Lessons: Acts 3: 12-19, Psalm 4 vs 1-8, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24: 36b-48
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord our strength and our redeemer.
On this third Sunday of Easter:
(It’s STILL easter!!!)
We continue to see the reality of the resurrection,
As Jesus once again appears to his disciples.
This time, we hear from Luke’s Gospel:
Luke reminds us of many of the same themes we’ve heard in the last few weeks.
As Jesus stands among his disciples:
He once again says, “Peace be with you.”
Yet the disciples:
Are once again startled and terrified:
Thinking that they saw a ghost.
It reminds us of the terrified women at the tomb:
Who left because they were afraid:
And even doubting Thomas, who just couldn’t believe that Jesus was physically resurrected:
That Jesus was not a Ghost:
But deeply alive, in a very physical form.
Today, Jesus says to his disciples:
“Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
“Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.”
“Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
It’s as if Jesus is saying: Touch me and see:
Shake my hand and discover that I am like you:
Although resurrected and transformed.
Jesus goes even one step further:
To prove that he is indeed alive:
He eats with them.
Sharing food together, he proves his new resurrected reality:
And also reminds the disciples of the importance of sharing meals:
The importance of relationship with one another:
In joy, disbelieving, wonder, and even a bit of terror:
Still together, eating.
And this story reminds us:
Of why we gather together here:
To share a meal with one another:
To pray with each other:
To be in relationship with God and each other:
To celebrate the risen, resurrected, and transform Christ:
As we too enter into our own transformations.
Jesus is NOT dead:
But truly alive:
We see him in the story today, eating, and speaking:
Living and sharing:
And ultimately understanding, and listening to the disciple’s bits of fear and disbelief.
Jesus IS alive.
He is with us in our own eating together:
In the breaking of the bread.
He is present in our prayers:
And he hears us.
That what we say in our prayers matters:
It means something:
Our prayers are HEARD by the living God.
So we should take our prayers pretty seriously.
I love the psalm for today:
Psalm 4: which says, “Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause.
“You set me free when I am hard pressed; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”
And a few verses later: “when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.”
This Easter season, we celebrate that Jesus is alive.
Jesus is alive and he hears us.
And so our prayers, are not empty and meaningless words:
And we shouldn’t say them out of obligation:
But instead out of the deepest longings of our hearts.
Our prayers bring us closer to the risen Christ,
The God who is Alive:
As he listens to our longings, our worries, and our joys.
Just like the disciples who “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”
Our prayers can express our wonders, our disbeliefs, our struggles, and our hopes.
And as we express those emotions:
our relationship with the Risen Christ grows stronger:
And our relationships with each other, here and throughout the world deepen.
We are blessed in the Episcopal Church:
To have a deep tradition of liturgical prayer:
Using some of the same prayers that are prayed all across the world:
And have been prayed throughout the centuries:
Connecting us to those we’ve never met,
And to those saints who lived long before us.
Through these long spoken words,
We are connected to one another as God’s children.
And also united to the Risen Christ who always listens,
Who always speaks peace,
And who shares with us in the breaking of the bread.
This tradition of long said prayers,
Is indeed one of the beauties of the Episcopal Church.
But it’s also important, that we carve out some space:
For us to speak our own prayers:
In our own words:
From our own hearts.
Because if we REALLY believe that Christ is alive:
If we REALLY believe that the Living God hears our prayers:
Then we should REALLY pray our prayers:
Our common prayers throughout the world and the centuries,
As well as OUR prayers:
OUR OWN prayers of hope, longing, fear, disbelief, and joy.
And this is ONE reason why I fell in love with St John’s church.
Because you all know how to pray:
Because you believe in the power of prayer.
It makes me think of the part of our church service called the “prayers of the people.”
There is, after all, a reason why they are called, “The prayers of the people”
Because they are to be our prayers:
Our own prayers for each other, for the world, and our relationship to the Living God.
The Prayers of the people in our prayer book,
Come in a number of different forms.
Few people know, however,
That these forms were put in the prayer book to be an example:
An example for congregations to sometimes write their own.
Bishop Jeffery Rowthorn, who was a part of the small group who revised the prayer book in 1979 once said:
And I myself heard him say this, in a seminary class:
“If we would have known: that congregations would only use the forms in the prayer book, we never would have put them in there.”
The hope was that the prayers of the people, would actually come from the people:
Not from a group of bishops and liturgists, sitting in a room together in 1979.
The hope was that the prayers of the people would come from YOU:
The children of God:
The people of God.
The hope was that the people’s relationships with the living God would be strengthened,
That they would be transformed with the risen Christ,
As they used their own words to pray their own longings,
In the Sunday church service when they break bread together.
So during the prayers of the people:
Offer your own prayers!
Bring them to this community, and to God!
Pray your own words:
From your own heart:
Silently, or aloud:
God will hear them.
And know that whether you pray in joy,
Christ is INDEED ALIVE.
And he hears us.
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