(Year A) Acts 2: 22-32; I Peter 1: 3-9; John 20: 19-31
Friends: Grace and peace, and continuing joy of Easter. As we learned once again to proclaim last Sunday, and as would be our song not simply for a day or even for the Great 40 Days of this Easter season, but the banner over all our lives: Christos anesti! Christ is risen! Alithos anesti! He is risen indeed! This morning we may not have quite the gathered throng of Easter morning worshipers and certainly miss the wonderful brass ensemble. But there would be Easter hymns echoing. “At the Lamb’s high feast we sing praise to our victorious King.”
And of course once again around us this morning a vibrant sense of our life as we share as witnesses of the Lord’s resurrection—each of us having seen this in perhaps a different way, from a new and fresh and unique perspective, each of us living out the implications of that witnessing in unique ways.
As I’ve said many times before, and often on these days of our annual meeting, it seems almost providential to me that we of St. Andrew’s should be situated where we are in this corner of the city and right up next to the park. So that when folks ask me for directions—“how do we find St. Andrew’s?”—I am able to say, with a smile, “just follow the signs to the zoo.” And here we are, indeed, every breed of cat.
An amazing assembly. Men and women, boys and girls. So many different backgrounds and perspectives, so much life experience, so many interesting stories, so much creativity and potential. Old timers and newcomers. Sharing times of joy, and times of sadness and loss, called in wonderful and exciting ways to reach out in mission and service in our Lord’s name. Some who have come to this place after years of searching, some who have arrived it seems almost by accident.
And as we might from time to time tell stories about how we “found” St. Andrew’s, it would be most profoundly my prayer that in those stories as well we would discover the deeper story of how Jesus has found us. Mary in the Garden, Thomas in the Upper Room. How we like Mary have heard his voice saying our name. How he has met us where we are, so that we like Thomas could touch him, know him face to face, have come to know his life-giving presence in our lives. How we have experienced for ourselves his healing, his forgiveness, his grace and peace, and so how we have found ourselves lifted up in him to be signs and agents of his healing and forgiveness and grace and peace in our families and with our friends and in our neighborhoods and our church and in all the wide world. “New every morning.” –Easter at St. Andrew’s. “At the Lamb’s high feast we sing praise to our victorious King.”
The lessons appointed for us on this Second Sunday of Easter certainly seem appropriate for a day that is also a celebration of life at St. Andrew’s. A day of giving thanks for the lives and ministries of those who have gone before us. 174 years. A day to celebrate what God is doing in and with us here and now. A day to catch a glimpse of the great things he has in mind for us, and for those who will come after us, in years to come.
Peter’s great Whitsunday sermon in the second chapter of Acts, the first great public exposition of the Easter gospel. “God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” The great power of God, revealed in the Resurrection and continuing in new and wonderful ways in the baptismal community. Those who share with Christ in his death, and who are raised with him to new life in his resurrection. A lot for us of St. Andrew’s here. Individual stories to be sure of lives turned around, of miracles.
And then there is of course this familiar story of Thomas. Who was missing from the Upper Room on that First Easter night, when the disciples had seen altogether the Risen Christ. Who was confused about what the others were telling him, who couldn’t make sense of the story. But for all that, his famous week of “doubt,” the week later Thomas hadn’t abandoned the community of the disciples. They hadn't abandoned him. He stayed with them, they all stayed together, listening, open. Waiting. And then Jesus came to them, and to him, and Thomas has his encounter with the crucified and risen Lord, deeply personal and experiential. “My Lord and my God.” Perhaps that inner journey something of a reminder for many of us of the journeys that we have travelled. A season, for some of us a very long season, when we have tried to make sense of what others were saying about him. And then a moment, when he has come and made sense of us.
And I love this brief passage finally from the First Letter of St. Peter. Written to a Christian community that has experienced some hardship, opposition, persecution. But even in these opening words, overflowing with hope, excitement, enthusiasm. All about hope. About an excitement for the good future that God has in mind for us in Christ. As he showed Mary in the Garden and Thomas and all the disciples. “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
At the Lamb’s high feast we sing praise to our victorious King.
One of my favorite poets as many of you know is the 19th century English Jesuit Gerard Manly Hopkins, and in his great poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland” he gives us one of his great lines and moments of insight to turn Easter from a noun to a verb: “Let him Easter in us,” he says, “Let him Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us . . . .”
This afternoon we’ll spend a few minutes talking about the life of the congregation, to think about elected leadership and the stewardship of our buildings and grounds and the care of our financial resources in all the work God has given us to do. Which is all good and important, and I thank you if you’re able to come and to be a part of it today. But let us hear most of all this morning an invitation not so much to a meeting or even to a new year ahead of services and programs and activities, important as these all are to our Christian life. But to hear the invitation of Christ, that as we have died with him in our baptism, so we would share with him in the fresh and new life of his resurrection. "Let him Easter in us."
As Peter again, for us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you . . . .”
Blessings and peace. Alleluia. Christos anesti! Christ is risen! Alithos anesti. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.