Archives for May 2011

We are blessed, 6 Easter (A) – 2011

May 29, 2011

Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:7-18; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21 

“Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, nor withheld his love from me.”

That feels good. Let’s say that psalm verse out loud, together: “Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, nor withheld his love from me.”

How great it is that our God – the same God who took on flesh and lived among us, who was betrayed, tortured, killed, and buried – rose again and still, in spite of our continuing sinfulness, loves us. Not only does God continue to love us, God chooses to abide within us still. It’s all good news!

It’s not only good news – we’re also given some helpful direction in how to share this news with others. Paul helps us with that most difficult of all church concepts, evangelization.

Paul treats the Athenians with courtesy and seriousness. “I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship.” He didn’t stride into their space and begin by tearing down what was sacred to them. Paul took the time to walk around, see who they were and how they prayed. He noticed the altar to an unknown god, and he built on this. Brilliant! His thoughtfulness allowed the Athenians to hear him with open minds. What a lesson for us all. We’ve all probably had the experience of feeling diminished when someone comes into our communal worship life and immediately begins to change things without learning about us.

This is the way of love. Take the time to investigate the history of a place or a people. Learn about the things that are sacred. Appreciate the things that others hold dear, even if these things need to be dusted off and fixed. Remember, God has chosen to abide within us – everyone of us. This demands that we treat each other thoughtfully and, as Peter says, with gentleness and reverence.

Peter continues offering to his hearers and to us a look at what our life might be as we follow Jesus. While today’s readings sound, overall, like very good news, Peter reminds us that good news doesn’t automatically mean an easy life. Human nature will always be, well, human, with all the foibles and sinfulness, joys and sadness, sickness and health, death and life that living in the natural world brings. No matter how hard we try to do good, we have our weaknesses and we all sin.

The thing that might seem most odd to us is that when we do right we often suffer for it. It’s not terribly reassuring to hear that when we suffer for doing good it’s a blessing. Suffering is not pleasant, whether it’s as simple as having our feelings hurt or it’s the ultimate price of losing our lives. The church has long told the stories of those who have lost their lives for their faith – sometimes gory, frightening stories that make us cringe just thinking of what the martyr suffered. We have martyrs even today who have lost their lives to gain eternal life. Archbishop Romero of San Salvador was shot and killed while celebrating the Eucharist by those who hated the poor. We have people like Mother Teresa who cared for the poorest of the poor and lived a life of self-denial and, at times, self-doubt.

We do good, but sometimes we suffer for it. It doesn’t seem right. What keeps us from just giving up and caring only for ourselves? It has to be the focus of our readings today: love. It has to be the understanding that God loves us and that God’s love is a deep, abiding love, not a shallow, fickle love.

God’s love is our strength in suffering as well as in joy. So often we’re tempted to wonder where God is when disaster strikes. We hear people ask where was God when the tsunami struck Japan or the earthquake leveled Haiti. We wonder where God was when tornados tear ragged killing wounds across our beautiful communities. We may even question how God could let something like that happen. Did God make it happen?

Those questions might even be too hard to wonder about. Where would we go for comfort if our God abandoned us like that?

What our passages today remind us is that the heart of God suffers with us. The abiding, strengthening heart of God wraps us in love and compassion when very human things or natural things threaten to overwhelm us. That love is often seen in those good works we thought about. A letter from an American woman living in Japan speaks eloquently of the love that overcomes suffering:

“The Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.”

This is God’s abiding love pouring from person to person, heart to heart. Jesus told his disciples that he would not leave them orphans and they would also be sent an Advocate to be with them forever. God doesn’t cause our suffering; God gives us gift after gift to help us deal with life. The blessings Peter talked about include God’s presence in each of us. God’s spirit stays with us, no matter how we behave. God is there to help, guide, comfort, and love.

Today it is all good news. We are blessed. We are loved. With the psalmist we can say with rejoicing:

Bless our God, you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard;
Who holds our souls in life,
and will not allow our feet to slip.

Good news, indeed!

