What is essential and necessary, and what is good and helpful?
We are all self-quarantined these days, prohibited from gathering for worship together, from graduating together, from learning together, from drinking coffee together. While smog around the world is dissipating and we are able to see more clearly and breathe more deeply, this crisis is inviting us to explore what of our common life is essential and necessary, and what is good and helpful. It is through this lens that I approach our readings for this Third Sunday of Easter.
Acts 2: 14a, 36-41; Psalm 116: 1-3, 10 -17; I Peter 1: 17-23; Luke 24: 13-35
Beginning with the Gospel according to St. Luke we have the model for our normative gathering in the current day Episcopal Church. The two disciples traveling to Emmaus encountered a stranger who joined them on their seven-mile walk. The disciples shared with the stranger the events of Holy Week and Easter, and then he shared with them “beginning with Moses and all the prophets all that happened to the Messiah”. They engaged in conversation and Bible study for probably two to three hours. While “their hearts were burning within [them]”, it was not until eating supper that “their eyes were opened”. The stranger “took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it”. In those four gestures, the stranger was recognized as the Risen Jesus. We recognize those four gestures as the same actions of a priest at Holy Eucharist. Those gestures are at the core of our Sunday worship at All Saints. That is until mid-March.
Turning to our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we find Peter “standing with the eleven [disciples], raised his voice and addressed the crowd…” Through his proclamation “they were cut to the heart”, and that day three thousand were baptized and received “the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Peter called them to repent, to turn their backs on their current lives, and to walk new paths of faithfulness. God was present that day and transformed their lives through Peter’s proclamation.
In the reading from the letter of Peter, we learn that through the Holy Spirit the recipients were born anew “as they love one another deeply from the heart”. God was active and transformed their lives through Peter’s letter.
The Psalmist sang how “the cords of death entangled [him], the Lord God saved his life. The Psalmist gave thanks to God through prayer and the fulfillment of his vows. God was active and transformed his life.
For long stretches of the Episcopal Churches’ life in these United States Morning Prayer lead by lay leadership was the norm. Our ancestors in the faith experienced God active in their lives, supporting their faithfulness. We have been supported and our lives strengthen to serve God and neighbor through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist where our own eyes are opened to see God’s overwhelming love for us. Yet as our readings from Acts, Psalm 116, I Peter and Luke remind us, God is not exclusively tied to acting through the Holy Eucharist. God acts through conversations along the paths of life, through proclamations, through letters, and through prayers to stir our hearts into greater faithfulness. In this time of self-quarantine keep alert to God’s continuing action of stirring our hearts. This is essential. Clearly, we know God is about in the hearts of our essential workers in health care, in law enforcement, in banking, in transportation, and in food service among others. And God is active in our hearts as well.
Rejoice and Be Safe.