The Imprint of Christ

April 26, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The 3rd Sunday of Easter 
Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)

How many of you like commercials?

If you watch TV, listen to the radio, read the paper or surf the web, you are constantly being bombarded by messages telling you about things you need, things you should want, and things you can’t live without. It’s not uncommon to see the same ad over and over again during the same one-hour program, right. This is very intentional by marketers. Communication experts say that you have to communicate your message at least 7 times for people to hear it, and probably dealing with some, it’s more like 70 times 7!

If we apply this to our church context, this concept of repetition is substantiated by our use of the Lectionary. Over a three year period we hear different combinations of Old and New Testament readings, including a significant portion of all four Gospels. Then, after three years, we start over again. So, if you’ve been in the Episcopal Church, or a denomination that follows the common lectionary, it would take 21 years to hear each of these texts 7 times – and that’s if you attend every single Sunday!

don__t_delay_50__s_action_bubble_by_hakarune-d461cacBut, don’t lose faith! The good news is that because of common themes, it can take much less than 21 years to get the gist of Jesus’ message– to have a sense of Jesus’ call for repentance, of God’s gift of forgiveness, the importance of servant-hood, and the command to love God and show compassion to all people. So, sign up today! Don’t delay! There’s still time!

But I contend that there are more effective ways of integrating these messages than just by listening to them over, and over, and over, again (times 7). We see examples of this in the gospel stories about the resurrected Jesus. We were told last week, from John’s gospel that Jesus went and stood among them. He breathed on them. He offered Thomas the chance to touch his wounded hands and side.

In Luke’s gospel, just before today’s reading, Jesus revealed himself to the two men on the road to Emmaus, but they didn’t recognize that it was Jesus. During the 7 mile journey they told Jesus what had happened – about the arrest, the crucifixion and then the discovery of the empty tomb. And although Jesus tried to explain how this was foretold in the scriptures, they still didn’t recognize him. It wasn’t until later that evening, when they sat down to eat together, and Jesus took the bread, blessed it, and shared it with them. THIS act, this EXPERIENCE of the resurrected Jesus, is what opened their eyes – they had shared that experience before, and now, recognized him in this act.

And then today we hear about the second appearance, now back in Jerusalem. The two men have gathered with the disciples and are telling them of their experience of Jesus. Jesus appears among them. They are startled and frightened. Just as in John’s gospel, Jesus shows his hands and his feet as proof of who he is. Then, he says he’s hungry. He asks for some food and eats a piece of broiled fish – very real, indeed. Yet, even so, amid their joy, there is still disbelief and wondering.

And, although all the gospels don’t tell the exact same stories about Jesus, they all share one thing… the stories convey that community’s experience of the risen Christ.

Our liturgy is very experiential, as well, and intentionally repetitious. We pray together. We remember together. We praise together. We eat the bread and share the cup together – week after week after week. Through these acts we have a shared experience of the resurrected Christ. It becomes an imprint on our life.

Our Christian formation for Children and Youth is also focused on creating an imprint, an experience of Jesus and what it is to be a Christian – for the youngest members of this Body of Christ.

11049484_787228714692465_3804942508074014570_oDuring these Sundays in spring, Kailyn is leading the Children’s Chapel & God Talk kids in finding out firsthand what it means to be stewards of God’s creation. While the kids hear Bible stories, they are also tending the Garden-boxes down by the office – weeding and planting; rejuvenating the soil and planting seeds to grow and bear fruit!

1964839_10202450800744055_804966556_nFor our Youth, although we’ve spent some time talking about the importance of caring for others, and while it’s a good start to go down to Turner Field for the Hunger Walk each year, the imprint comes when they actually spend an evening making sandwiches, as well as blankets and scarves, and then deliver them to the homeless. And in a couple of weeks, the J2A Pilgrims, while on their Urban Adventure, will take it a step further when they prepare and serve lunch for those at the Birmingham Community Kitchen.

And, when I look at the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, I see formation that is filled with experiences more than words. In these rooms, stories of Jesus and his love are shared – the comfort that there is a Good Shepherd who cares for all people, for the littlest among us, for the lost AND the found!

Atrium 1 photo1The soft lamp-light creates a welcoming space for learning, and a place where they can experience our Christian liturgy on their terms: lighting candles; pouring water into the baptismal font; preparing the wine of communion; seeing the colors of our liturgical seasons; hearing again and again the message of Jesus’ love and care for them. These experiences become an imprint on their young hearts.

As the kids get older, they begin to expand their understanding of our biblical stories, but the experiential aspect continues to be integral to learning. During the 10:30 service, a few of the kids in Atrium III, the 4th & 5th graders, will share their reflections. Here’s a little of what they’ll say:

ASHTON: Here is an activity from Sunday School that meant a lot to me.  My dad [who is a co-teacher] wrote Son of God on a piece of paper with special oil that made the writing invisible. When we held it over a candle’s flame, we could see the words Son of God. To me, it meant that God was always there and could shine through anything. God’s light will always show.

WILL: On Palm Sunday, Mr. David let each of us read a part of the Passion Gospel. While this happened, we filmed each other reading, so everybody got to film and read. This experience helped me imagine what it must have been like for Jesus. As we read, I felt like I was with Jesus, in the story, as he suffered and was persecuted by so many people, but he still loved everybody the same. I think that God sent Jesus to Earth to help people with their faith, so that they could “see” God as one of them- just a normal human being.

You see, just as with our liturgy, their learning is rooted in experiencing Jesus.

I believe that’s also true about our teaching.

It said in today’s text: Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”  Yet, not only their minds, but their hearts, as well. The two men who Jesus shared bread with, after they had experienced the resurrected Christ said, “‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’”

So, while it may take 21 years to hear all the Lectionary texts the 7 times needed to fully integrate the message, I believe an imprint is created on the hearts of others through sharing our experience of the resurrected Jesus. I believe it begins with opening the minds of the children and young people in our community.

We don’t have to be biblical scholars; we don’t need theological training; we don’t even have to be free from doubt or fear, thank goodness. We simply need to be willing to share our experience of the resurrected Jesus with others – with the youngest in our midst.

When we do this, we show firsthand the love, care, and compassion of a good shepherd. We become true stewards of the Christian formation of children and young people in this Body of Christ.

And by bringing your children and teens to church; by making Sunday School a recurring habit in your weekly routine; even (dare I say) an expectation, you give them access to the imprint of Jesus in their life; on their heart. Ashton put it this way:

cross-in-heartSunday school is important to me because the Lord speaks to me there. Sometimes during the week, I never really get to talk to God because I’m so busy. This is one time that I can. Sunday school also helps me to understand the Bible. I don’t always understand the Bible at school. Here I do.

Like the disciples, Jesus commissions each of us, even when we are frightened and amazed, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations; all people.

I invite you to begin here, with the youngest of these.

A gift from the children celebrating their First Informed Communion

A gift from the children celebrating their First Informed Communion

 

Gospel Text:

Jesus himself stood among the disciples and their companions and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk 24:36b-48)

One Response to “The Imprint of Christ”

  1. Thx-honey. I sent the “hands” gift as my TFD today.

    Mom 😘

    >

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