The Lord is Generous Indeed, Alleluia!

April 27, 2014

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

2nd Sunday of Easter – RCL Year A
Acts 2:14a, 22-32; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

On the morning of Good Friday I headed into Atlanta to participate in the Annual Ecumenical Good Friday Pilgrimage. Although the walk was to begin at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, near City Hall, I knew I needed to be here, at Christ Church, shortly after the walk was over, so, the perpetual planner that I am, I decided to park near the finishing point, at the Martin Luther King Center, and walk about a mile to the starting point.

http://jeffsdailypicture.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive.html

jeffsdailypicture.blogspot.com/2011_08_01_archive

After finding a place to park, I made my way up Edgewood Ave. on foot. At 8:30 in the morning, the sidewalks were mostly empty, but I did encounter a few folks as I walked toward town.

In my clericals, I was an unexpected sight to one man who stopped me along the way. He was working on a demolition project and told me about his struggles with a co-worker, perhaps with the hope that I might provide words of guidance to resolve his conflict. We talked for a few minutes, which I’m not sure was so helpful, but perhaps encouraging, and then I was back on my way.

A few blocks later I approached an intersection where three men stood, waiting for the light to change. One of them was drinking from an aluminum can wrapped in a small paper-bag. As he turned and saw me, he smiled what seemed a self-conscious smile. Yet when it was returned with a smile of my own, and a “Good morning” greeting, he relaxed a bit, and then asked expectantly, “Is God Good?”

When you think about it, this is a complex question, and although I don’t know this man’s life-situation, it’s likely that there have been times when God didn’t seem so good. But, in this moment he didn’t seem to be looking for a theological conversation or even a pastoral consultation.

So, what popped into my mind at that moment was a phrase I’ve heard Bishop Wright say many times, so I responded boldly, “God is Generous!” The man was caught off-guard a little, but then registering what I had said, excitedly accepted this statement, and eagerly repeated it back, “God is Generous!” With that, we each continued on our separate ways, invigorated by the brief and rich encounter.

It was a wonderful way to begin the journey of a Good Friday Pilgrimage focused on issues of social justice. And even the next day, through the Great Easter Vigil, I continued to see evidence of God’s generosity through stories told in that liturgy. They show how God has continued to be in relationship with humankind despite our short-comings.

And then, in both the Easter Vigil and on Easter morning, we celebrate the ultimate generosity of God through the Resurrection of Christ – the grace upon grace of love and care for us as God’s children. Yes indeed, God is Generous!

This spirit of generosity is prevalent in the biblical stories about the resurrection of Jesus. And, these stories also provide a wonderful model for the twelve children in our congregation who will partake in their first “informed communion” during the 10:30 service here today.

Now, when I was growing up, you couldn’t take communion until you had been Confirmed. But just a few years later, with the introduction of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, this “waiting period” to receive communion went away. [I won’t go into the justification for the change in thinking, but if you want to read a 25 page paper I wrote about it while I was in seminary, let me know, I’ll send it to you!]

So, with the Confirmation requirement set aside, all baptized people, from infants on up, are welcome and encouraged to partake in the Holy meal of Communion.

Even so, we aren’t born knowing what it’s all about, so it’s still important as Christians to come to understand it more fully. So, over the past couple of months, as part of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, these youngsters have been gaining a deeper understanding of what Holy Communion is and how it sustains us in our faith journey.

The commemoration of this milestone began yesterday afternoon, through participation in a special liturgy for the twelve and their parents

  • We gathered in the church and first renewed our Baptismal Covenant.
  • Each of the twelve was anointed with oil, remembering the seal of Baptism.
  • They were each given a white garment – a reminder of their Christening gown – as a symbol of new life in Christ, and the act of clothing oneself in righteousness.
  • Lastly, they each received a lit candle, acknowledging them as ones enlightened by Christ and reminding them that they are to walk as children of the light.

The only particular aspect highlighted in today’s service is that, as they come forward to receive communion in a few minutes, they will each be called by name. We see an example of the importance of calling by name in Easter Sunday’s gospel lesson from John.

