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Easter 2 April 3, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
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EASTER 2  Year C
Acts 5:27-32; Ps. 150; Rev. 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, April 3, 2016
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
 
[With thanks to St. Romanos the Melodist (the Humble Romanos), 6th century poet and singer, author of the chanted sermon form called the kontakion, the poetic voice of the Byzantine Church.  The form of this homily, with refrains, is loosely based on the structure of the kontakion.]
 
 
[Prelude]
 
It was evening of that day,
the first day
          of the week,
the day
          of resurrection.
 
[1]
The disciples,
risking discovery and arrest,
had left their various places of hiding
          scattered throughout Jerusalem . . .
 
Under cover of evening's
          spreading darkness
they had hurried through its hostile streets
to the house
where they
were accustomed to meet,
 
locking the doors
firmly behind them.
 

Can we even begin
to imagine
          the precarious emotional state
                    of that small and fragile fellowship?
 
They were in danger
          and afraid;
brokenhearted
          and aching with grief;
shocked
          by the sudden dashing
                   of all their expectations
          and full of despair,
 
disappointed in themselves
          and each other
                   for their
                             desertion of Jesus . . .
                            
                   They had left him,
                                      as he would never have left them,
                                                to face suffering and death alone.
 
Hiding in that locked room,
behind the locked doors
          of their own hearts,
struggling with
sorrow,
          regret,
                   guilt,
                             self-recrimination,
 
they had not yet
          discovered
                   resurrection.

[2]
But there was something else
hovering at the edges
          of their understanding,
the
wild and vague hope
that had brought them
          together again,
 
stirred up by
the astonishing story
Mary Magdalene was telling.
 
Early that morning,
she
had gone to grieve
at the tomb of Jesus –
 
and found it open
and empty.
 
Suddenly, someone
standing behind her . . .
 
speaking her name,
 
her friend and Lord,
          somehow alive!
 
She turned and found herself
          face to face
                   with resurrection.

[3]
She had hurried,
shaken and excited,
to tell the disciples –
 
and
that evening
we find them
          in their familiar meeting place
brought by strange anticipation . . .
 
Then Jesus himself
came and stood among them
and said,
"Peace be with you."
 
And they, too,
found themselves
          greeted by
                   resurrection.
 
[4]
Those marvelous resurrection stories.
 
Easter week has been full of them,
in the daily office,
in the weekday Eucharists.
 
The Risen Christ
seeking out his disciples
          at the empty tomb,
          in the upper room in Jerusalem,
          on the road to Emmaus,
          on the beach in Galilee –
 
revealing himself to them in Scripture,
in the breaking of bread,
by the wounds of crucifixion –
          "Yes, it is I, touch me and see.
          Do not doubt but believe."
The stories convey
the confusion and excitement
of those early days
 
when
sorrow and despair
became
wonderment, reawakening hope – Joy
 
as the disciples were
          caught up
                   in resurrection.  
[5]
Their  
encounters with the Risen Christ
are told
          in the homey and intimate details
                   of everyday life:
 
they meet him
          as they walk along a road,
          talk with one another
          break bread together,
          share an early morning breakfast
                   of broiled fish after a long cold night
                                      at their fishing nets.
 
And yet,
in these simple stories
we encounter a Mystery
that
stretches our sense
          of the possible
                   to the breaking point;
 
that
shatters all our
          preconceived notions
          about
                   what can happen in this world
                   and
                   what might be possible for us  . . .
          inviting us to
          lay aside our own doubts and fears,
                   unlock the doors of our own hearts,
                   and, with those first disciples,
                             be
                             seized
                                      by resurrection.
 
 
[Interlude]
 
When the Risen Christ
said to his disciples
"Peace be with you,"
he was not simply calming
unsettled hearts and minds . . .
 
He was giving them his own peace,
a peace to dwell at the very core of their being,  
          that they might be able to meet
                   the challenges of their new reality.
 
For everything had not suddenly
gone back to normal,
          as they may have thought . . .
 
things were careening away from "normal"
just as fast as they could go.
 
