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cappie

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

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cappie

Jesus is preparing his disciples in advance for his absence so that they will continue to believe in him and not feel all alone after his return to the Father. After the initial excitement of his Easter appearances, Jesus will remain with his followers in a very different way throughout the centuries.
The whole of Easter has been about equipping us with powerful faith tools to defeat the forces that would drag us down. There are post-Resurrection stories of a group of defeated fishermen who end up going back to their lives of fishing, only to discover the risen Jesus meeting them for breakfast. There are the travellers walking to Emmaus encountering a stranger who turns out to be Jesus, who breaks bread with them. They discover their hearts gladdened. These are experiences opened to us, too.

So, where do these good things come from? You can’t place an Amazon order for them, no, but you can hear them, experience them, and find them in the faith community. The early Christians learned they could face persecution, possible arrest, trial, and even execution because of the power of the resurrection they found in the Easter community. They also learned that what happened to them was of little account, because they placed themselves under the gracious God who delivered them from the pall of darkness in their lives.

 And we listen as Jesus teaches the disciples about what will happen after he leaves them. God will send an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will do two things: teach and remind.

The Spirit will teach us how God desires and gives us the good things we need, even when we don’t know what they are or how to ask for them.  
The Spirit will also remind us, especially when things are not going well, what really matters and to whom we belong. The faith community is the place where we are restored, not in just a feel-good way, but in the depths of our hearts. The sign of the cross, the breaking of the bread at communion, the hymns (read the words even if you don’t sing), and the Scriptures are all reminders of how much we are loved and cherished and redeemed. As a wise bishop once said, “Human beings solve problems; God redeems messes.” All of us think we can fix things, but often messes overwhelm us. We are reminded, as the disciples were after the death of Jesus, that God redeems messes – and that includes each of us.

   Had the first apostles and disciples held onto a narrow vision of Jesus' purpose, had they hoped in restoration rather than new possibilities, likely the church as we understand it today would not have existed. The admittance of Gentiles into the community of Good News radically and forever changed the face of the church. That decision, as Luke presents it, opened the peace of Jesus to all, allowed for a shared vision of the future, and invited the other to love Jesus and demonstrate that love through works of mercy and justice.

God has another way that is based on abundance. God gives us what we need, always providing for us those things which cannot be bought or bargained for. They are things that endure, such as hope, faith, love, fellowship, and friends. They are qualities like peace and wisdom and courage. God gives us these gifts through the Spirit, and God also gives the ability to find them in others. The world is full of them, though often they are masked by our focus on the news of anger and darkness.

 These readings stand as a litmus test of sorts to measure our own faith. We may readily welcome the peace of Jesus, happy to embrace the hope envisioned in Revelation but do we continue to respond with love and action. Do we welcome the other in the spirit of Acts? Are the marginalized offered a seat at our table? Are we, like the Apostles, willing to risk making decisions to include rather than limit? Any less is not worthy of an Easter people.
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