Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, April 20, 2014: The Resurrection of Our Lord

Texts: Acts 10:34-43  +  Colossians 3:1-4  +  Matthew 28:1-10

It might seem crazy, what I’m about to say.

But I’ve seen things left for dead come back to life.

I’m not talking about the Walking Dead, I’m not spouting Sci Fi. I’m talking about real, live people and places left for dead that came back to life. In fact, you’re sitting in one of them right now.

It might seem crazy, but ten years ago this church had been left for dead. Had been told there was no life left in its dry bones. Was down to a handful of people knocking around in this cavernous sanctuary like guards standing watch at a tomb.

But look at us now. Look around this room. See how God is bringing new life to people and places left for dead. My God, it makes me so happy!

It’s a story that just keeps repeating, day after day, year after year, place after place, life after life.

It’s the story of my life. It might seem crazy, what I’m about to say, but ten years ago I thought my story was over. A failed relationship. A career over before it had even started. I was living in a friend’s basement surrounded by boxes of books I’d bought in pursuit of a degree that qualified me for the one job it seemed I’d never have. To call it a garden level apartment was an insult to gardens. Its one window gave me a wide open view of the crawl space under the front porch, where a nest of rats had made their home. They would come to the window to watch me, as if I was the one stuck in a cage, because I was. The ceiling was about eight inches above my head, high enough for me to stand up but not enough to stretch.

Life that wasn’t life went on like that a lot longer than three days, a lot longer than forty days. It went on like that for a couple of years. It went on like that until a small church on the north side of Chicago called me out of my tomb and unbound me. The day I knelt in this room as hands were laid upon me and I was ordained to serve God’s people through God’s church, I was so happy. I felt like a room without a roof.

Like I said, it might seem crazy, but that’s just how God works. Over and over. Bringing new life to people and places left for dead. It’s the story of your life. I know, because you’ve told me.

It might have seemed crazy, staying put as all your neighbors sold their houses and left the block. People said Logan Square was too dangerous, that all the good families were getting out while their homes were still worth something. But you stayed. Longer than three days. Longer than forty days. Hell, longer than forty years! You stayed. You lived through decades of feeling like you had to apologize for living in Logan Square, when the only news was bad news, talking this and that. You heard it all, no holding back. And you sold flowers each spring for people to plant in their gardens and in their window boxes so that they might remember, in the middle of gangs fighting for turf and drugs on the corner, that there was still beauty here, still life in these homes.

I’ll tell you what. If you stayed through those hard years, could I ask you to do something? Could I ask you to raise your hands? Raise them high, yes both of them, just like this. And now, bear with me, could you just clap your hands, just once, if you stayed through the hard years. That’s right. That’s the truth.

But it’s not the only truth. There are other stories in this room, other resurrections taking place. I know because I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and I can testify that it’s true.

I’ve seen people caught tight in the grip of an addiction hellbent on killing them find the strength to live one day at a time, people certain that their lives were going to end in the bottom of a bottle of pills, or booze, who are alive today by the grace of a higher power that came to them in community and restored them to life.

I’ve seen people trapped in marriages and relationships that felt like tombs, that left scars on their hands and feet, bruises on their face and abdomen, break free from cycles of violence that were entirely unredemptive and take back their lives.

I’ve seen people who fled from the lands of their birth, because of a lack of opportunity, because they were of a minority religion, because they were of a minority sexual or gender identity, people who’d been locked away in prison for a decade, people who’d been blackmailed and harassed by the police, people who’d been beaten to within an inch of their life. People who now live in the relative safety of a new land, making a new start, building a new life.

If you know one of these people I’m talking about — maybe it’s you, or someone in your family, or someone you love — could you please put your hands up in the air, and help me out here. Clap your hands, if you feel like that’s what you want to do.

This room, this neighborhood, this world is full of people who know what it’s like to be left for dead, to be stuck in the grave, only to discover that Jesus had been there first and ripped the roof off that tomb! Which is why, crazy as it may sound, we proclaim,

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

I’ll tell you something else. When you’ve experienced this resurrection, it’s not something you want to keep to yourself. It’s not something you can keep to yourself. It wells up in you, it bubbles out of you, it has the tendency to erupt in spontaneous acts of testimony and riots of truth-telling.

