A second pandemic Easter. A second Sunday of Easter still in a pandemic and growing concern of a third wave. It’s the first day of the week, and then the second of Easter, people continue to be isolated and afraid, and the risen Jesus appears saying, “Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace be with you.”
Isn’t that just right…just what we need to see and hear in today’s words, to believe and live and share resurrection life; that sins - ours and the world’s, are forgiven; that being of one heart and soul, everything is for the common good that there not be a needy person among us anywhere; and in the great power, the great grace of the resurrection that we see and hear and touch, joy is complete. So, breathe! That’s the Spirit. The Holy Spirit of the risen Christ breathed upon us. Breathe, believe, and live in the good and pleasant unity of peace in the risen Christ!
This is what occurred to me as I read over the readings and the Psalm for this Sunday – they offer a clear and gracious vision of resurrected community life in Christ. To quote Stacey Nalean Carlson in the Preaching resource of Sundays and Seasons, “Does the resurrection make a difference in our lives? Today’s readings respond with a resounding, ‘YES!’”
The early community of the risen Christ described in Acts, says “those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.” These words follow the astonishing healing in the name of the risen Jesus of a man who couldn’t walk from birth. As a result, Peter and John are imprisoned and questioned by authorities. After testifying to the resurrection of Jesus they are released and return to the people. And in a Pentecost like scene, it reads, “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” Filled with the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ, the community is of one heart and soul, everything is held in common, and there was not a needy person among them. Does the resurrection make a difference? YES!
What do we do with this Spirit filled vision of resurrection community? Do we strive to live this together, at least in part, as resurrection people? We, I, am far from having no private ownership of anything, nor is everything among us held in common. But we understand our stewardship as God’s people to be based in God’s abundant grace in Christ given to all, so that everything we are and everything we have is a gift, and therefore to be shared, so all have enough. We combine at least some of our resources of money and time, abilities and energy for just this purpose as a faith community, together with others. And there is great power and great grace in this resurrection witness, and in growing in our response and generosity to any in need, including those who are food insecure with the Kitchen; elders, students and others in need of affordable housing, those who are frail and differently abled in need of greater care with Luther Court; refugees in need of a safe country with ICA; those in poverty locally and globally in need of support with CLWR and others; in truth and seeking reconciliation with Indigenous peoples; in advocacy and self examination and reform with marginalized minorities and oppressed people; in greater care for the earth and its creatures in response to the climate crisis; and more. This vision of community in the risen Christ is far from fulfilled in this or any community of faith. But by the Holy Spirit, we are being formed in this resurrected life, shaken and filled by the Spirit in new and bold ways of risen community together. Does the resurrection make a difference? YES!
And as we read in 1John, in forgiveness – because “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness… and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” So that “We declare… what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands,…” in word and water, bread and wine, prayer and work, “…the word of life…eternal life… in God and in community together… with God… with Christ Jesus… so that our joy may be complete.” God is light and life. Does the resurrection make a difference in living a forgiven and forgiving life in community together and with all others? YES!
The beautiful, brief Psalm 133 celebrates this community! “How good and how pleasant it is, when kindred live together in unity!” Like rich and abundant oil; like dew flowing down the mountains and over the hills. “For there God has commanded the blessing: life forevermore.” Unity, not homogenous life. Unity in diversity, in beautiful, wonderful differences in who we are, the colours of our skin, the bodies we inhabit, the identities we hold and that are trans-formed for us, the cultures and experiences that shape us, how we see and hear and move and act and are present together; but kindred all; in the unity of God, as children of God together; blessed together: life forevermore. Does the resurrection make a difference to living in unity in wonderful diversity? YES!
And those fearful disciples/followers/friends of Jesus, locking themselves in rooms, not knowing what to do next. We can identify with them! in our fears, in the deaths or threat of death that we and our neighbours and people of this community and this world are experiencing, and for some, in burdens too many and too great to bear. And Jesus shows up again and again, and says again, again and again, “Peace be with you.” Does the resurrection make a difference in moments and lives of personal and collective fear, in grief, in terrible, tragic news? YES! God help us! YES!
Including, like Thomas, when we doubt and can’t believe that it ever could. Especially then. Jesus’ risen presence appears, saying, “Peace be with you. Do not doubt but believe.” Yes. And in many other gracious, resurrection signs in Christ. Yes. We pray, for others, for ourselves, for this world. Yes.
For Easter, I have begin reading the book, Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Elizabeth Gilbert calls the book, “A hymn of love to the world.” In this exploration of “Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants,” Kimmerer shares stories, ancient and new, of life together on this sacred earth. In her chapter, “Learning the Grammar of Animacy,” she begins with the heading, “To be native to a place we must learn to speak its language.” She speaks of listening to the sounds of earth all around her, of learning the language of science, of botany, specifically, but recognizing that there was a language she was missing.
As she began struggling with learning the Potawatomi Indigenous language of her ancestors, in a moment of frustration with words that in English are nouns, but now verbs, “to be a Saturday, to be a hill, to be a long sandy beach,” and her mind settling on the word, wiikwegamma, “to be a bay,” a sudden realization overcame her. “A bay is a noun only if the water is dead. …to be a bay – releases the water from bondage and lets it live. ‘To be a bay’ holds the wonder that, for this moment the water has decided to shelter itself between these shores…. This is the grammar of animacy…. Yawe – the animate, to be. I am, you are, s/he is. To speak of those possessed with life and Spirit we must say, yawe. By what linguistic confluence do Yahweh of the (Hebrew Scriptures) and yawe of the New World both fall from the mouths of the reverent? Isn’t this just what it means, to be, to have breath of life within, to be the offspring of Creation? The language reminds us, in every sentence, of our kinship with all of the animate world.” Kimmerer concludes the chapter, “I remember the words of Bill Tall Bull, a Cheyenne Elder. As a young person, I spoke to him with a heavy heart, lamenting that I had no native language with which to speak to the plants and the places that I love. ‘They love to hear the old language,’ he said, ‘it’s true.’ ‘But,’ he said, with fingers on his lips, ‘You don’t have to speak it here.’ ‘If you speak it here,’ he said patting his chest, ‘They will hear you.’” (Braiding Sweetgrass, pp. 55-59)
In no way wanting to co-opt Kimmerer’s word’s, I hear and learn from them a language of animate life in everything, that in our Christian language, is resurrection life. It may at times be a language we struggle to know and believe, but it is here for our hearing. And even when not our lips, it is here, in our hearts. It is the risen life in everything, of forgiveness, unity, equity, peace, and joy together, and with all God’s world. This resurrection community is what God desires the Church of the risen Christ to be in and for the world, a pandemic world, a world of sin and suffering and need; a broken earth and climate, to be a risen community of redemption, healing, wholeness, peace and joy, for all and all creation. Breathe! Breathe in this Spirit, and hear Jesus sending us to live this risen life! Does the resurrection make a difference? OH YES! Let it be so…