Easter people

a sermon, based on John 17.1-11, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on the 7th Sunday of Easter, May 28, 2017

Jesus looked up to heaven and said…[1]

On the night before Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, trial and condemnation, crucifixion and death, he gathers with his disciples for a last supper. Following John the evangelist’s narrative of that night, Jesus washes their feet, giving them an example of self-sacrificial, slavish service that he bids they imitate.[2] He tells them again and again who he is in relation to them: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”[3] and “I am the true vine, you are the branches.”[4] In preparing to depart, in preparing them for his departure from them, he gives them his final instructions, chiefly his one and only commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you,”[5] his promise of his abiding presence with them, within them in the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,[6] and his warning of their coming sufferings for his sake.[7]

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said…

Here, Jesus prays to God not in some faraway place, not on a mountaintop, not in a garden not apart and away from his disciples, but right there, at table with them, in their presence, in their hearing. And there, in prayer, Jesus defines for them and for us the heart, the point, the greatest gift of Easter: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Eternal life is to know God and Jesus. Our knowing is more than our intellectual assent to the idea of God, more than our cognitive awareness of something, Someone greater than we, more than our understanding of the ways and workings of God. To know God and Jesus is to be in relationship with God as Jesus makes God known to us.

And what, Who is the God Jesus makes known? Following the revelations unfolded in the Gospel of John…

God is divine logos, Word; the animating power of the universe. The Word that became our flesh and dwelled among us in Jesus, no longer to be far off, but ever near.[8]

Jesus who went to a wedding feast and changed limpid, life-giving water into vibrant, soul-stirring wine, revealing that God wills to be at the center of our times of joy as well as our moments of sorrow.[9]

Jesus who met with Nicodemus[10] and the Samaritan woman,[11] speaking to both of spiritual things, revealing that God reaches out to all people, the high and the low, the greatest and the least.

Jesus who healed those with broken bodies,[12] fed those with hunger-bloated bellies,[13] forgave the woman caught in adultery, saying, “sin no more”,[14] raised Lazarus from the dead,[15] revealing that God wills all be restored to wholeness and righteousness.

Jesus who promised another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to abide with us, within us,[16] revealing God’s presence and power to continue Jesus’ ministry of love and justice.

Jesus who prays, “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

There is an ancient legend of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. All the heavenly hosts, angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, greet his arrival, welcoming him home. The angel Gabriel asks, “O Son of God, what have you done to continue your work on earth?” Jesus answers, “I have disciples whom I called to learn from me. Now, as apostles, I have sent them into the world to teach.” Gabriel, alert to a potentially serious, perhaps fatal flaw in the plan, frowns, asking, “O Son of God, what if they, frail and fearful, forget and fail? What then?” Jesus answers, “I have no other plan.”

We are Easter people. We know God and Jesus. We have eternal life. Therefore, we, in this world, in this day, in this time, in our generation, with God at the center of our lives at all times, are to reach out to all people with hands and hearts that heal and feed and forgive and give life to the dead.

 

Footnotes:

[1] John 17.1

[2] John 13.1-15

[3] John 14.6

[4] John 15.5

[5] John 13.34, 15.12, 17

[6] John 14.16-17, 26

[7] John 15.18-21, 16.2

[8] John 1.1-4, 14

[9] John 2.1-11

[10] John 3.1-17

[11] John 4.7-42

[12] John 5.1-9, 9.1-7

[13] John 6.1-13

[14] John 8.1-11

[15] John 11.1-44

[16] John 14.16, 26

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2 thoughts on “Easter people

  1. Paul,

    Thank you for this sermon, it’s just the feeding and healing I need today! Sometimes I hear myself saying “I have no other plan”…. when I’m not sure what to do next when my original plan fails. The last 10 months of my life clearly illustrates what I mean. In June of 2026 my life for the next five years was planned out – where we’d live / camp, places we would visit, how we’d earn money on the road…. then suddenly
    I had no plan. What I’ve learned since is that God had a plan for me and I’m following it. Some things I’ve done that I don’t understand, but God clearly does. The minute Tim died, I selected the photo that would be on my new book and if Tim himself was sharing his favorite. No other photo would do. I feel frail and fearful at times. I’ve forgotten and failed. But I keep going, every single day and I forget that just last week that I failed. I feel good about the rest of my life even though I’ve not always felt in charge of the plan.

    The end of your sermon spoke to me and made me temporarily sad. I couldn’t help but think of the two men who lost their lives on that train in Portland while trying to help two women who were being verbally abused because of hate. They reached out with their hands and hearts because of their love of two women they’d never met and they were killed for it. But as I read your sermon I’m guessing both men would forgive the man who killed them because they most definitely knew God and have eternal life! May they both Rest In Peace.

    Much love and thanks to you Paul!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Loretta, to all you write.

      Oft our plans come to nought or change, and then, whilst we have breath and strength, with courage and fear, assurance and frailty, we are called to carry on; continuing to discern – come to see and know – where next, then next, then next we are to go. Or so I have come to believe.

      And, yes, the men who were slain in coming to the defense of the women who were threatened by the man spewing anti- Muslim sentiments, in my mind and heart, followed Jesus’ command to love with that greatest love of laying down life for another. And, yes, let us pray their peace in the perfect presence of God.

      Liked by 1 person

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