Peter, one of the twelve who knew Jesus before his hot-air balloon took off for space, distilled the essence of his happiness into this statement: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God” (Acts 10:34). God shows no partiality! That’s incredible! That’s radical. That’s so much more than, “God plays fair” or “God doesn’t play favorites,” which is kind of how it sounds at first. No, for Peter, who delivers this message while standing in the home of Cornelius, a pagan and a high-ranking soldier in the very same army that had occupied Peter’s homeland, “God shows no partiality” is one of those statements that blows the roof off the place. It’s a statement so radical that he gets called before his colleagues back in Jerusalem, who want to know why he’s talking to the enemy. But that’s the point of his message, that’s the essence of his irrepressible joy, that by the power of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no enemy that can divide us from one another.

If death can’t bring us down, then neither can our wars. If death can’t bring us down, then neither can our nationalities. If death can’t bring us down, then certainly neither can our religious differences. If death can’t bring us down, then neither can our politics, or our immigration status, or our HIV status, or our marital status. If the love of God in Christ Jesus has raised us from the grip of every death that has tried to bring us down, then can’t nothing bring us down, God’s love is too high!

Can I get an amen?

Clap your hands if you know what happiness is to you.

And now we can begin to understand why the women left the tomb that first resurrection morning with both fear and great joy, great happiness, because the tomb was empty, and that meant everything was going to have to change, that everything had already changed. And change is hard, even the change we’ve all been waiting for, the change happening in our own lives.

In his open letter to the church titled The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis echoes the apostle Paul when he writes,

The joy of the gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

He goes on to say,

An evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness.

Peter says, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). And at the tomb, Jesus says to the women, “Do not be afraid; go and tell…” (Matt. 28:10).

That is our happy task this day, and every day for the rest of our lives, to go and preach to the people caught in the grip of powers that are trying to bring this world and everything in it to the grave. We look at the cross, and we look at the tomb, and we look at each other and see the risen Christ rising again and again in each one of us, and we say,

Give me all you got, don’t hold it back.

I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine.

No offense to you, don’t waste your time.

Here’s why:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, May 26, 2013: The Holy Trinity

Texts:  Proverbs 8:1-4,22-31  +  Psalm 8  +  Romans 5:1-5  +  John 16:12-15

The "Shield of the Trinity" or "Scutum Fidei" diagram of traditional Western Christian symbolism.

The “Shield of the Trinity” or “Scutum Fidei” diagram of traditional Western Christian symbolism.

Preaching on the Sunday the church commemorates as the festival of the Holy Trinity is full of traps for the preacher, or so I am told.  “Don’t preach doctrine,” I’m advised.  No one wants to hear a sermon on doctrine, especially the doctrine of the Trinity.  It’s a mystery.”  And, the best advice of all: “No flowcharts.”  So, it is with some trepidation that I have ascended into the pulpit this morning to preach, and worse, to preach about the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Holy Trinity is, indeed, a mystery.  But it’s not a mystery the way the pyramids are a mystery, or the way the huge statues on Easter Island are a mystery.  We use the word “mystery” to describe those immense, incredible works of humanity precisely as an invitation for someone to solve the mystery.  Calling something a mystery almost immediately draws us into the role of detective.  Like the old story of the sword in the stone, we approach a mystery wondering if we will be the one to finally release it from its trap.

Or, the other option I suppose, we allow the word “mystery” to scare us away.  “The Holy Trinity?  Don’t bother giving it a second thought, it’s a mystery…”  But that’s not the kind of mystery it is either.  In fact, in the realm of Christianity to say something is a mystery is to say that we are called to spend our lives asking questions of it, probing it for wisdom, being shaped by its knots — but not to solve it.

So, with some humility, let’s spend just a short bit of time on this festival of the Holy Trinity considering its mystery.

To begin, as Christians we are the inheritors of a beautiful and ancient tradition of thinking and speaking about God that comes to us from our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God.  The Lord is One. (Deut. 6:4)

Shema Yisrael at the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem

Shema Yisrael at the Knesset Menorah in Jerusalem

This is the shema, which we read in the 6th chapter of Deuteronomy, the 4th verse, a statement of faith that, for Jews, is about as close to a creed as they get.  It is the basis for what we have come to call monotheism, the belief that there is only one God.  That God is not one among many.

This inheritance is the entry into the mystery.  Not a clue.  Not a piece of evidence.  But a doorway.  We belong to a community with a long and beautiful tradition that has known in its blood that there is only one God.  So whatever the Trinity is, it is not three Gods, but one.

But we who are Christians are also a family marked by a very special relationship to God through the revelation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth: a living human being who was born, who lived as a teacher of the love of God, who spoke the truth to those in power, who was crucified for confronting the authorities of his day, who was raised from the dead (another mystery of the faith), and who assured us that God would send an Advocate to guide us in truth and continue to instruct us in the paths and promises of God.