 

— The Rev. Dr. Susanna Metz is vicar of Petrockstowe in the Torridge Team, Diocese of Exeter, North Devon, England, and is the publisher of Tuesday Morning, a quarterly journal focused on lectionary-based preaching and ministry.

To become transparent to the light, 5 Easter (A) – 2011

May 22, 2011

Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

The New Testament contains a number of stories in which Jesus appears to people after his resurrection from the dead. However, the Easter message of the New Testament is more complex than these stories taken by themselves. The entirety of the New Testament was written from a post-resurrection perspective. The various documents represent diverse efforts by the first Christian generations to set forth the significance of our Lord’s victory over death.

They do so, not only through the use of story, but by presenting potent images that have been reborn to fresh meaning through the resurrection event. Let’s consider three of these images found in today’s readings:

• Our passage from Acts portrays Jesus as “standing at the right hand of God,” occupying a place of supreme honor beside the heavenly throne.
• Our reading from First Peter features Jesus as a cornerstone that is rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight.
• Our selection from John’s gospel presents Jesus as making ready a place where we can abide in the house of his Father.

So: supreme honor, the cornerstone, our abiding place. Here are ways that scripture presents the risen Lord so that we can recognize his significance for us and for all people. Let’s look again at each one of these images.

First: the image of supreme honor. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Like Jesus himself, Stephen, when he is about to die, prays that those responsible for his execution will be forgiven.

What enables him to do this? Moments earlier, Stephen cried out, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” He recognized Jesus in the heavenly place of honor.

Here is the same Jesus who, a short time before, had been put to a shameful death. The Jesus who rose from the grave with the wounds of crucifixion still visible on his body. Yes, that Jesus.

The Father has delivered him from destruction and exalted him to heaven. Death’s control has been shattered. Moreover, every power has been compromised by this exaltation. Because Jesus reigns on high, no throne on earth can be absolute.

This is good news for Stephen as his end draws near. He recognizes and rejoices that because Jesus is alive and reigns, death will have no dominion over him.

Next comes the image of the cornerstone. The First Letter of Peter offers instruction regarding traditions about Jesus. The Lord is acknowledged as the precious cornerstone that aligns the new creation where Christians serve as building blocks in the construction project that God now has under way.

What’s being raised up is a holy site, a new temple where people offer themselves as living sacrifices. This house built by God replaces every previous temple. It inaugurates a new order in the relationship between the divine and the human.

Christ the cornerstone was at first rejected. The compassion of God, the truth of God, the wisdom of God as embodied in him was more than people could tolerate. They stumbled over what was meant for their salvation. They scorned a precious gift.

Yet divine power was manifest in patience and persistence. Raised from the dead, Jesus became the first and final person in a new humanity, a fresh creation, a bigger and better building project to serve the purposes of God.

Christ as cornerstone announces that the universe does not spiral down to defeat and destruction, but by grace spirals upward to victory and life. And everybody, absolutely everybody, is free to join the winning side.

The third image is the abiding place. In John’s gospel, Jesus speaks of his Father’s house with its multitude of dwelling places. What’s set forth through this language is not limited to heaven, but is meant to appear on earth as well.

Here an image of place serves to illustrate what relationships are meant to be. Jesus wants each of us to enjoy a relationship with his Father through him. That is what he prepares for us.

The term that is often translated as “mansions” or “dwelling places” can also be rendered “abiding places.” It is similar to the language used when Jesus calls on us to abide in him as he abides in us. The life Jesus shares with his Father, the life we share with Jesus are thus revealed as one and the same life.

Here is our satisfaction. Here is our exultation! The abiding place Jesus makes available far exceeds every other notion of human fulfillment. We are welcomed into the life of God. What more can we have than that?

The Easter message realigns us in multiple ways. This happens through resurrection stories that appear at the end of each gospel. It happens as well through Easter images, among them: supreme honor, the cornerstone, and our abiding place.

If these images hold true, then the world is very different than how we often regard it, and life must be lived in a way drastically at variance with how we often live it.

Because Jesus occupies the place of honor, powerful countries and corporations are not absolute, and small idols are obsolete. Authority belongs to him.

