Homily

Sermon Notes: for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 8, 2022. Scripture sources: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30.  To be shared at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, South New Berlin, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Berlin, Diocese of Central New York.

 

 

 

“GET UP, TABITHA! “  AND THIS DEAD BODY OPENS HER EYES, TAKES PETER’S HAND, AND GETS UP.    TABITHA, YOU WILL RECALL FROM THE FIRST READING FROM THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, WAS A SKILLED CLOTH WORKER, CLOTHING MAKER, WHO GIFTED ALL IN NEED WITH CLOTHING.  SHE IS DESCRIBED AS HEALTHY, A SOCIAL WELFARE WORKER IN HER COMMUNITY, BELOVED AND RESPECTED.  AND WITHOUT WARNING SHE FALLS ILL AND DIES.  NOT SO UNLIKE  MANY OF THE VICTIMS OF COVID WHO WERE SOME OF THEM ACTIVE AND HEALTHY.   OR NOT SO UNLIKE THE VICTIMS OF ARTILLERY BOMBARDMENT IN MARIUPOL WITH THEIR LIVES AND THE LIVES OF LOVED ONES ENDED, EVEN ON MOTHERS DAY.  IN JOPPA, WHEN TABITHA, THE CARE GIVER OF HER COMMUNITY DIED,  THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY FIRST RESPECTFULLY LAID OUT HER BODY IN AN  UPPER ROOM.   WHILE HER BODY WAS READIED FOR COMMUNAL MOURNING, THEY SENT FOR PETER, WELL KNOWN AS A LEADER IN EARLY RESURRECTION COMMUNITIES.  PETER CAME PROMPTLY AND SENT THE MOURNERS OUT OF THE ROOM.  THEN HE KNELT DOWN NEXT TO TABITHA’S DEAD BODY,. AND PRAYED.  AND THEN, LOOKING AT HER HE SAID, “TABITHA, GET UP!”  SHE OPENED HER EYES AND DID SO.  NO DRAMA.  JUST “GET UP.”…BACK TO HER ORDINARY AND EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF CARING FOR OTHERS IN COMMUNITY.  DELIVIERING MEALS FOR A SOUP KITCHEN.  STAFFING A FOOD PANTRY.

         WE NEED SEVERAL PETERS AMONG US IN UKRAINE RIGHT NOW!  AND AMONG THOSE WHO ARE LIVING WITH VIOLENT OR SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED DEATH RIGHT NOW.

       WHILE IT MIGHT LOOK LIKE PETER IS THE HEADLINER IN  THIS ACCOUNT, OR EVEN TABITHA HERSELF, GOD IS THE HEADLINER WHO BRINGS TABITHA BACK TO LIFE THROUGH PETER. YES, PETER GAINS CELEBRITY AND FOLLOWERS FOR THE CHRISTIAN WAY AS A RESULT OF GOD’S ACT OF RESTORING TABITHA TO LIFE.   ST PETER’S BASILICA IN VATICAN CITY IS NAMED FOR HIM. 

             A LESS GIVING GOD WOULD BE JEALOUS OF PETER’S FAME AND INCREASING INFLUENCE IN JESUS CHURCH.     BUT THAT IS NOT OUR GOD, NOT THE GOD WHOSE WAY IS LOVE.   PETER EXHIBITS THE ELIMINATION OF BOUNDARIES FOR THIS LOVE BY STAYING WITH SIMON THE TANNER WHILE HE REMAINS IN JOPPA.  JEWS CONSIDERED CONTACT WITH  A TANNER WOULD MAKE THEM UNCLEAN, SO UNCLEAN THEY COULD NOT MINGLE OR WORSHIP WITH OTHER JEWS.  WE NEED TO REMEMBER THAT PETER IS STILL A JEW, ALTHOUGH PART OF THE CHRIST PORTION OF JUDAISM.  SO THE UNLOVING SEPARATION OF THOSE WE DEEM UNCLEAN NOW  FINDS THEM INCLUDED IN GOD’S LOVE WITH PETER BEING THE HOUSE GUEST OF SOMEONE WHO IN EARLIER YEARS HE WOULD DISDAINED.  PETER HAS LEEARNED ON THE ROCKY ROAD OF GOING WITH JESUS,  AS HAVE WE WHERE OUR CHURCHES NO LONGER DO OTHER THAN VIEW AS OUR SISTER AND BROTHERS THOSE WHOS GENDER IDENTITY IS NOT OUR EVEN WHEN WE DON’T UNDERSTAND IT.  WHERE WE OF EUROPEAN ACCEPT OUR HAVING BENEFITTED ECONOMINCALLY FROM ENSLAVING OTHERS AND NOW COME TO ACCEPT THEIR FORGIVENESS, A FORGIVENESS TO US WE HAVE TO KNOW OURSELVES IN ORDER TO ACCEPT.  

        WE ALMOST CLASSIFY THE PERSON CARRYING COVID AS UNCLEAN.    BUT THAT IS WHY WE VACCINATE OURSELVES AND MASK OURSELVES, AS AN ACT OF LOVE SO THAT WE CAN MORE OR LESS SAFELY CARE FOR EACH OTHER AND MEDICALLY TREAT EACH OTHER.   OUT OF LOVE FOR ONE AOTHER.   MEDICAL SUCCESSORS OF PETER TEACH US HOW TO LIVE WITH EPIDEMIC AND PANDEMICS IN A CARING WAY AND THUS MANY SICK BEDS ARE AVOIDED AND SHORTENED IN TIME OF RECOVERY AS WE ARE DOSED WITH THE MEDICINES DISCOVERED BY OUR PHYSICIANS AND SCIENTISTS. 

