A sermon preached at St. George’s Anglican Church, Calgary, by the Rev. Clara King, April 15, 2018.
Third Sunday of Easter – Year B
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be always acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Let’s notice for a moment what exactly is happening in our passage from Acts this morning.
Recall, if you will, that the Disciples had been holed up in the Upper Room, doors locked and barred for fear of the crowds and the Temple authorities, and the Romans. And they had good reason to be afraid: whatever we know now, the Romans crucified Jesus for sedition, for talking revolution against the Emperor.
So the atmosphere which had been tense before Jesus died, was doubly tense now that the body had disappeared – taken, the Romans would have assumed, by his followers in order to stir up further rebellion. So the disciples had every reason to be afraid for their lives.
There they were, not daring to leave the safety of their Upper Room, when Jesus appeared to them – not just once, but again, and again, and again. And in these appearances, something powerful began to shift in the hearts of the disciples.
One day, after the Day of Pentecost, Peter went to the Temple, and he saw this crippled man. And he called to him, “in the name of Jesus Christ, rise and walk!”, and the man, at Peter’s word, got up and walked.
And then, Peter turns to the crowd that has gathered, and he preaches this sermon that we read today: a sermon full of pride and strength; a sermon testifying to the great glory God has wrought through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… - a sermon calling out his audience for their part in Jesus’ death.
And let’s remember: this is Peter speaking. Peter, who denied Christ three times - Peter, who chose to save his own skin rather than be known as a disciple of Jesus.
This same Peter now stands up to these bullies on their home turf, and calls them to account. “To this we are witnesses”, he says: we have witnessed how you acted, and we will name this truth. You did wrong, and you have been proven wrong, and we have seen it all.
But then Peter goes one step further: he offers these bullies grace: “You did not know what you were doing; and so repent, and turn to God, and become with us a new and renewed people.”
Now that is one heck of a transformation in Peter’s life.
That power of transformation in Peter’s life is offered to each one of us, too. It is at the heart of our journey of faith. The journey from being enslaved to being liberated; from being disempowered to being empowered – that is the story of faith down through the Bible.
It is the story of the people of Israel, freed from Egypt, and learning to be a free and faithful people in the wilderness. It is the story of the exile to Babylon and the return to rebuild Jerusalem. It is the story of the Disciples finding freedom through the Holy Spirit.
And it is also the story of countless individuals, finding liberty where they thought they had none; even finding liberty when they had thought they were already free.
When Moses meets God in the burning bush, Moses was enslaved by his traumatic past which he was desperate to escape. That past limited him in ways he thought were just fine – until God had bigger dreams for him. And God’s bigger dreams for Moses required him to go back to his personal ground-zero, and heal from his trauma, and grow from being a shepherd to being the greatest leader Israel ever had. He led the people of Israel out of bondage into freedom, just as he himself was led from bondage into freedom.
Again and again, throughout Scripture, we read the stories of individuals who find new life and new possibility and a new kind of freedom even when they think freedom isn’t possible.
That is what God does in our lives: God meets us in the midst of our circumstances every minute, and God sees there’s more possibilty than we can ask for or imagine; and God sees that in each one of us there is a lot more power than we think there might be.
Yesterday, 25 of us gathered for our third Healing Past Hurts event, and together we discovered we have a lot more power than we might have thought. Because we have the power to choose how we will act. And by choosing how we will act, we have the power to choose what this community will be like.
I say “we” – but I actually mean “you”.
You people here have a power together that no mere priest can ever compete with: because together you choose what your flock will be like. You choose how you will behave with one another, and you choose what behaviour you will welcome, what behaviour you will tolerate, and what behaviour you will not allow. You can do this together.
By working together, the safety and health of this community can be in your hands. And it is something that, together, you can tend and grow. And if the time ever comes again, when you face a bully – whether it be a bully in clerical robes, or a bully in the pew, you, like Peter can stand up and say, “To this we are witnesses. You have done wrong. Repent therefore, and turn to God, and become with us a new and renewed person.”
Our journey of healing is well on its way. This weekend we made commitments about how we will believe in one another and how we will behave towards one another. These are not light commitments – they are commitments to the new and resurrected life God is offering us in Christ. They are commitments to step into our power – our healthy, loving power, which births strong, healthy, life-giving relationships:
The commitment to:
- Value ourselves, one another, and give & receive God’s love;
- Believe that each of us, personally, is valuable ("I, personally, am valuable");
- Accept the challenges of the move to our new home positively and enthusiastically;
- Value all contributions, big or small; and
- Be one community, open and inviting to all.
On the Feast of Pentecost, May 20, we will make these commitments together as a community, and we will light this candle for the first time together. And we will light the candle every Sunday after that, as a reminder of the new life Christ is calling us to live.
This healing journey that we are on as a community also touches the lives of each of us as individuals. As we together see the transformation that Christ is working in our midst, may this journey speak also to you in your own private life.
May you see the light of Christ shining in your life; may you hear his invitation whispered in your ear. And may you find the faith and the courage, like Peter did, to step into your Christ-given power and see your life transformed.