Because Jesus is the cornerstone, the world is not spiraling down to destruction, but is a massive building project where death surrenders daily to new life and those who rise with Christ are many.

Because Jesus provides us with an abiding place, we need not get too comfortable elsewhere, nor may we accept anything less as home. God’s life must be our reality and our hope, encountered in company with one another.

God’s heart is set on making real the community these images announce. Easter means that not even death can stand in the way. We are talking here about something huge: God reigns, and we reign with him.

How can our lives become transparent to this light?

To thrive as a Christian is not easy. However, it is simple. By treating it otherwise, we skate around the challenge and miss the blessing.

Jesus recognizes that our hearts are troubled. In today’s gospel, he addresses not only the first disciples, but us as well. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

Believe in Jesus. Believe in God. Put your absolute trust there, not in yourself or some other fallible human or some imperfect institution.

Believe in Jesus, the wounded one, the murdered one, now in the place of supreme honor.

Believe in Jesus, the cornerstone of the vast new creation that is being built right now.

Believe in Jesus, who offers us now as well as later a place to abide in the house of his Father.

Become transparent to this light. And as you do, you may find these images of Easter helpful. They contain both the challenge and the promise.

Or you may reach out for other choices, different images of Easter. Consider this one, which came to Harvard professor Nicholas Wolterstorff as he grieved the death of his son: “Faith is the footbridge that you don’t know will hold up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.”

Consider also the Easter image an old gospel song declares:

“Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand.”

To become transparent to the light, we must have our images of Easter. There are many available, new ones all the time.

Consider these questions during the week ahead:

• What images of Easter help me to be transparent to the light?
• Do I need fresh images so that my faith can keep pace with my experience?
• Where in my life are these fresh Easter images available to me, images that will help me return, time and again, to believe in Jesus, to believe in God?

— The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is an Episcopal priest and writer. He is the author of ”A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals” (Cowley Publications, 2003).

Sheep who are called, 4 Easter (A) – 2011

May 15, 2011

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

It’s not easy being called sheep. Sheep have become the symbol, in our culture, of mindless compliance with societal norms. Many an Internet commentator has delivered a withering, independent-minded diatribe against the unquestioning masses he derides as “sheeple.” Even if you’re comfortable with compliance, there’s also the bald fact that, as stated by the farmer in a classic Monty Python television sketch, “Sheep are very dim.”

Jesus, however, seems to credit sheep with a good deal more sense – in any case, with the one important sense of knowing their shepherd’s voice. Important not because the sheep are followers in their essence, but because they are wanderers by nature. And sensible not because the sheep are dim enough to follow any voice, but discerning enough to follow only the right voice. That discerning ear matters because the sheep are facing real dangers, from without and from within.

Jesus promises that with the Lord as our shepherd, we will “come in and go out and find pasture.” Outside the fold, sheep are under threat from predators. The shepherd’s rod and staff are not only comfort, but protection. But the biggest risk comes from the sheep themselves – they are apt to wander off, each to its own way. God our Providence promises to sustain us, but it’s hard for us to believe in God’s abundance. Instead, we are constantly scouting for greener pastures, imagining that we do not have enough by God’s hand. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,” writes Robert Robinson in his hymn that names God the “fount of every blessing.”

Jesus, however, seems especially concerned about dangers inside the sheepfold. Even in our place of shelter and rest, thieves may come in to steal and kill and destroy. Some slip over the walls and whisper to us that our Easter hope is misguided, that we truly are following blindly, that death, after all, will have the final word. Some thieves call to us from outside, telling us that our shelter is a prison and that we’d do better to leave behind our false sense of security.

Then, sometimes, our own wandering hearts tempt us in the same way, giving us false hope that there’s an easier path to transcendence, without all the work and uncertainty of transformation by the grace of God. In that same Monty Python sketch, a visitor to the farm is shocked to see sheep up in the trees – nesting, as the farmer tells him. The sheep are also trying to fly, convinced by a sheep named Howard that they are, in fact, birds. The farmer explains that Howard is “that most dangerous of all animals: the clever sheep.”