         WE DO OUR LIMITED BEST TO SHARE OUR VACCINE KNOWLEDGE WITH THE POOR NATIONS OF AFRICA AND LATIN AMERICA.

       SO LOVING GOD, WHY HAVE YOU NOT ENDED THE CONFLICT IN UKRAINE?  THE BOOK OF REVELATION SPEAKS OF LAND DEVASTATED BY WARFARE OF HUMANS SEEKING POWER FOR THEMSELVES.  MUCH LIKE THE DEVASTATION OF PARTS OF UKRAINE.  OR THE DEVASTATION OF MUCH OF YEMEN BY SAUDI FORCESD USING AMERICAN WEAPONRY.  AND YET STILL GOD EMBRACES THEM AND US AS BELOVED.  WE ARE CALLED ALONG WITH RUSSIAN INVADERS TO JOIN TOGETHER IN THE WORSHIP OF THE LOVING GOD. ALONG WITH THE HOUTHI AND SAUDI BACKED FORCES.

        IT IS IN SUCH A TIME THAT WE CELEBRATE MOTHERS, BUT NOT JUST MOTHERS, ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS IN OUR WORLD.  IT IS A WORLD WHERE WOMEN ARE STILL GENERALLY PAID LESS THAN MEN FOR THE SAME WORK.  IT IS A WORLD WHERE WOMEN AND GIRLS RECENTLY FINDING GOOD AND CREATIVE EMPLOYMENT FIND IT AND THE EDUCATION FOR IT TAKEN AWAY FROM THEM IN AFGHANISTAN.   OR WHERE IN MUCH OF INDIA WOMEN ARE SUBJECT TO RAPE AND ABUSE.

AND YET IT IS ALSO A WORLD WHERE TEENAGE GRETA THUNBERGS WAKEN US FROM OUR DEAD SLEEP REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE.   GET UP, SISTERS AND BROTHERS, SHE SAYS, TO WE WHO WOULD COMFORTABLY SEEK OUR OWN COMFORT WITHOUT REGARD FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.    IT IS ALSO A WORLD WHERE AN ANGELA MERKEL COULD LEAD A NATION TO HOST MORE THAN A MILLION REFUGEES IN THE FACE OF SISTER NATIONS THAT CALL THEM UNCLEAN.  TO BE B ANNED.

         IT IS A WORLD WHERE WITH THE 23RD PSALM WE FIND GOD OVERFLOWING THE CUP OF WINE TO SHARE WITH ALL.  NO LONGER DO WE BANISH THOSE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN BAPTIZED IN OUR WAY FROM SHARING THE CUP. THE COMMUNION MINISTERS EVEN FIND WAYS TO SHARE THAT CUP DESPITE COVID IN WAYS WE FIGURE OUT, AS IS DONE HERE AT ST. MATTHEWS AND ST. ANDREW’S.  SO THAT WE DON’T HAVE TO MINGLE AT THE RAIL THE COMMUNION MINISTERS DON MASKS AND CARRY THE BREAD AND WINE TO US IN OUR PEWS. AT ST. LUKE’S IN CHESTER, VERMONT, THE CHURCH WHERE CURRENTLY I SERVE AS PRIEST, WE USE THOSE PRESBYTERIAN/BAPTIST/CONGREGATIONAL TRAYS OF LITTLE TINY INDIVIDUAL GLASSES AND COMMUNICANTS FILE BY A TABLE AT THE HEAD OF THE CENTER AISLE AND PICK UP THEIR OWN LITTLE CUP TO CONSUME AFTER, PROPERLY DISTANCED, THEY HAVE FILED PAST THE COMMUNION MINISTER DISTRIBUTING THE WAFER BREAD. 

        IT IS A WORLD WHERE WE HAVE LEARNED HOW ADDRESS GOD AS MOTHER AND CHRIST AS OUR MOTHER, AS JULIAN OF NORWICH TAUGHT US NINE HUNDRED YEARS AGO OR ANSELM, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY,  1100 YEARS AGO.

      WE TRUST THAT GOD WILL LEAD US AND TEACH US WITH THE MOTHERING PARENTING RISEN CHRIST COMING TO US AND MAKING US AWARE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR VERY BEINGS.  YES, IN WARLIKE BEINGS, LEADING US TO SLOWLY LEARN TO TRUST GOD TO TEACH US HOW TO LOVE.

         LET THAT MOTHERING LOVE EXTEND EVEN TO OUR CURRENT ENEMIES SO THAT WE HOLD VLADIMIR PUTIN IN THE LIGHT OF GOD’S LOVE,  AND AFTER PRAYING FOR HIM IN THAT MANNER, WE LOOK AT HIM IN THE FACE THROUGH THE LENS OF LOVE  SAY “GET UP!” VLADIMIR, OUT OF THE DEATH AND DEATH DEALING IN WHICH YOU NOW LIVE, AND WITH US AND YOUR RUSSIAN ORTHODOX SISTERS AND BROTHERS JOIN US IN WORSHIP.  IN LOVE.  INDEED, WITH THOSE OF ANY AND ALL FAITHS, TO SAY WE LOVE YOU GOD B ECAUSE YOU FIRST LOVED US.   AMEN.