The Lord Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Acts 5:27-32 | Psalm 118:14-29 | Revelation 1:4-8 | John 20:19-31

When we feel strongly about something, we don’t often keep it to ourselves. Well, we can. This week I was reluctant to share too much about the place where I found respite. It’s wonderful, and if too many people know about it, it will be hard to make reservations. But it is so good that I want it to stay in business. I want others to have this wonderful experience, too, so I wrote a positive review . . . after I made my next reservation, of course. (You can find it on AirBnB, search for “the Nest at Sewanee.”) When we have something good, we can hoard it, or we can share it: we can work from scarcity or abundance.It sounds like economic terminology, but it works across the board.

We have folks here from the Arkansas Poor People’s Campaign: A Call for a Moral Revival. The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC for short) has twelve main objectives, all based around the moral call we hear from our prophetic ancestors to raise the lowly, to make straight the pathway to heaven, to the kingdom of God. The basis is that we have enough; there’s plenty to go around. The problem is that in our industrial complex, we’ve prioritized materialism, particularly capitalism, over every other aspect of life, including our spirituality. Not that we can’t monetize spirituality, either. Think of all the products we can buy to make us feel like we’re better, more pious people because we have all the right stuff. But we know the truth. All the money in the world can’t make you a better Christian, any more than it can solve all medical crises, your family life, your mental stability, or any other aspect of our life. But when we know we have enough and find contentment where we are, know that we have a network of support, our life worth, our true quality of life reaches that priceless point. You know what I’m saying? Contentment. Blessed assurance. True happiness.

Peter and the apostles are confronted by the authorities in our reading from Acts. Readings later in this past Easter week have included the apostles not being able to keep quiet about Jesus. Whereas everyone knew he had been crucified, only a few had been privy to his resurrection appearances. And once they had seen and known, they had good news to share. Not only that, but they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and were proclaiming the Good News and performing good works in the name of Jesus. They were filled with power and continuing to manifest the presence of Jesus Christ among the poor and marginalized, giving them hope and raising them out of their despair. And they couldn’t keep quiet.

“We’ve told you,” the authorities say, but when you’ve got something to say, when truly you have a message to share, especially when it is aligned with the will of God, woe be it to the authorities to stand in your way; they’re just going to have more work to do! Peter and crew answer, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” We must obey God.

Now, the Feast of St. Mark is normally on April 25th, but it got transferred to Monday due to Easter Week, which takes precedence in the church calendar. In the Gospel according to Mark, we get the Great Commission (16:15).

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”

The apostles were told to go to the WORLD and PROCLAIM the GOOD NEWS. Alleluia! Christ is risen! Don’t we say that? We just did, at the beginning of service. Do we say that out in the world? Our gospel lesson today focuses on bringing forgiveness and reconciliation to the world. Do we spread that good news in the world, outside the church walls?

Maybe we’re not so sure we believe in the resurrection and all this “power of the Holy Spirit” stuff. It sounds like a bunch of ghost stories, almost. Idle tales, right? Unless we see and touch and know for ourselves, we’re just gonna stay as we are, trying to follow the way of Jesus as he showed us in his lifetime, keeping his memory alive. That’s a good thing to do, right? Many, in fact, believe the historical Jesus was just that, an example. Maybe that’s where Thomas was in his belief–that it was wonderful while it lasted, but now . . . what do we have now that Jesus is dead aside from our deep grief? Thomas doubted the truth of what the disciples had proclaimed to him until he touched the wounded flesh of the risen Christ, proclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” In that moment, he believed and knew for himself that Jesus Christ was all he had foretold, was everything they hoped for, and more than they could have imagined. The risen Christ was real. Thomas knew personally the reality of the risen Lord, like the apostles gathered with him. With every confidence, they would go out into the world and proclaim that Christ lived, died, and rose again, showing the way to eternal life in God, showing the power of God to triumph over sin and death. And if that was possible, there’s no limit to what love can do. Let us go out and proclaim to the world this Good News.

It would be easier to proclaim the Good News if we actually believed for ourselves that the power of the Holy Spirit could work a miracle or two here and now. There are a lot more Thomases in our faith than there are apostles who share the true Good News. We’re living in dark times now if we only read the headlines, and hope flickers dimly if at all for many and for good reasons.

