April 28, 2019

2019 April28_FrIan

Easter 2 - Year C

A Sermon Preached by The Rev. Ian M. Delinger

 

The setting for this sermon was a Eucharistic Brunch (pictured). The congregation was gathered in the hall around tables with food. The questions in bold were discussed around their tables. This is the modified version for the early service which was in the Sanctuary.

 

Today’s readings are
super Christian!

 

– they are explicitly Christian, about Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, the One whom all should follow and obey. It would be difficult to secularize these texts, as is sometimes done with other parts of the Bible that non-religious people appreciate, like The Beatitudes or the Golden Rule.

 

None of these texts are calling upon us as Christians to do anything – there isn’t an explicit call-to-action (except for Psalm 150’s call to praise God). They are narratives which can be incorporated into our lives to shore up our faith in Jesus. But they are also models of how to express yourself as a Christian.

 

One of the questions asked when learning about Episcopal Evangelism is:

 

“What are moments when you’ve seen someone being a Christian and living out the Gospel? What was happening?

 

During my first couple of years at the University of Chester, David Stevens was the Bursar – like the Chief Financial Officer. He was the most devout Christian of all the Senior Staff – Provosts and higher. He never expressed his faith overtly, but you could feel his Christian kindness in everything that he said and did, even though his job required him to commit unsavory acts. He brought a Christian kindness – and sometimes regret – to his powerful role. The University had to change its rules to appoint David as Deputy Vice-Chancellor…because he was Roman Catholic in a Church of England Foundation. When David retired, the nature of not only his role changed, but that of the Senior Staff.

 

This is kind of like the First Reading from Acts. They expressed their faith in a situation that preferred they didn’t.

 

A common question to ponder as faith leaders is,

 

“Where have you seen Jesus at work in your church or in the larger community? What did it look like and feel like?”

 

In clergy and very church-y circles, we talk about a

 

“ministry of presence” or
“lurking with intention”.

 

This type of ministry is about being publicly visible as a representative of the church, but not instigating interaction with others. It’s a passive ministry, being present until someone, recognizing your presence as a representative of the church, interacts with you. I have done this in a pub in Manchester for two years, as have many others. Some of you have forwarded articles to me about Bible Study in pubs and Ashes-to-Go on Ash Wednesday. These are all fine examples of a form of Public Theology (the basis of my Masters dissertation) which, to some are very much like the second reading from Revelation: “…every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.”

 

As visible representatives of the Church, those exercising a ministry of presence place Jesus in front of those around them. As they slowly begin to accept that presence over time, they begin to see Jesus, even those who had rejected their faith or the church due to their own experiences. The process is very powerful, very humbling, and very disabling in a positive way.

 

In the Gospel reading, the Disciples overcame doubt through Jesus’ appearance and Thomas touching the wounds. They then continued to be with Him as He did many other signs. The writer writes:

 

“these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

 

We are on a journey of faith – of believing that Jesus in the Messiah, the Son of God and that through believing we may have life in His name. That requires inviting Jesus into our lives, and sharing Him with others. So, I implore you to take home this question in your heart:

 

  • How do you invite Jesus into your life and how do you share Jesus with others?

 

In the First Reading, we hear:


The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”

 

I’m sure that most of us would respond by keeping our faith to ourselves. We don’t want to get into trouble; we don’t want to cause problems; we don’t want to offend anyone. But! It doesn’t stop there.

 

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

 

My Director of Pastoral Studies used to say to us, “Can you proclaim the Kingdom without naming the King?” And a saying attributed to St Francis goes something like “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.” That suggests that there are less overt ways to witness to those around you. So, I call upon you to take home another question in your heart:

 

  • How could you use your passion or hobby to bring others closer to God?

 

Take these conversations with you, and reflect and pray. As we move through the Season of Easter, we will hear stories about how Jesus’ resurrection empowered the Disciples to do what Jesus was training them to do in the first place: To proclaim the Good News to others. While you reflect and pray on these questions, think about how you can be a Disciple, and how you can show others the signs of Jesus so that they may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

© 2019 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Connected Sound - Websites for the Barbershop Community