This Homily was given at Morning Prayer, April 8, 2018 by Spiritual Director Pat Vine
Based on Holy Scriptures for the Day: Acts 4:32-35 – 1 John 1:1-2:2 – John 20:19-31
I find it very interesting that when the church fathers put together the Holy Scriptures, immediately following the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is a book that they named “Acts.” What were the apostles to do after they experienced the loss of their leader Jesus Christ through death and resurrection? They were to act. But what were they to do?
Before we can consider an answer to this question, let’s look at where St. Michael’s stands today. In a symbolic sense, like the apostles who have lost their leader, we at St. Michael’s have lost our priest and leader. So we are actually living these scriptures here and now as a church. What happened to the apostles has happened to us. So we grieve as they must have grieved their loss. But while grieving, we need to move on.
So where do we go from here? How do we take action and what action do we take?
Let’s look at today’s scriptures to learn from the apostles and see what they did after they lost their leader.
- We see in the reading from Acts that Those who believed were of one heart and soul. I wonder how this happened. I’m sure that there were many very interesting discussions to enable them to come to the point of being of one heart and soul. But we are encouraged that this can be accomplished when we communicate with one another. So if there is something that concerns you about St. Michael’s, let a member of the Transition Team know, who can then bring your concern to the Wardens and Vestry. We are not able to deal with what we don’t know about. Each concern will be listened to and dealt with in due time. I encourage each of you to be patient with the process. We all need to give our leadership the gift of time to figure out where we are and where we are going. When we keep in mind the good of the whole Body of Christ, we will behave in ways that give life and build up the body to enable us to become one heart and soul.
- The second thing we learn from the reading in Acts is that Everything they owned…was laid at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. St. Michael’s is currently doing a great job with distributing what we have to the community. Volunteers from St. Michael’s and other faith communities cook a monthly meal in our kitchen for people with special needs. Many bring non-perishable items to contribute to St. Agnes Little Falls Food Pantry. Gardeners mingle with our parishioners who garden in St. Michael’s Neighborhood Garden. The men’s and women’s groups study scriptures and help one another. We will be doing a Baby Shower for expectant military moms at the end of this month. But these are mostly in-house ways of reaching out. So the question is, “Are we ready for out-of-house ways to go beyond our walls to reach out to the community?”
St. Michael’s Guiding Team is studying the survey responses that you all gave us. Near the top of the list was for St. Michael’s to do more outreach to the community. So you will have a future opportunity to give of yourselves perhaps in a way that you have not done before. Keep an eye on the bulletin board to the right as you enter Duncanson Hall—there will be an opportunity for you to sign up and volunteer for these outreach opportunities, some of them new. “Everything they owned was distributed to each as they had need.” Now “everything they owned” doesn’t necessarily have to be a tangible thing like food or baby items. Think about your time. Are you willing to give an hour of your time to meet someone’s need outside of the walls of this church? This is what it means to be the church and to bring the love of Jesus to others who have not yet experienced it.
- A third thing we learn from Acts is that With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Have you experienced the resurrection of Jesus in your life? For some, this can be a life-changing experience at a specific time in our lives, or for others, it can be a slow process over time. It can also be the smallest unexpected surprise. There's no one way to experience the resurrected Jesus. Here’s an example of a story that I’d like to share when John and I experienced Jesus a little over a year ago. When our daughter Charlene had surgery in California to reconnect her spine to her pelvis, John had the idea to give her an index card each day in the hospital with words of encouragement. So on the day of her surgery, John wrote, “We loved you even before we knew you.” When we left our hotel to get into the car to see her, I glanced down on the street and a sparkling reflection of the sun shone from an item on the ground. It was a plastic disc that caught my eye. So I picked it up and saw that it had been run over many times, much like our daughter’s struggle for 16 years being paraplegic. As I glanced closer to the disc, I read the words embossed on it: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” When I shared what I had found with John in the car, we both wept. And to top it off, the words on the other side of the disc read, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This promise was God’s index card to us that affirmed John’s words to Charlene. These words from the Book of Jeremiah gave us hope for Charlene, and I believe that these words also give hope to all of us for the future of St. Michael’s. So it is stories like this that we can share with others to show how God is present and active in our lives. So your story can be shared with others to show how God is present and active in your lives.
- Finally, from today’s second reading, we need to look at one more thing—the emotion that could have prevented the apostles from moving forward. We hear in today’s second reading that “The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear.” Are we locked in our own house of fear of what people might think if we were to share our stories of how we see God in our lives? Is it fear that is holding us back? Can you identify with the fear of the apostles? But look at Jesus’ response to the apostles’ fear: “Peace be with you.” And again, “Peace be with you.” Jesus is promising to give us his peace and his Holy Spirit’s presence as we share his love with the world. As we share his love with a homebound senior whose only world is the place where he or she lives. As we share our goods with those who have none. As we share our stories with others of how we have experienced God in our lives. This is the call from God that we have on our lives as Christians.
Won’t you begin today to look outward? To risk going out of your comfortable place to bring the love of God to others? To take the risk. To feel the fear and do it anyway! It will be worth the effort. Find the ways to give of yourself that God is nudging you to do and volunteer. There is one more very important thing for you to consider… Leave your concern about the filling of St. Michael’s pews to God. Just do your part in spreading the gospel—the Good News of Jesus Christ. When you do this first, we have God’s promise that “All these things will be added unto you.” Amen.