Third Sunday of Easter – Earth Day
Revelation is the Lord’s doing
- Acts 9:1-6 Saul’s conversion to Paul
- Revelation 5: 11-14 Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
- John 21:1-19 Jesus showed himself again…catch of fish & question
Easter Greeting & Prayer
Christ is risen! Christ is Risen indeed!
We come to worship you and to hear your Word again this Sunday of Easter, God of revelation. We come with gratitude and awe that you intruded into the world by raising Jesus from the dead and revealing the Risen Jesus. In this great mystery and reality of Jesus’ resurrection you defeated the powers of death and evil and violence and sin. Show yourself again today in the Risen Christ so that we may see and follow the one who reigns with you, one God now and forever. Amen.
Seeing the Risen Christ who is among us
God intruded into the world in Jesus who lived on God’s created earth and was crucified at human hands. But God would not be done with humans or the world. So God intruded into the world again by raising Jesus from the dead and upsetting the world forever. This is the world we live in today as well as the world of Jesus’ day.
Jesus showed himself again!
In this world “Jesus showed himself again!” And Jesus shows himself again offering Easter people an Easter hope.
John’s Gospel concludes with a series of appearances of the Risen Christ. A resurrected Jesus encounters disciples several times surprising them and disrupting their known world. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene then to the disciples on the day of his resurrection. A week later Jesus appeared to Thomas with a greeting of peace. Thomas finally saw the Risen Jesus and let out a cry of confession, “My Lord and my God!” In a third appearance, Jesus appears to seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberius.
The Risen Jesus persists in intruding into the world of their lives to give them new hope.
Easter locates the source and summit of our hope. Jesus is risen and appears in life to those who can see the Risen Christ. If there had only been an empty tomb that Mary Magdalene and Peter and another disciple discovered on that first Easter morning, it wouldn’t have been enough. We wouldn’t rely on an empty tomb and hope against hope for the best. Jesus is revealed as risen in these surprising encounters with disciples who struggle with being Easter people.
Christianity is a “revealed religion.” Christian faith is not based so much on human discovery as it is on divine self-disclosure . God reveals God’s self by intruding in the world. There would be no gospel, no good news if the Risen Jesus had not shown himself again. Today’s gospel from John 21 begins, “After these things Jesus showed himself again.” Here in the risen Christ is our hope.
After all these years it is still not easy to see the Risen Christ. We are like Simon Peter who saw an empty tomb and went away without eyes to see. With little hope, Peter had had enough. He said, “I’m going fishing.” Peter was ready to return to his old life, the world that he knew. He went home to Galilee and he went back to fishing. The easiest thing is to return to familiar places and faces. Other disciples say, “We’ll go with you.” joining Peter’s decision to go home and go fishing.
After hearing that “Jesus showed himself again” we hear a specific list of disciples who were “gathered there together” (read 21:2). As Wes Howard Brook points out in his commentary on John’s Gospel, this is a unique list of disciples both in whose there and in that every one of them had earlier revealed some doubt about their relationship to Jesus. Finally each expresses a confession about who Jesus is which is followed by a rhetorical question from Jesus indicating some doubt about the depth of their understanding and commitment (467). These disciples are us. We need the Risen Jesus to show himself again.
The Risen Jesus won’t let them alone and intrudes in their hopeless world. At dawn Jesus appeared on the beach and gave a fishing lesson for their disappointed lives. “Have you caught any fish?” Jesus calls out to them. “No” they answer. “Cast your net to the right side of the boat” Jesus yells back. We can imagine Peter going, “Yeah, right. Like we don’ know how to fish and like one side of the boat is different from the other.” Yet they cast their nets on the other side and their nets were filled to the breaking point with fish.
In this surprise intrusion, Peter recognized the Risen Jesus and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” He jumped out of the boat, into the water and waded ashore while the others managed to drag the net filled with 153 fish back to shore. On the beach Jesus had built a fire and invited them to a breakfast of fish and bread. Then Jesus confronts Peter three times with the key question that gets to the heart of it all, “Do you love me? Do you love me. Do you love me.” This is the home owner’s equivalent of location, location, location. Love, love, love is the central command and way of hope.
This triune quest for love is climaxed with a simple but difficult command from the Risen Jesus: “Follow me” (21:19). It echoes the call to disciples at the very beginning of John’s Gospel and Jesus’ ministry (1:43).
The intrusion of the Risen Jesus and encounter with Peter is a parable of our world after Easter. “We are going about our business, assuming that the old familiar world is intact when the Risen Christ intrudes and everything explodes in wonder, miracle, and extravagance” (William Willimon, PR , 22). We are given Easter eyes to see the Risen Christ and live with new hope.
The Risen Christ appears today to us and the world
Easter confronts us with the intrusion of the Risen Christ. Our eyes — and the eyes of our hearts — are being prepared by the Gospel to see the Risen Christ in a world where Jesus is daily being crucified on the cross of violence – that is violence to others created in God’s image and violence to all creation.
Each Sunday in Easter we also hear a scripture from the Acts of the Apostles as the story of the emerging Christian movement. In today’s Acts scripture Saul is still breathing murderous threats against people he condemned as heretics while Jesus knew them as disciples. Violence reigned then as now.
This Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day. On this Sunday of Easter and Earth Day we are reminded that God’s redemption in the Risen Christ is for all of the cosmos. In this Easter act, God is saving the world and calling us to join in saving the created cosmos with God. Violence to creation is violence to the Risen Christ.
