as they journeyed to Jerusalem that he would rise again, they did not understand and did not believe. When the women tell the disciples of the empty tomb Peter and the beloved disciple run to the tomb to see for themselves. The beloved disciple sees the burial clothes lying in the tomb and believes. Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb to care for the dead body of the man she loved. Jesus speaks to her and she believes. Even with the news of the empty tomb and these resurrection appearances the disciples in the upper room do not believe. It is only when Jesus suddenly appears to them that they believe that Jesus has risen. Thomas does not believe them when they tell him they have seen Jesus. Thomas is not asking for anything that Mary, the beloved disciple and the other disciples have not already received, to be able to see the risen Jesus for himself and to touch his wounded flesh, only then can he believe. This is reasonable. Dead people do not come back to life. Why would anyone believe such an outrageous claim without proof and yet, that is exactly what is required of those who do not see Jesus and yet come to believe. After Jesus’ ascension he is never seen again, yet on the testimony of the disciples others come to believe as have we.
Today’s story includes John’s great commission and Pentecost story. Just as God sent Jesus into the world to tell people about the Kingdom of God and of God’s great love for humanity and his creation, now Jesus sends the disciples out as his apostles to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, to tell of God’s love and to reconcile all people and all creation back into relationship with God. So too we through the baptismal waters share in Jesus’ reconciling death and rise a new creation knowing that we are loved by God. Jesus, our Lord and God, sends us, you and me, out to share the good news of God’s love and to live into the Kingdom of God loving God and our neighbor, friend and foe, sharing from our bounty to feed the hungry, heal the sick, provide shelter for the homeless and to love the unlovable, reconciling all people to God and all of God’s creation.
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.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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