Sunday, May 5, 2019
Third Sunday of Easter, Year C
Prayer of the Day
Eternal and all-merciful God, with all the angels and all the saints we laud your majesty and might. By the resurrection of your Son, show yourself to us and inspire us to follow Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 9:1-20 Paul’s conversion, baptism, and preaching
Revelation 5:11-14 The song of the living creatures to the Lamb
John 21:1-19 Jesus appears to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias
Title: Awesome in Trusting
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Okay, maybe it is my fault. That I really started something last week with all my talk and meditating on trust. Revisiting my crisis of trust, my own challenges to trust in the transformative power of our new life in Christ. Just to catch you up if you weren’t here, I did not trust enough to follow God’s call when first extended. For me that meant a call to ordained ministry. But whatever your vocation, we are all called to trust and to use the gifts that God has given, to engage the world, as Frederick Buechner likes to say: where your greatest passion meets the world’s great need.
But back to trust – this concept, this value, this practice, (what is trust anyway?) Well, whatever it is, it has been stuck in my craw since last Sunday. How about you? Have you given any more thought to how you practice trust?
One thing that has helped trust have a continuing presence in my mind this week, was watching some of the hearings that have been televised this past week. Congressional hearings on the topic of obstruction of justice. Well, that took me right back to junior high school, different time, different players, same type of actions being investigated. Those school days are seared in my memory. We sat for hours upon hours watching the Watergate hearings with our teachers. It was history in the making. Maybe that is where my love of history was born, or at least encouraged. One thing that was born from that experience was a general distrust of elected officials. Perhaps that is a foundational challenge of democracy. With a monarchy, if the wearer of the crown is untrustworthy, oh well, we peasants just have to live with it, survive the best we can. But in a democracy, we vote for these people, we want to think that we are voting for folks we can trust with the power they are given. (Sorry, sounds like I’m going back to my former career three back of Social Studies teacher.)
Enough about me, how about you? Are you one who trusts easily? How do you decide who to trust? What happens when you lose trust in someone? Are they able to win your trust back? Scott and I often talk about the contrast of those who trust the world they live in and those who do not. Where do you fall? Do you trust the world? Perhaps the current landscape makes this a more loaded question than usual. Are we all trusting a little less these days?
I must admit I get very anxious when encountering people I know I can’t trust or I’m not sure if I can trust. I get downright mad when I find myself in a place of distrusting. It takes a lot of work to navigate. It robs me of peace. This is an on going challenge serving in a location like St. John’s where there is a steady flow of folks asking for assistance of one type or another, and everyone has a story.
Another thing about trust in today’s world hit me while listening to NPR’s show This American Life. They were interviewing people in a neighborhood diner in Chicago. And I caught a conversation with an elderly woman who had lived in her changing neighborhood for quite some time. She’s watched it change. Saw old friends leave, and new residents move in. She described the two gay men who moved in next door. When they first arrived, she and her husband didn’t know what to make of these two who they had been taught to distrust and avoid. It didn’t take long before these two men became the best neighbors this couple had ever had. The new neighbors even took it upon themselves to plan a big 50th anniversary party for the couple. Hearing the woman recount all this made me realize that, in this time of growing diversity, through new experiences and new encounters, people are finding themselves developing trust in groups of people that for years, generations even, they have been told to distrust. Unsettling for quite a few, difficult for some, sadly impossible for too many. Trust. It really gets you thinking.
The patron saint of those challenged to trust is in our first reading this morning. He is a character who often gets overlooked in this well-known story. But, in light of all this trust-challenge going on, I have to shine a spotlight on him. The focus of the story is on Saul’s conversation (or was it a call? Topic for another day.) This story of an enemy of the early church being transformed into its greatest missionary is certainly well known. So well-known that we talk about “Damascus road experiences” when we are talking about life changing, about-face-turn-arounds, that can happen sometimes. So, Saul, super Pharisee, killer of followers of Jesus, destroyer of disciples, not gonna rest until they are all stuck down, sees a vision of the risen Christ and his life will never be the same again; neither will the world. But, enough about him, what about Ananias? There he is, following Jesus by working to build a community of believers there is Damascus, serving the poor, trying his best to love whoever comes to him, and he is told to go and visit the man that the early church was most afraid of. But he goes. He is either trusting that God will keep him safe. Or he is trusting that when he is killed by this dangerous man God will welcome him into heaven. Whatever is going on in poor Ananias’ head, he visits Saul. And because Ananias trusts in God, because he answers this call to go, because he trusts with his heart in spite of what his head might be telling him, upon his arrival, the scales fall from Saul’s eyes, he is baptized and renamed Paul, and his storied journey of faith begins. All because Ananias trusted.
Pretty amazing. What a level of trust. What a hero of trusting in God. I can safely say that I would probably not have done what Ananias did. I certainly made it clear last week that I probably would not have been able to answer that call. Or it would have taken me 40 years to find my way to chance it.
But there is an even greater hero of trust present in our readings this morning. We talk about God perfect in loving, God – almighty and all knowing, perfect in showing mercy through perfect grace. When talking about God and trust, well God is certainly perfectly worthy of being trusted, we are safe and wise to put all our trust in God. But have you ever noticed that God is also perfect in trusting?
Look at the examples that are we have read of this morning. We talked about Saul who became Paul. God trusted the greatest enemy of the church to perform the role of its greatest builder. The risen Jesus returns to his disciples who forsook him and he feeds them again, calls them again, sends them out again, trusts them with his work. And of course, Peter, forsaker and denier extraordinaire, yet Jesus entrusts and commissions him with a most important and sacred task. And in a display of just how transforming this divine trust can be, Jesus gives Peter the opportunity to say YES, as many times as Peter had said NO around the campfire of denial. Three times he gets to say, I love you.
God in the risen Christ trusted them. God in the risen Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit trusts us. The transforming power at work in us, that makes it possible to even begin to honor this trust, is begun in the waters of baptism. The transformation continues as we grow in understanding God’s word, living in the midst of God’s people as we learn and struggle together. The transforming power is fed at the feast of life through which we receive but a foretaste of all that is to come. Not only does God trust us with this amazing mission and ministry as Christ’s body in the world, but God transforms us so that we might live into this trust.
One more question for you about trust – How does it make you feel when someone trusts you with something that is beyond measure, priceless beyond value, even beyond full comprehension? Perhaps it can be intimidating. Perhaps overwhelming. Perhaps humbling. Well, be at peace, Christ lives, and in that new dawn witness we know that God trusts us. Christ lives and in that transforming power we know that we live in Christ. Christ lives, in this we can put our trust., all our trust. As he old song says, because he lives, we can face tomorrow. Trusting and rejoicing together that…
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The Rev. Mark Erson