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb and found it empty. She was upset, not knowing where Jesus’ body had been taken. While Mary stood weeping in the garden, a man approached and asked her why she was crying. Thinking he was the gardener, she implored him that if he knew to please tell her where the body was. Then Jesus called her by name… Mary!

In that moment Mary recognized that the person speaking to her was the Resurrected Jesus. It was the voice of the Good Shepherd, and Mary, as one of the flock, heard Jesus’ voice and recognized who he was. Through this story, we see that calling someone by name is a powerful thing – it shows a depth of relationship and connection. Through it we are reminded that we are known by God. God knows us fully, and loves us just as we are.

In Luke’s gospel, we see a different encounter by Jesus with two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus. Jesus heard them talking and he began to walk with them, but, they didn’t recognize him. They were talking about the arrest and crucifixion, and couldn’t believe that this man knew nothing about these recent events. Then it says that Jesus spent the rest of the journey explaining the necessity of the suffering and death, and how these things fulfilled the words of Moses and the prophets.

Yet, even after all this time together, the disciples still didn’t know it was Jesus. Instead, the moment of recognition came later that evening as they sat down to eat together. It says, “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…” (Lk 24:30-31a) Jesus and his disciples had eaten countless meals together, and now, in this familiar act of blessing and breaking the bread, the resurrected Christ was revealed to his disciples.

Similarly, in our weekly celebration of the Eucharistic feast, we ask God’s blessing on the bread and wine, and through it we encounter Jesus in a powerful and personal way. And as these youngsters partake in communion today, I hope that Jesus will be revealed in a more powerful and personal way for them, too.

A gift from the children celebrating their First Informed Communion

A gift from the children celebrating their First Informed Communion (Photo: Bruce Halliburton)

Today’s gospel lesson shows even more signs of God’s generosity, through the patience and care that Jesus’ has for his disciples. They are afraid, and have locked themselves in an upper room. Jesus appears to them and in an effort to ease their fears, he says “Peace be with you.” He showed them his feet, his hands, and his side, and they recognized who it was. They then rejoiced.

It was in recognizing him that they could fully receive the Peace that he had offered. Then, Jesus breathed into them the gift of the Holy Spirit – the Advocate who continued to reveal God to them in the days, months, and years to come… and still reveals God to us today.

And when the one named Thomas, who wasn’t there with the others on that first night – when Thomas insisted on seeing Jesus for himself, Jesus appears again. He invites Thomas into physical contact with the wounds still evident on his body, an offering of full vulnerability and revelation by the resurrected Christ.

And although Thomas comes to believe, having had this personal connection, Jesus challenges that although the physical sign may help bring Thomas and others to understand the powerful and healing love of God, it takes more than signs to develop a mature faith in God through Jesus Christ. .

So, while God is generous, we see in Jesus’ message to Thomas, that there is also an expectation that one has to go further to develop mature faith. And, in response to God’s continual generosity toward us, we are called to a constant walk toward a more and more mature faith.

Just as these kids have discovered, mature faith requires more than just showing up and partaking in the holy mysteries. We are branches of the True-Vine that is God, and we are meant to bear fruit!

So, instead of sitting back in comfort, having survived the arid desert of Lent, I invite you during these 50 days of Easter, to ask yourself how you might increase the fruit that you bear. Specifically ask: What am I doing to nurture my spiritual self? What new road is God asking me to walk? In what new ways is Jesus being revealed to me?

God is GenerousYou see, in accepting the gifts God consistently gives, we see God’s generosity, and through it, God bids us to this same generosity – love one another as I have loved you. This love is demonstrated in our willingness to be fully forgiving, deeply believing, and faithfully serving one another. We have a perfect example in Jesus Christ, so let’s follow him!

Alleluia, God is Generous!
The Lord is Generous Indeed, Alleluia!

 

One Response to “The Lord is Generous Indeed, Alleluia!”

  1. I’m using this for my Thought For the Day to my 7 grandchildren–thanks be to God

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