The Acts reading picks up just after Peter has healed the lame man at the Beautiful gate, and drawn a bit of a crowd. The crowd is clamoring, questioning, pushing in on one another – And Peter says basically, what the heck is wrong with you?
Peter’s question points, I think, to a central theme running through our lives and the lives of our congregants – that God only shows up for the big events or in pillars of fire. And so we wonder: where is God? Why won’t God speak? Why will God not act? We seem to believe that God sits silently up there somewhere, watching us like a kid watches an ant farm, never coming closer than to sprinkle some flaky food from the sky. Peter goes on to point out that God IS speaking, God IS acting – all that Peter does he does because of and through God – in that way God is speaking and acting and participating.
God calls us into that creative space, asks us to be co-creators of the new reign of Christ right in our very own neighborhoods and workplaces. God calls us to speak for God and to do for God.
It is also important to note, regardless of the translation you’re using, that Peter was a Jew speaking to Jewish people. It is important that this narrative be formed and taught in a way that is not anti-semitic – because Peter was not anti-semitic. This may need to be a BOGO sermon week- two for the price of one, because it is incredibly important that we form people and teach them. Peter was a Jewish man who followed a Jewish man named Jesus. Peter was speaking to a crowd of Jewish people. How does this translate for us? Well, Peter is pointing out to all of us our complicity in the death of Jesus – He is not a white Christian man pointing his fingers at the Jewish community. Sometimes our goggles get a bit wonky, and be begin to see the world Peter and Jesus inhabited through our own lens, forgetting the context and original audience.
“See what love the father has given us…”
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”
Madeline L’engle wrote about being a light so bright that others long to know the source of it. Do our churches look this way, interact in this way, shine this way? Who are we in our neighborhoods other than a building that has some cars parked in the parking lot a few times a week? How are we drawing and inviting others in to be adopted into our communities?
The pandemic and virtual worship have certainly made this difficult, made us want to pull into ourselves and take care only of ourselves – but there are people watching our live streams that we possibly have never met. When the doors finally open what we do need to look at in ourselves, our communities of faith? How do we make our people and communities so bright that people long to be part of us?
As we give thanks for vaccines and a hopeful return to in-person worship what can we celebrate about who we are and what we have done to remain connected? What can we talk about for the future? How can we cramp our hands writing up adoption certificate after adoption certificate for the new siblings in Christ that God longs for? Even now, even while apart, we can make an impact on the lives of our towns and cities by partnering safely with other organizations and churches. There is a great big world of people out there who long to be part of something, how can we invite them in, how can we really realize that we are all called to be children of God? Who needs to hear that message?
Luke engages the disciples this week, showcasing their seemingly ever prevalent confusion and fear. Picture them all, gathered in their upper room again, shutter closed tight to the noise of the street and then Jesus just appears and is like hey, pass the fish, I am STARVING.
Luke’s gospel proclaims boldly the incomprehensible bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ghosts don’t eat fish.
Just when we thought the world had spoken and the violence was done, God does a new thing. What messages of hope does this bring to our broken and scattered people, people who are in places of deep grief? What new things is God doing with God’s church and people, what creation are we invited into?
Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily proclaims the disruption and utter confusion of hell, “hell grasped a corpse and MET GOD”. Jesus upended and undid all systems, indeed as Luke tells us at the beginning of his gospel: Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for redemption of all creation.
I think many of feel a lot like those disciples though. We’re inside, afraid, clinging to what we know. Meanwhile Christ is still among us, calling us to be witnesses to the resurrection just as he called those scared people with, possibly, his mouth full of fish.
How do we be church right now? What does it look like to witness? Are we all just holding on, unable to offer more? If so what gentle and pastoral words do we have for our people, who can they witness to safely?
We have a lot of important decisions to make this week as preachers, I hope that the nudge you need from the Spirit will come so that you can illumine the Word for your people.
Alicia Hager resides in West Michigan and is a Postulant to the Sacred Order of Priests in the Episcopal Church. Alicia enjoys spending time with her daughters and her husband, is bonkers about her cats, and blogs at astrawberrypointe.wordpress.com.
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