I was listening to OnBeing, and in the interview between Krista Tippett and Joanna Macy, a Buddhist philosopher of ecology who translated Rilke’s poetry, Macy says that she didn’t believe Rilke emphasized hope. In a way, she said, he seemed to foresee the darkness coming in the 20th century, and his poetry often seemed to address God, especially God in Creation, lamenting humanity’s degradation of that which had been so freely and lovingly given. She said that Rilke didn’t emphasize hope because hoping or gauging how much hope we have can be exhausting. Kind of like if Thomas had never touched the risen Christ and was constantly compared to the other apostles who believed without a doubt. Macy also shared a bit of her own story and journey and recalled one of the main things she gleaned from Buddhist teaching: showing up, being present. Being present and showing up is our biggest gift, she says. Even when Thomas didn’t believe as the others, he returned to be with them, right? He was in the room with them another week later. He showed up.

It is in our showing up that we “have the capacity to love,” Macy said, and this capacity to love gives us solidarity, the power to heal the world. Our heart might be breaking every day, but with our hearts wide open, we give God more room to fill us with the power of Holy Spirit. Macy said something to the effect of “What’s a heart for, if not to be broken?” (The title of the interview is “A Wild Love for the World.”)

The healing we experience from our deepest wounds teach us great things; it gives us a learning we know in our bones, so to speak. Maybe our lessons aren’t major, like me being tired and going on retreat. The experience of restoration is wonderful, and I have experience to share with others about the benefits of self-care. But maybe they are significant. If I’m in recovery and making the daily decisions to support life and health, I have my experiences to share and offer support to others, helping them toward a way of life and health. If I’ve been a victim of child abuse, through foster homes, through counselors good and bad, I have invaluable experience to share with others to find their way toward a life of peace, a life restored. If I’ve been living a life in the dark, drowning in sorrow and despair, and found a point of light I could cling to until I surfaced into a life that offered a sense of wholeness and joy I didn’t think was possible, I have good news to share. It’s my personal experiences that make all the difference, that affirm my belief that there is something to this life that speaks to love, and when I lean into that love for myself, and especially toward God and my neighbor, it gets big quickly.

Joanna Macy, in talking about her journey, said that she grew up in a liberal Protestant church, but it wasn’t until she was at church camp when she was about 16 that Jesus and God became personal, alive for her in a way they hadn’t before. In all the resurrection experiences, it’s personal: the risen Lord appears to people who eventually see and believe. What if in my life experiences and the lessons I’ve learned I look for the presence of Christ? What if it’s not the wounded hands and sides we need to touch, but it’s the lives of ourselves and others that we need to be present to, to show up for until we know that we are connected in a way that passes our understanding? Like in the Truth & Poverty tour, we need to see our neighbors, reach out to them, hear their stories, lend a helping hand or bond money or food or advocacy, and be the presence of Christ to them. Even with broken hearts, maybe even helpless, if we show up and allow the presence of Love to be in our midst, doesn’t that speak to our faith?

If we’ve already seen the presence of God in our lives and have a faith that in one way or another has touched the wounds of Christ and known the power of God’s reconciling love, why don’t we share that faith in as many words with others? Why don’t we risk letting our hearts be broken, risk being embarrassed for a minute, risk being rejected, to say outloud that we love Jesus Christ, that we’ve experienced the presence of God in  our lives, and that coming to our church helps us stay strong in that faith if not feel the presence of the Holy Spirit directly. Or do we want to hold that love for ourselves? My loves, our hearts aren’t big enough for the love of God, for all of Creation. Let’s risk being broken hearted for love of the world, for love of God. Let’s tend to our neighbors and this little bit of earth and do our best to say it like we mean it, knowing that the powers and principalities in this world have no hold on the children of God: Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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There is Enough

There is enough . . . if we share.  It’s not just a lesson to the kids when they think — when they know — that they don’t have exactly what a sibling or a classmate has.  As if they didn’t have enough of their own.  There are plenty of toys.  There is plenty of food.

Unless you are deprived of something, unless others are not willing to share or have the authority or audacity to take some thing away from you, don’t you have enough?

The seemingly homeless man on the side of the road held a sign.

“I have EVERYTHING I need except money.  Do you have the COURAGE to give?”

As a matter of fact, I happen to have some dollar coins from our visit to the amusement park last week.  Let me share some of our abundance.  Let me ask him where he lives.  Let me hear that he does indeed live around here; that he thinks this is a nice place to live.  As I agree with him, I look directly into his eyes, smiling yet wondering how this could be a lovely place to live if he’s standing on the side of the off-ramp asking for money.  He did say he has everything else he needs.  Money isn’t everything.