Jesus spoke during his lifetime about his relationship to God as being like that of a son to a father, but he muddied the waters a bit there. He said cryptic things that we’ve been reading for the last few weeks.  Things like, “whoever has seen me has seen the Father;” (John 14:9) or “I am in the Father and the Father is in me;” (John 14:10) or, this week, “He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine” (John 16:14)

Jesus is the second person, the second stopping point, in contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  Jesus exists as both God and human, giving humanity new access to divinity — and the other way around.  And all this talk about glorification, well… it’s a mystery!  But, as is so often the case with scripture and the words of Jesus, it appears to have something to do with teaching us to see the world as God sees it, not as we do.

When I hear the word “glorify” I tend to think of lifting someone or something up with praise and adoration.  If I’m glorifying you, then I’m assuming the position of a lowly one so as to draw attention to you, the elevated one.  But in Jesus, God is glorified, God is lifted up.  And, Jesus says, God will glorify him, God will lift him up.

Glorification, in the realm of God, becomes something altogether different — not the elevation of one over another by acts of praise; but, instead, the mutual sharing of life together, the revelation that our life is shared in and with each other by acts of love and self-giving.  Part of the mystery of God in Christ Jesus is the radical reorienting of reality that brings God down to earth, that lifts humanity up to heaven, that gives us a shared body to which we all belong.

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity whom we celebrated last Sunday at the festival of Pentecost, is that Advocate, the presence of God with us that was promised by Christ.  The Holy Spirit is the point in the mystery of the Trinity that breaks open the relationship of God to Jesus and makes that relationship available to each and every one of us.

Here the mystery gets even thicker.  Consider this, that for the first three centuries of the Christian church there was widespread disagreement about the nature of this Holy Spirit.  Was it God?  Was it of the same substance as God?  Was it equal with the Father and the Son?  Those questions weren’t decided formally until the Council of Nicea (from which we get the Nicene Creed) in the year 325.  And, of course, as it is with most decisions in church, the fact that the council voted on it didn’t settle the issue for everyone involved.  People continued to struggle to understand the meaning of the Holy Spirit.

This is a wonderful illustration of the words of Jesus from today’s gospel.  There he says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” (John 16:12).  Remember, Jesus is speaking these words at the Last Supper.  They haven’t yet seen him crucified, or raised from the dead, or appearing among them in the locked room.  They aren’t ready yet to understand, much less trust in the mystery of the Holy Spirit.  But centuries later the church was able to look back at all that had happened, all that had been said and taught, as well as their own experience of how God was alive with them, through each other, in the Church and they were able to say something new about God’s unity in community.

Living here on the other side of the resurrection, having experienced the power of God through the church, the child of the Holy Spirit, we are in a position to trust in the mystery of the Holy Trinity — not to understand it, not to solve it, but to trust in it.

The Holy Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev, using the theme of the "Hospitality of Abraham." The three angels symbolize the Trinity, which is rarely depicted directly in Orthodox art.

The Holy Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev, using the theme of the “Hospitality of Abraham.” The three angels symbolize the Trinity, which is rarely depicted directly in Orthodox art.

If we go back to the ancient Hebrew assertion that the Lord is God, the Lord is One, and we pair that with the word from the book of Genesis that gives us these words from God, “let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26) then we arrive at one of the many teaching moments of the mystery of the Trinity.  We trust, as a matter of faith, that our God is one.  That’s what we’ve been taught since we were children.  We don’t have three gods, we have God: the three-in one and one-in-three.  And we’ve been taught that we are created in the image of God.  But what does that mean?  Am I three-in-one?  Are you one-in-three?

The power of a mystery of faith doesn’t come from how we untie its knots, but how it unties ours.  Here the mystery of the Holy Trinity addresses one of our most basic errors: that we think we exist alone, in solitary.  That we can be human all on our own, without relationship to anyone else.  That’s certainly how we structure our society.  We create the expectation that each person be able to care for themselves in a very narrow way, economically, and we penalize and humiliate you if that is not possible.  But we don’t do such a good job of noticing all the ways we are interdependent upon one another for things that can’t be measured with dollars: safety, belonging, friendship, wisdom, respect and love.  These things, just as necessary for life, can only come from community.  We cannot live, we cannot be human, alone.  We can only do it together.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu talks about this concept using and word found in the Zulu or Xhosa languages, ubuntu, which means (roughly translated), “people are people through other people.”  We aren’t fully human alone, we are only fully human together.  And the mystery of the Holy Trinity is ready to teach us this: that we are created in the image of a God whose own life takes place in community.  We are made in community just as God exists in community; and we belong to the one body of Christ, just as God is one.