Perhaps we, too, are trying to be too clever. And wouldn’t it be easier if we could just take wing? If our human natures were merely an illusion, waiting to be cast off? If we didn’t need to be patient followers, trusting beyond our immediate desires? If we didn’t need to suffer the indignities of our limitations, and if we weren’t called to ease the sufferings of our neighbors? Wouldn’t it be easier if our shepherd and savior didn’t first have to suffer death upon the cross, before he entered into heaven?

In the eyes of the world, we may seem foolish to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. A thousand competing voices call to us that we should look for escape instead of sacrifice, should seek an easier bliss than the peace of God, should search for our own greener pastures and leave the rest of the flock behind. Christ crucified is still a stumbling block, still looks like foolishness to many. Why would we worship a God who became like us, who died as one of the lambs?

But Jesus doesn’t call us to become something different; he calls us to grow into who we truly are. The Good Shepherd doesn’t round up the sheep with a whistle, or herd them with whips and prods and dogs. The Good Shepherd calls the sheep by name.

In the end, our only wisdom is to know our shepherd’s voice. Our one skill as sheep is to listen – to listen from the deep place in which we recognize who we truly are, and whose we truly are. Because the Good Shepherd is the only one who calls us by our own names, our true names, our Created names.

It’s still not easy to be called sheep. But it’s our blessing, our safety, our abundance, to be sheep who are called – called each by name.

 

— The Rev. G. Cole Gruberth is priest-in-charge of the Southern Tier Episcopal Ministry, a community of seven houses of worship and welcome, within the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y.

Pay attention, 3 Easter (A) – 2011

May 8, 2011

Acts 2:14a,36-41Psalm 116:1-3, 10-171 Peter 1:17-23Luke 24:13-35

When we want to talk about something or someone we know truly or deeply, we often resort to the language of the heart. Helen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” In “Measure for Measure,” Shakespeare wrote, “Go to your bosom; Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.” And Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and philosopher, famously said, “The heart has reasons which the reason cannot understand.” When we try to express the way we know something truly or deeply or beautifully, we often turn to the metaphor and language of the heart.

We do this in our religious language as well. We don’t want just second-hand knowledge in religion. Abstract formulas and dusty dogmas won’t sustain us for very long. We want first-hand experience as well. We want to know these things in our hearts. The best and the most beautiful things in the world must be felt with the heart. We do need to know them with our minds. But we must also know them with our hearts.

Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s most important and creative theologians, often used the phrase “the sense of the heart” to talk about the way we truly know God. Edwards’ vision of God was primarily aesthetic; he talked about the beauty of God’s holiness. And our knowledge of God is also aesthetic. We know God through a sense of the heart. For Edwards, knowledge of God is not unreasonable. Our rational minds are engaged in religious knowledge. But it is more than rational because it includes our whole being, includes our heart as well as our head.

In Edwards’ “Personal Narrative,” he writes about his religious experience. He said:

“The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden as it were, kindle up a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of my soul, that I know not how to express. … I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father’s pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looked up on the sky and clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. … The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything. God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature. … I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the meantime, singing forth with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer.”

For Edwards, the sense of the heart is the key to true religion. There certainly is a rational knowledge of God. But without the sense of the heart, this knowledge is abstract and cold, what Edwards’ calls merely “notional” knowledge. The sense of the heart adds the experience of inward sweetness. Edwards says it’s like the difference between having an abstract, rational judgment that honey is sweet, and actually tasting its sweetness. True religion is not simply knowledge about God or divine things. True religion is the actual experience of the inward sweetness of God, a sense of the heart in which we know the true beauty and mercy of God. And isn’t that what we all really long for, even in a church that prides itself on its thoughtful approach to faith? Don’t we all long for more than abstract, notional knowledge of God? Don’t we all really want to truly know God, to experience God’s inner sweetness, to have a sense of the beauty and mercy of God in our hearts as well as in our minds? Don’t we all long for this sense of the heart?

