April 18, 2021 at St. William Parish in Naples, FL
Acts 3, 13-15, 17-19 + Psalm 4 + 1 John 2, 1-5 + Luke 24, 35-48
There are only three more verses to Luke’s Gospel. We’re at the end, but as with most endings, it is really the beginning. What begins now is another revealing story of God’s love and mercy. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have given the world their story. Now it is ours to tell for that is what Jesus has to say in this, his final appearance before the Ascension. The old gospels are a good start. They tell us what to look for, and they give some images with which to work as we respond to what is really more than a request. It really a command. He doesn’t tell us to go to church. He doesn’t tell us to fast and abstain, and he doesn’t tell us to keep the rules. He opens our minds to the scriptures and tells us to witness to what we have seen. His instruction to those in that upper room was to remain there until they were clothed with power from on high.
My friends, I believe that this is why we are here. This is our upper room. It is here that we must be clothed with power from on high for one reason. To become witness to all we have seen and heard. We keep coming back not because we have failed to receive that power, but because we may have grown weary with the witnessing. We come back to remember when we may have forgotten. We come back to be refreshed by one another, to encourage one another, and to be renewed by the Spirit of joy and peace that we bring here sometimes and find here to share.
Day in and day out we get battered about by all sorts of things that can test our faith and challenge our hope. Bad news is all around. Friends get sick and some die. Relationships collapse. Jobs are lost. Lies are told. Dreams vanish. Where shall we go but back here to our upper room. Here we open our minds once again to the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Here again we come to understand the scriptures. Here once more, we celebrate the Christ/Messiah who suffered, died, and rose from the dead. Here we proclaim the forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations.
All of those things that test our faith and challenge our hope are still around. They are still out there. The death and resurrection of Jesus did nothing to change all of that. It’s all still there, but what can be changed if we continue to gather in this upper room is how we look at and live with all of that. People without faith or people who have nowhere to go, who have no upper room, quickly become cynical, negative, and defeated. But we who assemble here again and again even when we don’t want to slowly, year by year become a people of hope. We are a people who never need say: “We had hoped” with all the sadness and disappointment those apostles felt on their way out of Jerusalem. I’ve always thought that their problem was that they were going the wrong way. They were headed out of Jerusalem away from that place where they had experienced such a tragic challenge to their dreams. We can’t run from any of the tragedies of life, but we can fall back on what we have learned from the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Most of all, we can fall back on what we have learned from this Rabbi who is still with us, who has known every tragic disappointment this world could throw at him.
His risen living presence stirs our deepest hopes, restores our fondest dreams, and binds us up again when we have been broken, pulled apart, and abandoned. The hope with which we live our lives is the witness this Gospel needs. The Joy that should stir in us every time we gather together is the witness he asks for. Our readiness to forgive, and our readiness to ask for it bears witness to the truth of what we have found in the risen Christ.
The resurrection is the central core of our faith. It is our only reason to hope, and the more deeply we lose ourselves in this story and in this promise, the more we will have to share and the more our lives will themselves be witness enough to awaken those who are defeated and lost. The resurrection is no story of a victory over death or a promise of eternal life. It is a summons to live as a community led by the Spirit, practicing forgiveness and resistance to evil. It takes shape in the bond of our friendship that reaches across everything that can divide us, ideologies, racism, and the great economic divides between wealth and poverty. Christ has risen. With that, everything changes. With the power of that truth, the petty things with which we are so often so busy fade away. Death becomes little more than a stage of life not in any way a boundary or an end. The resurrection leaves us with so many more important things to think about and plan for.