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"You are a witness of these things"

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After the Emmaus story, the disciples are gathered again in Jerusalem, telling one another about what they have seen and heard: Jesus is alive and active! Then Jesus appears yet again among them. He invites them to touch him – to verify that he is real. He eats some broiled fish for the same reason. And, as he did on the Emmaus road, Jesus explains how the Jewish scriptures point to Jesus as Messiah – one who must suffer, die, and rise again.  “You are witnesses of these things.” 

Once the disciples have seen the risen Jesus, the question is: What will they do about it?  How will they witness to these things? What difference will it make? And that is the question for us, in our own day, who claim to follow this Jesus. 

Sadly, I think we have lost the art of witnessing to the presence and action of Jesus in our lives. I wonder what it would take to re-enliven that aspect of our faith? In last Sunday’s Post, the popular author Ann Patchett tells about her experience as the owner of a new indy bookstore in Nashville. She talks about her lifelong compulsion to tell people about books that they simply must read.  I often have the same drive to tell people when I read a book I really love. Why not share one of the great joys in life – discovery of a life-changing story or message? 

Most of us know how enthusiastic we get about a new restaurant we love, or a recipe we’ve just tried, or a movie we’ve seen.Readers can be over the moon about a great new author or story we’ve discovered. I wonder what it would take for us to enthuse about our experience with God in the same way? After all, isn’t the risen Jesus a life-changing story…a compelling message to share? 

Of course I understand that we are conditioned in polite society not to foist our religious views onto others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate how meaningful our faith is to us, and invite others who might be interested. I wonder what St. Dunstan’s would need to be/do in order for us to recommend it to our friends as we would a great new restaurant?  Do we need to improve our wine list? (Perhaps you are getting tired of port!)  Update the décor? Tell the story in different ways? 

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I’d sure love to talk about these things.  Dr. Tricia Lyons will be with us again this Sunday. We all enjoyed her energy and passion 2 weeks ago. I hope she can help us know the risen Christ, and be faithful “witnesses of these things.”  JBM





 

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Looking and Seeing

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We continue our Easter season with a new resurrection story each week, and todays just might be my favorite: The Road to Emmaus. What a fabulous tale – filled to the brim with symbolism: the journey, the conversation, and finally the broken bread. This is yet another resurrection story centered on seeing – and it helps us connect the dots in many ways. As Tricia Lyons, our preacher last Sunday, mentioned, it’s also all about recognizing Jesus…and how difficult that is for us. 

Most of us can identify with Cleopas and his wife (whom I call Anna), trudging home after a tragic and demoralizing experience, the death of Jesus. They had heard the rumors during that Easter Sunday that Jesus had been raised…but they could not believe it. There was no resurrection for them…yet. We’ve been there too, in that place of disappointment, dejection, even hopelessness. 

Then a stranger appears and walks with them along the road…and things start to happen. They still aren’t seeing clearly (they can’t recognize that this is Jesus himself!). But gradually, this stranger “opens for them the scriptures” and they do begin to see the grand arc of God’s saving acts through history. Could God act again – in their own day, in their own lives? Can we see it?

The answer for Cleopas and Anna, and the answer for us and all Christians, must be yes: yes God still acts in our lives, yes we can see God’s resurrection power all around us, and yes the risen Christ in fact takes up residence in us – we become his instruments of hope and help in this world. 

I thank God I am seeing resurrection everywhere I look: in the late-blooming cherry trees in our yard; in the utter joy and delight of the Cabaret at Paddy’s Pub; in the loving care of this congregation when folks are experience illness, death of a loved one, or other crises; in the life of many small groups and the spiritual sharing and growth that is happening; in increased attendance and interest at Holy Week services this year; in the faithful, generous giving of our congregation for our own needs and for outreach; in the laughter and fun of Tricia Lyons, who enthralled us with her exploration of Harry Potter as a resurrection story par excellence.    

Dwelling on resurrection stories does not mean we ignore the bad stuff in life – the hurts and illness and poverty and war.  Resurrection in itself acknowledges that death has occurred…but declares a higher power – the power of Life, the power of God.  This is hard stuff to get, and to hold onto – that’s why we need all the gatherings, the reminders, the conversations, all the meals and celebrations we can muster.  Come and meet Jesus for yourself…in the breaking of the bread.  JBM





 

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Stories of Resurrection- The Third Week of Easter

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“We die daily.  Happy those who daily come to life as well.”

George MacDonald

 

Some monks in olden days slept at night in coffin-like cots, in recognition that sleep is deathlike experience, and waking every morning is a little resurrection!

During the 50 days of Easter Season, we are focusing on resurrection stories – human experiences large and small which bring new life and light and hope into our lives, after we have suffered pain, loss, or disillusionment.  If we have eyes to see, we’ll realize that God’s fingerprints are on these experiences of renewal.  We’ll begin to see our stories in the light of Jesus’ story. 

In adult formation last Sunday, we began to explore this theme in the beloved movie – The Sound of Music.  Think about Maria, the nuns, the children, Captain Von Trapp, even Liesl’s young Nazi boyfriend.  Nearly everybody in that story experiences loss and renewal and transformation.  Most of the characters emerge as more fully human – more alive and able to love than they started.  That’s why it’s such a great story! 

So what is your resurrection story?  Have you experienced the death of a relationship, and then discovered new life on the other side?  Have you lost someone you love, and found the strength to enjoy life again?  Have you been badly hurt by someone, and found the grace to forgive?  Or are you in a place where Easter hasn’t arrived, and all you can do is wait and hope? 

At the men’s group, we shared our experiences of Holy Week and Easter: the descent into the depths of loss and emptiness, and the miraculous rebirth of life and hope that follows, by the grace of God.  Don Baker, who leads the group, asked us to ponder where in our lives we are in need of resurrection, of rising from the dead. 

Finding the language we need to tell these stories is a challenge, but when we do share them, we are all enriched and inspired in our Christian journeys.  We’ll have two guests sharing resurrection stories with us on Sundays – Patricia Lyons of St. Stephen and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, and retired rector of St. John’s Norwood, Susan Flanders.  I hope you’ll come and find new life yourself.  JBM





 

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Resurrection Stories

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But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  John 20:31

Each year since my ordination, I have had the privilege of singing an ancient text called the Exsultet and proclaiming the Easter gospels.  No matter the location or setting - an ornate cathedral, a camp chapel, a small country church - I experience similar things.  First, while the words are well-known after 20 plus years, each time there is something fresh and new that comes out of these words and stories.  It never ceases to amaze me that God brings new thoughts, ideas and images to the forefront of the familiar stories and ancient lines of music. The second experience is a physical one - and it is difficult to explain - but sometime during the proclamation of one of the gospel resurrection stories I feel the presence of something else - I have always believed it is the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t always on Easter day, though it did happen this year.

I believe there are many things that keep us “locked behind” doors that are closed and hidden from others.  Sometimes it is the regular grind of daily living or maybe the reality of events or life circumstances - illness, death of a loved one, family dysfunction, and the constant news cycle of horrific news from around the world.  All of the disciples, not just Thomas, were no different.  But what was it that moved them out of that locked room and out proclaiming the unbelievable story of Jesus being raised from the dead? What moves you to tell the stories of resurrection in your life?

Over the next weeks of Easter we will explore stories of resurrection. In our liturgies we will hear the stories from the gospel writers and through sermons.  In formation time we will hear from each other and special speakers. Through the sharing of these stories, I hope that you will be encouraged to tell your stories of resurrection. Come hear, and then share - for it is in the hearing and sharing that we come to believe.

Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20b

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