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God.  The Lord is One.

The essence of a mystery, the way we use the word in church, is not to unravel it but to dwell within it.  To let it unravel you, and then bind you back up.  This is just one more way, I suppose, that we are created in God’s image: that we, too, are mysteries.  Each of us many in one, and one among many.  We do not need to be solved, only loved, and that is the gift that the Holy Trinity wants to offer us: the open door to life lived in the communion of God who creates, redeems and sustains us; God who surrounds, accompanies and empowers us; God around us, toward us, through us; God our parent, our sibling, our family.  God in all, for all, forever.

Amen.

 

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, April 7, 2013: Second Sunday of Easter

Texts:  Acts 5:27-32  +  Psalm 150  +  Revelation 1:4-8  +  John 20:19-31

The preacher has some choices to make during the season of Easter, a season of 50 days, seven Sundays and then the festival of Pentecost.  You’ll have noticed that our readings are a little different than usual.  Instead of the first reading coming from Hebrew scripture, we’ve read a portion from the book of Acts, which is really an abbreviation for the book’s full name: the Acts of the Apostles.  The second reading came from the infrequently read book of Revelation; and the Gospel reading came from the Gospel of John, which doesn’t get a year to itself in our three-year cycle of readings, but instead gets read in every year during the high holidays and festival seasons.

Further, this pattern will hold throughout the season of Lent.  Each week for the next two months we’ll be reading from Acts, Revelation and the Gospel of John.  In Acts we’ll be following the story of the explosive growth of the church following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.  From Revelation we get a message of hope and life to the struggling churches of the first century written in a kind of code that is one part poetry to one part dream.  And in John’s gospel we will hear how Jesus came to those he loved and led following his resurrection to prepare them for the power of the Holy Spirit, with flashbacks to moments from his ministry in life that pointed ahead to his expectation that it would be us, the Church, that would continue his work.

If we had an extra hour each Sunday, I could preach on all three stories, and I know some of you think I’d love to give that a try, but I promise you I won’t.  So, I’ve made a decision to focus on one set of these readings throughout the fifty days of Easter, the story of the Church’s earliest days, the Acts of the Apostles.

Clearly this morning’s story has dropped us in the middle of some intense action.

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” (Acts 5:27-28)

Here’s what you need to know:

The book of Acts begins with Jesus alive among the disciples after his resurrection, and the promise that God will send the Holy Spirit.  The disciples stick together in Jerusalem, waiting for that moment, and select Matthias to replace Judas in their inner circle of twelve.  Then, in a familiar story that we’ll return to at the end of this fifty day season, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples at the festival of Pentecost and Peter preaches his first great sermon, at the end of which the scripture says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)  And if that pattern sounds familiar to you, it should.  It is the pattern of worship, and this is the birth of the Church.

The disciples’ worship leads directly to action, which is the source of the trouble we read about in this morning’s portion.  In those early days of the church there was a fire burning in the hearts of the people such that it says,

They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:45-47)

hands-reaching-outSo one day, as they were headed to the Temple for more of this intense communal fellowship, worship, prayer and praise, Peter and John come across a man who had been lame since birth, whose lot in life was to lay just outside the doors of the temple and beg for offerings from the people coming in and out of the Temple. You know who I’m talking about, the people we pass on the way to and from church, or the office, or the gym.  The ones crippled by disability, or war wounds, or mental illness, or addiction.  Going from soup kitchen to pantry. Living off the handouts of others.  This man sees Peter and John coming to worship and asks them for money, but they have none since all that they had was now being held in common by the community of believers, so they offer that instead.  Peter tells the man,

“Look at us.  I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the [door of the Temple begging]. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:6-10)

Recognizing that the healing this man truly needed was not a life of ongoing dependence, but instead of unconditional welcome, Peter and John heal him by raising him up and bringing him inside the walls of the Temple — no longer unclean, inconvenient, embarrassing, or irritating.  Now one of them, a member, an equal, a brother.

And Peter, who had three times denied Jesus on the night of his betrayal now just can’t stop preaching.  With everyone looking at him in awe and wonder following the healing of the man born lame, Peter says,

“[People] of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? … the faith that is through Jesus has given this man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:12,16)

And this is what gets Peter arrested (the first time).  The powers that be thought that by killing Jesus on a cross, by making a public example of him, that they would silence the power of God being unleashed in the world, a power set loose for the sake of healing and reconciliation.  But, filled with God’s spirit, the church picked up right where Jesus had left off, and the power that had been contained in one man was now multiplying — loaves and fishes.  By the time Peter was thrown in prison, the community of the Church had already grown to five thousand people.

