Let us pray:
Lord God, come among us. Enter into our hearts; speak to each of us today, we pray, and give us ears to hear that which you speak. *pause* In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
I haven’t seen most of you since Easter, so let me take this chance to say that I hope everyone had a good Easter, a day full of celebration and the joy of God.
I’d like everyone to take a bit to remember how you celebrated Easter: with family or without, with food, or gifts, or whatever else you may have done.
I say remember, because Easter Day was two weeks ago, and I don’t know about you, but I can barely remember what happened on Easter Day. It was like two weeks ago! Lots of other things have happened! Let alone trying to remember the real reason we celebrate Easter: the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Palestine feels so far away, doesn’t it? Even without the 2000-year difference in time, a time so different that often we can’t even imagine it–I have difficulty imagining a time without electricity or cars, let alone a time of Roman occupation or crucifixions or pre-Christianity. And a risen Christ? I have certainly never had Jesus physically in front of me, telling me to feel the wounds and see that He is really, truly there and risen.
What does the resurrection have to do with us, two thousand years later?
And to top it off, I just assumed that everyone had a great Easter Day, when that might not have been true. You may have spent all or part of the day so focused on preparations that you had no time to relax or celebrate. I’m just gonna raise my hand right now because that was me, too. You may have been grieving a death or a family split. You may have just had a bad day.
Easter Day is supposed to be this glorious, life-giving day, and yet so often when we celebrate it, it… isn’t. It’s the day that, in the words of Peter, “wiped out” our sins, the pain and suffering of the world–and yet, here we are, harboring all these negative experiences about Easter Day, or about the weeks after Easter or before Easter or just about life in general. There are plenty to go around.
What does Easter have to do with now, with running errands and cleaning the house and being late for work and worrying about your kids and friends and spouse and parents and everything else there is to worry about?
In our first reading, Peter and John have gone to the Temple in Jerusalem. They have gone to worship, because this was a long time ago, when the earliest Christians still considered themselves Jews, still worshipped at the Temple and kept the Law. So they’ve gone to the Temple, and there they see a man who has been lame his entire life. He’s being carried into the Temple by his friends, so that he can beg from those coming into the Temple. And when Peter and John see him, they say, “We don’t have any money,” which I’m sure is true because they’ve been following an itinerant preacher around for three years, “We don’t have any money, but we can do this for you: we can heal you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” And the man is able to stand up and walk, and not only walk but jump and go into the Temple and praise God.
And this miracle causes a commotion, so that people come to see what’s happened: and Peter takes this opportunity to tell them about Jesus, about His death and resurrection and what it means for each one of them.
I wonder about these early disciples, sometimes. They endured the horror of their teacher’s crucifixion, only to have Him come back to life. They spent time with Him, until He rose into heaven. They received the Spirit at Pentecost. And now they’re just… here. Not quite sure what to do next. Maybe I’m just projecting myself onto them; they seem to have worshipped and talked about Jesus and been content with that. This is still the early days; maybe the time since Pentecost hadn’t lengthened into forgetfulness yet. Maybe it hadn’t lengthened into questions and uncertainty and a thousand options that no one was sure how to choose between yet.
They are quite sure that the resurrection has something to say to them, then, at that moment in the Temple: and not only to them, but also to those around them, to a lame beggar and to each of the people who has come to the Temple to worship God or offer sacrifices or maybe just to do what they’re supposed to do and stop their father from nagging. They take all this attention that the miracle has given them and use it to tell everyone about Jesus, about His death and resurrection and how that means that we all have had our sins wiped away.
They weren’t meaning to talk to us, now, today, in a time so distant that neither of us can really comprehend the other. But some time later, the church wrote their words down. They preserved them, and passed them down, church to church, until they were combined with other books of the Bible and given to us today. The church knew that these words weren’t just meant for that crowd in first-century Jerusalem, but for all of us throughout time.
Easter may feel distant; it may feel strange, abstract and pointless. But it isn’t. It’s the miracle of miracles that reverberates through time, changing us, changing the world: healing us when we can’t walk under the weight of our sins, wiping away our sins. This strange event is meant for each of us. It heals each of us.
Amen, and amen.