I think this is why Edwards says that “true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.” The affections are not simply the emotions or passions. They are, rather, what moves us, moves us from neutrality and indifference, and inclines our hearts to posses or to grasp something. Love, of course, is not only one of the affections, but the first and foremost of the affections, because love is the prime mover and motivator of the human heart. Holy affections are the means by which we not only know about God, but grasp the reality of God, and experience the inward sweetness of God.

“True religion … consists in holy affections.”

“The best and the most beautiful things in the world … must be felt with the heart.”

In the Emmaus story that we heard this morning, we hear a story about some early disciples’ hearts burning within them, a story about the sense of the heart. It’s a great story that we hear during Eastertide about the risen Lord who accompanies a couple of disciples who are walking along the road to a town named Emmaus. What’s interesting about the story is that they don’t immediately recognize Jesus. They are blathering on about the events of late in Jerusalem, about Jesus and the other disciples, and they are quite frankly a bit astonished at how ill-informed this stranger walking along with them is. As the story progresses, Jesus, still unrecognized by the disciples, explains to them the events that took place and the scriptures. When they finally get to Emmaus, they still haven’t recognized Jesus, but they invite him stay with them in town. At supper, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them, and finally their eyes are opened and they recognize him for who he truly is. After Jesus leaves them, they turn to each other and say, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

“Were not our hearts burning within us?” The sense of the heart. The disciples really didn’t get it until they grasped it with their hearts. It’s not just knowing about the events that took place. It’s not even just knowing about the scriptures. It’s knowing about them in a way in which their hearts were burning within them. It’s this type of knowledge, this sense of the heart, that transforms them and allows them to perceive the reality of who this stranger truly is who was accompanying them along the road. It is the sense of the heart that allows them to recognize the Lord in their midst.

“True religion … consists in holy affections.”

“The best and the most beautiful things in the world … must be felt with the heart.”

This is true. We love our Episcopal Church, where we don’t have to leave our heads at the door. But the Episcopal Church is also a church attuned to beauty, to the beauty of God’s holiness. We shouldn’t have to check our hearts at the door either. And in actuality, let’s just get rid of the image of the door entirely. We need our heads and our hearts as we try to understand the totality of our human experience. Wherever we are, whether in church, or in our homes, or out in nature like Jonathan Edwards, we need to pay attention to our heads and our hearts. We need to pay attention to those human experiences that give rise to holy affections. Pay attention to those experiences that, as Edwards said, kindle up a sweet burning in our hearts; an ardor in our souls, where we get a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God.

Pay attention to those experiences when you feel your hearts burning within you. It is precisely in these moments that we become aware of the Lord, who is always with us, who is always accompanying us on our journey.

 

— The Rev. Dr. Joseph S. Pagano is the associate rector of St. Anne’s Parish in Annapolis, Md., and co-author of “A Man, A Woman, A Word of Love” (Wipf & Stock, 2012).

Godly peace, 2 Easter (A) – 2011

May 1, 2011

Acts 2:14a,22-32Psalm 161 Peter 1:3-9John 20:19-31

Today’s gospel reading teaches us about fear and doubt on one hand and faith and risk on the other.

We don’t have to be taught about fear and doubt – not if we have lived a few years and kept our eyes open. Living is bound to cause us to have fear and doubt. Nearly a decade after 9/11, we still fear a new terrorist attack. We worry about a persistent flow of people into our country from the south. We tremble when we remember a congresswoman being shot down at a grocery store in Arizona and the ever-present possibility of global warming or natural disasters, like the earthquake and Tsunami that devastated Japan. We worry about the nagging economic recession that seems to threaten our standard of living. The constant possibility of bad things happening confronts us on almost every news program.

Furthermore, the culture of fear and doubt that pervades modern life is characterized by many radio and television political talk shows that trade on the currency of demonizing one side or other and whipping up fear about them in the hearts of listeners. Does anyone feel safe anymore in this kind of cultural environment?