When they bring him to stand trial the next day, they ask him by whose authority and power he has worked this miracle, the same question so often directed at Jesus, and in reply Peter says,

“If we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead — by him this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:9-10)

And scripture says that the priests were astonished because these were “uneducated, common men.”  As though only they, in their long robes, could act as God’s agents in the world.  But, no, here were ordinary people, moved by the power and the presence of Christ to do extraordinary things.  Here were ordinary people, no longer content to see other ordinary people begging for food at the doors of the church, the end of the off ramp, the alley behind the store, inviting them to stand up, to come inside, to be a part of this new fellowship of people who shared everything in common and who were increasing in faith and in numbers day by day.

The Temple authorities want to know by whose authority these things are being done and Peter says,

“we are doing them in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who you killed, and whom God raised.”

And this is where things must have felt crazy to those in authority, this is why I love this story and chose to preach it over all the other options, because they thought they’d taken care of their Jesus problem.  But now there seemed to be a little Jesus in everyone who had known him, and even in those who — like us — had only come to know him through the stories and actions of his disciples.  They’d hung him on a cross and buried him in the ground, but there was more Jesus in the world now than ever before, so they tell Peter and John to stop teaching and preaching and healing.  To stop using that name: Jesus!

And Peter tells them,

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

Jesus had told them, “you will be my witnesses,” and now the apostles begin to understand the meaning and the power of the resurrection.  That seed once planted in the earth had begun to sprout.  That tree on which had hung the salvation of the world had begun to flower.  And now there would be no holding back.  Life was rising up from the ground, healing for those who’d been left outside the doors of the church, a new community for a new world.

I love this next part of the story.  After Peter and John were released from prison they returned to the company of the believers and they shared their account of what had happened.  Immediately the community begins to pray with them, and the scriptures record the words of their prayer in a form that suggests an early Christian hymn, so I take it that they sang as they prayed.  They prayed,

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus”  And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)

Don’t you know that’s why we’re hearing this morning, to pray for boldness?  Don’t you know that in the week since we last gathered, people in this room, people in our church, people throughout our city and across the world have been standing before the powers and principalities of the present moment and teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus, who is not dead but alive, in you and in me, for the sake of healing and reconciliation.  We are here this morning because we’ve all just come from one prison or another and we need to be fed with this Word, with this bread of life, not because we are so weak, but because we are so extraordinarily strong.  So strong, together, that we can hardly believe it.

God answers the community’s prayers for boldness by expanding their mission and ministry.

God answers prayers for boldness by expanding mission and ministry.

Though he’d been put in prison for preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name, and for healing one man born lame; now Peter and the disciples were performing more signs and wonders than the scriptures have space to individually record, so instead they just say,

And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, so that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.  The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:14-16)

So Peter is put in prison again, to try to shut him up by shutting him in, but in the night the angels come and open the prison doors (though I happen to think that Peter preached to his captors and made converts of them, because when you’re filled with the power of God’s Holy Spirit, every prison becomes a place just waiting for God’s reconciliation to take hold).  The next morning, instead of finding him in his cell, they find Peter in the public square, again, preaching Jesus (because, of course, faith is public not private — which is why Peter went to the public square, and not back to his home).  And this is where we finally join up with the passage assigned for this morning.

Knowing that he has become too popular with the people, that they cannot have him taken by force, they bring Peter before the Council for questioning, reminding him that he’d been given strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name, and Peter basically repeats what he’d already told them, that he and the community of the faithful now answer to and live their lives according to a higher authority.

People of God, we are all witnesses to what God has done.  We are all apostles with acts of our own too numerous to tell.  Baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, we are part of the great, ongoing uprising that is Christ’s insurrection — err, I mean, resurrection in, and from, and for the whole Earth.

Just outside our doors there are people begging for a little of the bread, a little of the community, a little of the life that we experience when we are together.

Why make them settle for a little?

Why not give them a lot.  A whole lot.

Why not take them by the hand in invite them to stand tall, to stand proud, to remember the dignity that is their birthright as children of God.  Why not bring them inside the temple to pray, and sing, and dance with us?

Brothers and sisters, the new life God wants for us is the new life God is creating through us.  We are here this morning to pray for boldness, because we know that God answers prayers for boldness with an ever and ever expanding mission and ministry.  We are here this morning because we know that when God’s Holy Spirit takes hold of the church, it is called to act.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

Amen.

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