Tuesday, May 12, 2009

“Rise, let us be on our way.”(John 14:31b)
Easter 5 Tuesday Jan Robitscher
Acts 14: 19-28 All Saints Chapel
Psalm 145:9-14 Church Divinity School of the Pacific
John 14: 27-31a May 12, 2009

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Why is Easter--or rather the Easter Season--so hard to keep? We seem to have little trouble keeping Advent for four weeks. We save Christmas Carols (if not our decorations) for Christmas, or just before. And we withhold our Alleluias for all of the six weeks of Lent and Holy Week and we manage to keep the fast until the dawn of Easter Day. But Easter? How shall we keep the whole 7 seeks of Easter? The mantra at my parish (St. Mark?s) is: We are compelled to Feast! --and we are really good at that! But even feasting is hard to keep up for the whole Easter Season. And it is hard to sing Easter hymns--to keep up the joy for seven weeks. It is not that we don?t believe that Jesus lives, or that, through baptism, we have new life in him to all eternity. And it is true that each season of the Church Year at some time turns a corner, pointing toward what is coming next. But I think there is something more here that our readings today will help us discover.

In preparing this sermon, I had one of those startling moments, finding a phrase of Scripture I had not seen or heard before. It is just beyond the end of our Gospel Reading.

Jesus says, “Rise, let us be on our way.”

Although we know these discourses of Jesus were his farewell words before his crucifixion, I also hear them--or at least this part of them--as words before his Ascension, or perhaps words his disciples remembered then. After giving his disciples a benediction of Peace (which was always his “Easter greeting”), he says, “I go away, and I will come to you.”

The disciples must have been totally bewildered and even bereft. They would endure the parting of his death and then the fear and joy of his resurrection. Now he was about to leave them again. Here is the undercurrent of the Easter Season: comings, and goings.

If we look at our reading from Acts, it is downright frenetic. Jesus was not the only one coming and going. The disciples moved from Lystra to Iconium to Antioch; Pisida, Pamphylia and Perga. In order for faith in the risen Lord to spread, the disciples, too, had to be active and on the move.

But it was not easy. Paul was nearly stoned to death. They preached the Gospel, made many disciples, exhorted the new believers to remain firm in their faith, reminding them that it is “through many tribulations that [they] must enter the Kingdom of God. They appointed elders in every church and committed them all to the Lord. On to Attalia and then returning to Antioch, “where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled.” Whew!

So back to my startling discovery. After the last verse of our Gospel reading comes the other half of verse 31 where Jesus says: “Rise, let us be on our way”.

“Rise, let us be on our way.”

We are within two weeks of the end of the semester. We are still in the Easter Season, but, like other seasons of the Church Year, turning the corner toward what comes next: Ascension and Pentecost. In the academic year, we are turning the corner toward graduation and ordinations, or whatever comes next. As one who lives here, this is a hard, sometimes sad time. Friends I have made over three years at CDSP and at the School for Deacons depart to do the ministries God has prepared for them in many places. And each September, a whole new class enters, and we must learn to live with each other all over again.

But Jesus, when he gave his benediction of Peace, promised his disciples that although it was necessary for him to leave, he would not leave them--or us--alone. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to comfort us, to remind us of all that Jesus taught, to lead us into all truth and, he said, “that the world may know that I love the Father.” He promised to be present when two or three are gathered, as we are now. And he promised to be very present with us, giving himself in bread and wine each time we remember his death (and resurrection) until he comes. His parting words were that he would be with us always, even to the end of the age.

And more than that, Jesus ascended to the Father whom he loved and sent the Holy Spirit so that we can--and must-- become his hands and feet and heart. We must become Christ for each other--in a world so full of hurt and in so much need of the love he showed us.

Here is the Good News! The comings and goings of Jesus and his disciples, and of our various communities, are not without purpose or hope. Jesus must leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come. Students must graduate from CDSP and the School for Deacons to begin new ministries and make room for new students to come. This is how the Gospel is spread. This is how the Church grows. This is how we become Christ for the world. The time is short and there is much to do!

“Rise.”, Jesus says to us, “Let us be on our way.”

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