What’s next?

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,”

We are now celebrating the Sixth Sunday and the start of the Sixth Week of the Easter Season. Is the thrill gone?

In the first few weeks of the Easter Season, we stood in awe with the apostles and disciples as they continually encountered the Risen Lord. We could sense their joy, the celebration and thrill that lifted their hearts and opened their minds to the truth of Jesus’ claims. He was indeed the fulfillment of all contained in the Law and the prophets.

Jesus had spent this time connecting the dots for His followers and so armed them to bear fruit by lived faith, to continue the message of freedom that is the gospel, and to bring people to repentance and membership in His body, the Church. As we heard last week, to graft people onto the True Vine.

We all know how it is. We spent time celebrating, thrilled, but now we have to turn what we learned in the celebration into physical action. We have to move the trill to lived witness to the risen Lord. Today, next Sunday, and for the rest of the year, we reinforce how we should be living.

Looking forward, we know what Jesus’ followers did not quite grasp, that Pentecost was coming, that Jesus’ instruction we will hear this Thursday, to remain and pray, would situate them for the awesomeness and trill of that day. Everything He had been teaching them, all the dots He connected, would in a flash of the Holy Spirit’s coming. pour out of them and into the whole world. Is that power pouring out of us? Is that trill with us or are we bored by Jesus?

In today’s readings and gospel, we see Jesus’s direction, how His followers carried it out, and how we should be doing it; what should be pouring out of us as we remain thrilled to be His followers.

It starts in the great commandment – restated today, This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.

Peter understood it in the house of Cornelius where people he would never associate with became his brothers and sisters in the Lord, who also received the Holy Spirit. He saw the trill they encountered, knowing Jesus changed them completely, and he was again renewed.

John, the disciple Jesus loved, went on to continually proclaim the power of love – for love is a thrill when it is lived genuinely, honestly, and effectively.

We live in the trill of being chosen, being free because of Jesus’ resurrection, sharing in His love for us, and our mutual friendship. We are so free, and love filled, that if called upon we will give our lives for Him and each other.

What’s next for us is what was next for the disciples, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, strong proclamation, a life defined by the gospel. And the everlasting trill of Jesus risen.

Perfection among us.

But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.

The perfect King of Kings enters His holy city. As you may remember from past homilies of this day, the arrival of a king on a donkey was the sign of a king’s arrival in peace. And so, the Savior of the world enters in peace to shouts of Hosanna to the Son of David.

Jesus, God made man, the perfect Son, enters into a city far from perfect. In fact, it was a broken city. 

In one corner the Chief Priest and his council were planning to kill Jesus and were not too shy to use bribery to accomplish their ends. They were not afraid of soliciting false testimony or engaging their enemy to accomplish their ends.

The Temple was filled with salesmen and money changers. The House of God was turned into Crossgates Mall. The worship of God was nothing more than a reason for commerce.

There were revolutionaries in the street. There was the persecution of the Roman overlords who took advantage of the people. The Roman governor set up his palace opposite the Temple for all too see, so they would know who was really in charge.

The once great city of David had become a city without God. In fact, God had not spoken to His people for several hundred years. Malachi, the last prophet before the Baptist, pointed out that God loves Israel, but that the people do not return His love. The people withhold what is due to God, and if they do give, give only what is defective. People divorce their spouses to marry worshipers of other gods. Sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and people who take advantage of workers and the needy abound. Priests tell people whatever they want to hear, suppressing God’s word. Things had not changed in the 478 years since Malachi! Talk about a losing streak! Things were far from perfect. 

The perfect Lamb enters breaking through people’s focus on everything wrong, calling their attention to Him. But it would not end there. Again, and again, Jesus broke through the whispers and silence of corruption. The Son of God broke through just as the sun breaks darkness.

Jesus, the perfect Savior, is finally lifted up over the city, and in that moment of salvation He changed the world. He crushed death and its fear and made us new FOREVER. Amidst our imperfection let us set fear aside and rejoice in the King’s power to destroy every imperfection and redeem what is broken.

And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh He brought you to life along with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, He also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.

Last week we found Abraham sitting in the entrance of his test on a hot summer day. Today, his three visitors walked on toward Sodom, intent on destroying the city for its sinfulness, while the Spirit of God remained with Abraham. In one of the most classic dialogs in scripture, Abraham presumes to bargain with God. He wonders, can God forget the serious sinfulness of Sodom for the sake of those who try to live justly? Not once, but three times, he sets a challenge to God – can He look past the sins of so many for the sake of the few innocents. Perhaps it is a bit too far to say, at least at that stage of salvation history, that God would forget the sins of so many. Yet, He could look past their serious sinfulness so that that those, innocent of those serious sins, might not perish. God shows forth His mercy. God previews His approachability.

St. Paul brings our new reality in Jesus to the fore. We are all guilty, all liable, yet God mercifully sent His Son to free us, literally to obliterate every sin (every failing, serious and minor, big and small) that held us captive. Paul tells us that we have been buried with Jesus by our baptism. In those waters we, by God’s grace, the cross of Jesus, and the working of the Holy Spirit, leave sin behind. Uncleanness is abandoned, and we come alive – alive for ever. In that moment, we were raised.

The question before us, what do we do with this new freedom? What are the next steps? How should we act?

Remember that Paul refers to when we were dead. It is past tense, it was before. It is addressed to every one of us, Gentiles in the old order and the new Israel in our rebirth. Freed from our sin, we must respect and honor the fact of our freedom. Again, but how?

Respect and honor our position of freedom in the kingdom. Stand tall, look straight ahead, and pray to the Father looking Him in the eye. Ask in faith. Believe that we will receive. Give praise and thanks. The Lord has forgotten our sin and invites us to approach Him right now.

Beloved:
The grace of God has appeared, saving all
and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires
and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age,
as we await the blessed hope,
the appearance of the glory of our great God
and savior Jesus Christ

Today we celebrate the ultimate encounter. Here we meet God. It couldn’t be any better. Nothing could be more amazing than this night in which all of God’s promises were fulfilled. It happened in this moment, in this manger, on this night.

Paul, writing to the early Church, summarizes what everyone knew pretty much first hand. He recalls the flash of Jesus’ glorious appearance. He recalls the beginning of transformation – Jesus brought opportunity for change, newness, and freedom. Paul helps his readers to see that the opportunity still lives. My brothers and sisters, it lives here today. Approach the manger, see it and enter into new life today.

Grace has come to earth, and it lays here today, ready to be picked up, ready to be accessed and used for a new way of living. As this passage is read in churches around the world, we not only remember an opportunity once given; we take up that chance once again in hopeful preparation for Jesus’ return in glory.

We have nothing but opportunity; a chance to reject the curriculum, the teaching of the world, the non-opportunity of death. Embracing the Christ child’s opportunity for change, newness, and freedom we turn from that which is false, old, and binding. By Christ’s birth, God gives us Divine opportunity to live new lives.

People of God, people filled with love for the newborn Babe, our ship has come in. Our chance is here. Let us link our lives together and with all who see the opportunity of God’s grace – opportunity for change, newness, and freedom – joy.