Visiting a dying friend, before I took my leave, I said, “Love to you, my friend.”  Drugged as she was, she half-laughed.  “You said love.  How can you  . . . ”  Her voice trailed off.  I understand.  We’re not close friends.  My coming to her is largely in part of a pastoral visit, but in my visits to her, sincerity wins over any sense of obligation.  “I try to share my love with everyone,” I tell her gently.  “It’s part of our responsibility in this life to share God’s love with one another.  You are my sister.”  Eyes closed, she smiled subtly.

We do not see reality the same as one another.  Our perspectives and interpretations are different.  Ultimately, there is one Earth.  One Source.  Our time here is too precious to live in fear, in a sense of lack.

What if we believed we had everything we need.  What if we made sure that we all had everything we needed?  Sure, take care of you and yours, but where does your responsibility end?  Is there a limit to abundance?  I don’t think so.

I only hope I can live into the dream of everyone having everything they need.  Enough to live.  Enough love.  Enough is enough, gently said.

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It’s Not a Problem; It’s an Opportunity

I once heard it’s good feng shui to have your fridge full of food.  My grandpa always kept his car full of gas.  My grandma always had a pantry full of canned goods and a freezer so full of food you could barely shut it, let alone fit another bag of frozen anything in there.  My mother-in-law usually has at least two of everything, mainly so she can share with the family — thanks to the good deals she finds.

There’s a good fortune there that can easily be taken for granted.  Their ways of being and doing things rely upon being able to sustain them.  They have the resources to do so.  I didn’t realize how fortunate I was as a kid.  I knew others relied on school lunch programs.  I knew there were homeless kids and adults, that even if they had a make-shift home, it didn’t necessarily mean they had electricity or running water.

I also realize the predicament my parents were in, a stereotypical struggle of middle class America.  Keep up with the Joneses.  Make things look well and good, even if the budget is a train wreck.  Pay the medical and dental bills out of pocket; what other choice do you have?  Buy now, pay later . . . if you can.  Don’t let the kids know how hard it is.

Now my husband and I find ourselves living between these two ways of living, and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t an opportunity to find a resolve so that our kids won’t have to struggle with the same issues.  I feel like my grandparents, who lived through the depression, wanted to make sure they never ran out, that there’s always plenty.  They also felt very strongly about paying for things with cash; buy only what you can afford.  I feel like my parents, who reached adulthood in the 70s, lived fully in the 80s mentality: get what you need (a.k.a. want), taking time to pay it back.  It provided a kind of feast or famine way of life.

Our opportunity, again, is to find what is best of each generation, and I think that relies on us being able to clearly know what is enough.

I heard that it’s best to use the full tank of gas before filling up again.  I know from experience that I feel like I’m not wasting as much money on gas when the tank if full.  (Doesn’t it seem like the top half of the tank lasts longer?)  I know that food does not last forever, even in a freezer.  It’s best to cycle through and actually use it and replace it regularly.  Some staples do last longer when frozen, so saving room for bulk flour, oats, rice and such is smart.  I appreciate credit, too, but unless it can be managed wisely and paid off quickly, it’s best to pay with cash.  Do not live outside your means.  I’m still learning this simple lesson that can be so hard to live.

I also take the opportunity to tell my kids why we don’t eat out so often, why the fridge might not be full of fresh produce, why I cannot and will not pay full price for new clothes and such (unless absolutely necessary).  I don’t tell them to make them feel guilty or ashamed; I want them to know and understand.  I also try to make sure they share in my gratitude for what is shared with us, what is given to us. As a parent, you have to know how hard this can be.

Slowly, we are learning what is enough.  Though it may feel like we’re cutting it close on having enough food and supplies, we do have enough.  We realize how little we actually need to feel sustained and thriving.  Appreciation goes a long way.  A positive attitude does make a difference.  Our time isn’t spent moping about thinking about what we lack or miss.  We have to set a standard for ourselves.  Society’s expectations and norms have proven skewed and unbeneficial.

We have the opportunity to find where the value lies in our family.  We determine what is enough for us, really and truly.  If we need to buy in bulk out of necessity to save $10 and make sure we don’t run out of toilet paper or peanut butter (you have to have your priorities!), so be it.  I have a feeling other lessons and opportunities will follow regarding learning to live sustainably.  Our awareness continues to broaden.

I am so grateful for our abundance.

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