And he was preparing them
to tell the world about it,
a world that would not always
          welcome their good news.
 
For he had not come back from death
          to a life that would end in another death –
he had gone on, THROUGH death,
to a new order of living,
          that would never die.
         
And he was inviting his disciples,
as he invites us,
to join him in that life.
 
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit
he
imbued his disciples with that new life
and gave them power and daring
to live it
and
pass it on to others –
 
Through baptism
we also have received that gift.
 
"As the Father has sent me,
so I send you,"
he said to the disciples
in that locked room.
 
And something new
and uncontrollable
settled upon them.
 
In the power of the Holy Spirit
they flung themselves out
into those dangerous Jerusalem streets,
 
doing the previously unimaginable:
 
preaching in the temple,
filling Jerusalem
          with their teaching,
 
proclaiming Jesus
          crucified and risen,
making converts
          and baptizing them into his risen life –
 
"Many signs and wonders
          were done among the people
                   through the apostles,"
                             says the author of Acts,
                                      rather modestly.
 
For these were incredible days of
daring and risk-taking,
 
and running afoul
of the civil and religious authorities
who had thought the crucifixion of Jesus
might put an end to this
inconvenient movement of his.
 
But arrest, imprisonment, flogging,
even the threat of death
(from which the disciples had so recently
been hiding)
could no longer deter them.
 
For, as Peter declared
to the High Priest
          and the council,
"We must obey God
rather than any human authority."
 
And he could have added,
(for the memory
must still have been fresh and raw)
 
"and the doubts and fears
we once obeyed
when we abandoned
our leader and savior
to you."
 
 
[6]
In these fifty days of Easter
as we share
the stories of the early Church
          in the Acts of the Apostles,
 
we will recognize both
          continuity and discontinuity
                   of character
                             in the apostles –
 
they are the same people
          we came to know
          before the crucifixion –
 
yet they are now
          radically changed –
          they are
                   bold,
                   they are
                             daring,
                             they are
                                      confident,
                   they have been
                             transformed
                                      by resurrection.
 
[7]
What were the last words
of Jesus?
 
Do you remember?
 
 
Did you think of
 
"I thirst"
or
"Father forgive them
for they know not what they do"
or
"It is finished."
 
Some of us,
in other times and places,
may have experienced
a Good Friday service
of three hours' duration
and much preaching on those words,
which have come to be known as
“The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross.”
 
But Easter says,
"Wait!
There are more words
after 'It is finished'.
 
“The work of re-creation
unleashed by the resurrection
has only begun.” 
 
How many of us
have ever spent three hours in Church
meditating on the last words
of the Risen Christ?
 
"Peace be with you."
 
"Receive the Holy Spirit."
 
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
 
"As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
 
"Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."     [Mt. 28.20]
 
 
The early church
was a community that
had experienced
          and knew it continued to experience
                   the risen and living Christ,
 
a community that
took its self-understanding and direction
          from the words and presence
                   of the risen and living Christ,
 
a community that
had received power
          and dared to imagine
          in the strength of that power
          that
          it might draw the whole world
          into the knowledge
                   of the risen and living Christ.
The early church
was a community of  
liberated, healed, risen, priestly people
          abroad in the world
                   proclaiming the good news
                             of the Gospel of Christ,
 
a community
          overflowing with resurrection.*
 
 
[Postlude]
 
The last words
of the Risen Christ,
and
the words Christ continues to speak
in our lives today,
call us to be
that kind of church
 
an Easter Church
nourished on the Lord’s Day
           by Word and Sacrament
                    and one another,
 
and on the other six days of the week,
           at work in the world . . .         
          daring
          brave
          bold  . . . 
 

 
grounded in the peace of Christ
and exercising the power
that is ours
through the gift of the Spirit,
 
that the whole world may be
          caught up
                   in resurrection.
 
 
*[For section 7 (on the last words of Jesus and the Easter Church),
I am indebted to The Last Words of the Resurrected Christ
by Richard O. Singleton, St. Mary's Press, 1997, Winona, MINN]