Sometimes it makes us want to hunker down and hide in what seems like a safe place, doesn’t it? That’s what the disciples were doing in the situation related in today’s gospel. They cowered down in fear behind locked doors, where they had huddled for a week. Their bubble had burst. Enemies of their leader had killed him, and they must have wondered who among them would be next. Even before Jesus was crucified, Peter had been so afraid that he denied – three times – even knowing him. Because one of them, Judas, had betrayed Jesus, they might even have feared one another, wondering who might be the next to betray the others. They were afraid and kept the doors locked, even though the once-crucified and now-resurrected Jesus had been there once already, giving them an initial experience of the reality of the Resurrection.

We, too, know what the disciples were feeling, don’t we? We know about living behind locked doors in a culture of fear. We, too, are frightened disciples. We know about what fear leads to: insecurity, anger, anxiety, physical illness, escapism, emotional paralysis, compulsion, addiction, uncertainty, and doubt. All too often, out of a sense of perceived threat and in self-protection, fear leads us to self-protective and over-reactive behavior. If our fear comes from being harmed or threatened by others, it can lead to the sins of intolerance and prejudice, to reprisals and retribution, returning evil for evil.

Sometimes we despair as we wonder whether we can ever find viable options to such a culture of fear. But such is the Good Friday experience – and Christians know that the Crucifixion experience does not remain death on a cross and loss of hope. Luckily for us, God offers us the Easter experience – the reality created by Jesus, who, by overcoming death, chose the way of risk and faith instead of fear and doubt. That’s the reality he brought to Thomas, and that is the realization that set Thomas free to affirm the life of faith.

Jesus comes to us as he came to Thomas by placing us, too, right smack in the middle of the same Easter experience. Jesus, as God, comes to us as he did to Thomas and the other disciples – comes to us all even before we stop doubting, even before we overcome our fear, even before we know we can unlock the doors of false security. God brings the Easter reality to us in whatever we are doing, but especially when we are afraid and doubtful. As he helped the disciples, God helps us discover what we can be and what we can do – if.

If even when we are not completely free from doubt and uncertainty, we dare to step beyond the locked doors of fear.

If we can find the faith to move ahead, beyond fear and doubt, our Lord assures us that, in his name, we can do and become more than we ever imagined. Because, whenever we cower behind the locked doors of our lives, Jesus is present, as he was for Thomas, gently and patiently breaking through our insecurities and doubts and calling us out into a life of faith.

Wherever we are, Jesus is there to love and empower us. Jesus is there to help us discover that we, too, are an active part of the Resurrection; that we, too, are part of the continuing Easter story; that we, too, are the Body of Christ, risen to the new life of love and peace and grace that has the power to transform fear into faith.

Embracing Jesus as Thomas did, embracing Easter, leads us to see what is on the other side of our locked doors. Embracing Jesus as Thomas did offers us a different view – a different way from that of fear and doubt. It is a way of love and forgiveness and peace and tolerance and respect for others.

Of course, this is very difficult in the midst of a culture of fear. In our humanness, we are bound to resist God’s way of love because it seems so impossible. We are bound to feel like Thomas in his initial reaction. It is hard to believe something we cannot see and that is foreign to us. It is hard to believe what the world discounts and resists. It is hard to believe the power of love and forgiveness and the power of God to overcome fear and bringing good out of evil.

And yet, Easter is what Jesus came to show Thomas – to teach him that God will not let the bad win out in the end. Easter is what Jesus comes to show us – that by faith we too will not let the bad win out at the last. Easter is this: that we can see the possibilities that come from joining Thomas in affirming Jesus as he did, saying, “My Lord and My God.” This assertion of belief will help us understand the power of what Jesus said to all the disciples when he appeared to them: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He gave them, as he gives us, Godly peace so we can move beyond the locked doors of our lives – beyond what shuts us off from community with our brothers and sisters. The risen Christ makes himself known to us and gives us God’s peace, setting us free from our darkest fears. He gives us the keys to unlock the closed-up doors of our lives. And as we unlock them, with God’s peace and love, we are free to begin living with the power of Easter in our hearts.

 

— The Rev. Ken Kesselus, author of “John E. Hines: Granite on Fire” (Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, 1995), is retired from full-time, active ministry and lives with his wife in his native home, Bastrop, Texas.