It is not only our relationship to God in Christ that is central to the meaning of our life and faith. It is our relationship to creation that is also central and in need of redemption.
“The final biblical answer lies in the relationship of creation to God, rather than its benefit for humanity” says Wes Granberg Michaelson, in an article from Sojourners called “Renewing the Whole Creation: A Theology of Relationships” ( Holy Ground: A Resource on Faith and the Environment , p. 6)
One color for Easter is white but another color for Easter could be green for the greening of God’s world again
Have you noticed how often there are references to “greening” in the news these days? Fortunately there is a growing consciousness about “greening” our lives and world.
Our neighbor church up the street, Lake City Christian Church is hosting an event with the Audubon Society on May 7, as a “Conversation about North Seattle’s Green Spaces.”
However another use of “green” is tragic and subversive and grounded in the violence that crucified Jesus. It is the “Green Zone” in Baghdad the base of American military occupation. The Green Zone is one of the most heavily fortified places in the world and is anything but “green” in our Easter and Earth Day sense.
Turning to another war, this week we remember that 20 years ago, on April 27, 1987, Ben Linder, a 27 year old UW engineering graduate, was killed in Nicaragua by Contras funded and armed by our tax dollars. Ben was trying to keep Nicaragua green by helping build a clean water project in Leon when he was killed by the Contras.
Our hearts are torn with yet another act of horrific violence this week, the tragedy at Virginia Tech University rends our heart. One of my Biblical Storytelling friends, Whitney Shiner’s daughter is a student at Virginia Tech. She happened to be off campus during this tragedy. The VTU community is grappling with the grief, fear, anger and scars to find hope and healing.
Yet the horror of Virginia Tech is multiplied in the daily horror of violence and death in Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur, the Congo and Colombia.
The temptation in the face of what we are wont to call “senseless violence” is to abandon hope and veer into the ditch of despair. Over the gate of hell in Dante’s Inferno are the words, “Abandon hope, all you who enter here.” To abandon hope in despair is to draw hell to earth and beckon others into the inferno.
Tony Robinson, one of the spiritual leaders in the Seattle community, wrote his column for the PI yesterday on how “Choosing hope over despair makes us human.” Tony says:
It is not as if despair, such complete abandonment of hope, is either senseless or strange to us. On the contrary, there is much that confronts us all in our day-to-day living that drives toward despair. It may be a seeming lack of integrity in institutions and leaders, the glitzy emptiness of culture, or the ugliness of strip-malled highways or abandoned urban centers. Despair makes its chilly presence felt in the potential for catastrophe, whether nuclear or ecological. If you want to look for it, and even if you do not, there’s no lack of inducement to despair. It is a force, a spirit among us, and yet it remains a choice…..At times hope appears irrational. Even then, and especially now, hope is something else. It is a thing of beauty.
In its Easter essence, our hope is in the revealed Risen Christ! Jesus shows himself again.
This Eastertide I know that I face that choice between despair and hope. Not the least reason being the ongoing discernment and struggle over homosexuality and my credentials and over the struggle and pain each one of you hold over both as well. All week I have been deeply aware of an inner conflict and the temptation to veer into the ditch of despair with another meeting with our conference leaders on Friday. As we returned home from that meeting I asked Marg, Thelma, Amy and Laura (Micheal was at the meeting but not in the car with us) what they would say to you here in the congregation about our meeting with PNMC leaders. We quickly began talking about the tension between holding on to hope and having little hope in and for the church. After their reflections I jotted down a brief response of my own. I wrote:
Again we had a good, long, intense, difficult and unfinished conversation with our PNMC Conference Ministers and Pastoral Leadership Committee members. Together we prayerfully struggle and seek the next step. My ministerial credentials remain “at variance” until the annual PNMC meeting in June or until we reach a new mutual agreement on the reformulation of the 5 points of last June’s joint statement. While I am tempted by despair over great disagreements and a potential impasse, I hold on to hope for the long haul, a hope that is bigger than any of us and a hope that is beyond homosexuality or my credentials. Together we hope to forge a reformulated agreement over the next month that will lead us to take the next step. More than that, our hope is in the incarnate, crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Apart from that truth I know no hope.
Another sign of hope in Eastertide is music. Certainly the Folk Group music here leading us in worship this morning is a sign of the revealed and Risen Jesus. Last night it came in the majestic music and prophetic hope of Bernice Johnson Reagon and the Seattle Women’s Chorus including the voices of Sylvia and Debbie. And yes, the Risen Jesus was revealed in their music.
Next Sunday in this Eastertide, Art Laffin will be with us for worship. Art is a friend of Wes and Sue’s from the Catholic Worker House in Washington DC. He is a long-time peace activist. Yesterday I talked by phone with Art about their Witness against Torture at the White House on Wednesday. At the doorstep of the White House and nation, people gathered to say “No to torture and war” and to pray for victims of torture and war everywhere. Fourteen of these witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were arrested and will go on trial in July. Their call to the country and church is to “recommit ourselves to practice resurrection and labor for the beloved community.”
I will be at Camp Camrec with others of us for the work day and board meeting and to lead worship there next Sunday morning. Camrec is also a sign of hope in the revealed and Risen Jesus in God’s creation and church.
This Eastertide and always look for the Risen Christ and practice resurrection. For Jesus is showing himself again….and again. Amen.