|Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 31, 2016||Proper 13, Year C||Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21|
|Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 24, 2016||Proper 12, Year C||Luke 11:1-13|
|Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 10, 2016||Proper 10, Year C||Luke 10:25-37|
|Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 3, 2016||Proper 9, Year C||Luke 10:1-11, 16-20; Galatians 6:7-16|
|Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 26, 2016||Proper 8, Year C||Luke 9:51-62, Galatians 5:1,13-25, Psalm 16, 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21|
|Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 19, 2016||Proper 7, Year C||Luke 8:26-39: Luke 24:13-35|
|Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 12, 2016||Proper 6, Year C||2 Samuel 11;26-12:10-13-15, Luke 7:36-8:3|
|Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 5, 2016||Proper 5, Year C||Luke 7: 11-17|
|Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||May 29, 2016||Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Luke 7:1-10|
|Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C||May 22, 2016||Trinity Sunday, Year C||John 16:12-15, Psalm 8|
|Day of Pentecost! Year C||May 15, 2016||The Day of Pentecost, Year C||Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27|
|Easter 5, Year C||April 24, 2016||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148|
|➤Easter 4, Year C||April 17, 2016||Easter 4, Year C||Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||April 10, 2016||Easter 3, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 3, 2016||Easter 2, Year C||John 20:19-31|
Easter 4, Year C
Sermon Date:April 17, 2016
Scripture: Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30
Liturgy Calendar: Easter 4, Year C
In a sermon he wrote a few years ago, Brother Mark Brown, a monk in the Society of St John the Evangelist, summed up the core message of Jesus.
Brown imagines Jesus summing up his message like this.
“Join me in the resurrection, and don’t wait until you’re dead!”
I’m going to change that just a little bit based on today’s readings.
“Clothe yourself in the resurrection and don’t wait until you’re dead.”
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus told those who questioned him in the portico of Solomon that his followers, his sheep, knew his voice. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life.” Not “I will give them eternal life” but “I give them eternal life.” Eternal life, abundant life, here and now.
Jesus wants to dress us in eternal life, here and now!
We ARE what we wear. And God has been trying to dress us, or at least to be our wardrobe consultant, since way back in Genesis, Chapter 3.
Adam and Eve disobey God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they become aware of their nakedness, so God makes garments of skins for the man and his wife, and God clothes them. Then, as a result of their disobedience, God sends them out of the Garden of Eden, out of the natural world into a world that will now be shaped, for good or for ill, by human culture (Harper Collins Study Bible, footnote on Genesis 3:7).
The book of Acts gives us many glimpses into the culture of the early church. The gospel movement already has spread out of Jerusalem. Today’s story takes place west of Jerusalem in Joppa, modern day Jaffa, not far from Tel Aviv.
In the early church described in Acts, Fred Craddock, in The People’s New Testament Commentary (pg 400), explains that widows who took a vow not to remarry were organized into an order of Christian women who did charitable work on behalf of the church.
Douglas Wingeier, the editor of the commentary Keeping Holy Time: Studying the Revised Common Lectionary (pg 171), notes that “making and distributing clothes to the needy was one of the special tasks assigned to widows in the early church.” Dorcas was one of these women.
Her friends clearly valued her work. When Peter arrived after Dorcas had died, these friends showed him some of the tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made. What Dorcas had been doing, making clothes, had clearly been an important part of her life and what she had been doing gave glory to God.
When Peter brings Dorcas back to life, he joins Elijah and Elisha, the Old Testament prophets, and Jesus himself, in restoring dead people to life. All of these people who get brought back to life—the widows’ sons, Lazarus, and now Dorcas, get to come back into their human bodies, reclothed in their humanity through their miraculous resuscitations, and to continue their lives on earth, through God’s goodness and mercy, for some finite amount of time before they physically die again.
These resuscitations remind us that our lives, our humanity, matter deeply to God.
And of course the supreme proof of how deeply our physical lives and our time on this earth matter to God is the fact that Jesus himself came to share in our lives on this earth, to live as one of us, and to die as one of us.
Even as the Risen Christ in his resurrection body, Jesus still bears the scars of his humanity, the mark of the nails in his hands.
Keeping all of this in mind, we come to the great book of Revelation, to today’s powerful reading that we Episcopalians often hear at funerals.
In today’s reading, we find ourselves in the midst of a crowd so great that no one can even count all the multitude, people from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne and before the Lamb—and that’s Jesus—and all of them are wearing their heavenly garments.
We’re surrounded by people clothed in white.
They all have palm branches, signs of victory, in their hands.
So much in the book of Revelation stretches our minds, and our minds get stretched in this passage past the breaking point when we hear that everyone in this multitude has come out of the great ordeal and that their robes are white because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Anyone who has ever tried to get a blood stain out of clothing, particularly white clothing, will know what a challenging thought this is! The writer of Revelation is trying to put into words the mystery of God forgiving our sins through the death of Jesus, so that we can be made worthy to stand here at the throne—God’s goodness and mercy at work, like a miraculous stain remover.
God’s goodness and mercy, available to every person on the face of this earth, from every nation, from all tribes, peoples and languages.
And here’s the point I want to make today.
“We ARE what we wear!” And NOW is the time to put on our resurrection clothes. These resurrection robes won’t cover up our scars and the hard knocks of this life—our scars will show through, just as Jesus, even in his resurrection body, showed the disciples the nail marks in his hands, still visible—essential to who Jesus is as our resurrected Savior.
The fact that Jesus bears scars makes the goodness and mercy that he continues to bring into the world that much more powerful and transforming.
His scars, still visible, remind us that when we clothe ourselves in the resurrection, God heals our scars and transforms them into the goodness and mercy that we can offer to the scarred and broken world around us.
In the early church, people went naked, with all their scars and imperfections visible, into the baptismal pool.
The naked person was lowered into the baptismal water, and just as we were when we were baptized, the person was buried with Christ in his death.
By this water, just as we were when we were baptized, the person shared in the resurrection of Jesus.
And when that naked person came up out of the water, just as we were when we were baptized, that person was reborn by the Holy Spirit.
In the early church, the newly baptized people were then robed in white—robed in God’s goodness and mercy, a visible sign of that person’s new status as a healed, forgiven, loved and free Christian.
Every morning we get up and get dressed in whatever we have to wear that day—for me, a clergy shirt and a collar, for Alex V, his fatigues, for Chris, his nurse scrubs, for Johnny, his farming clothes, McKenna in her school clothes—what we have on tells people something about what we are going to be doing all day.
So what would it be like if we got dressed and then imagined that in addition to our usual clothes, that we would remember to put on our robes of God’s goodness and mercy every morning?
Imagine being enfolded and wrapped in God’s goodness and mercy, knowing that we are the beloved children of God.
Clothed in the resurrection, we want to go out and love the same people that God loves, God’s children, God’s sheep from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages.
Clothed in the resurrection, we want to do God’s work. Sewing, cooking, farming, caring for others, teaching, learning, caring for children, caring for a spouse, caring for ourselves as God would care for each one of us—it’s all God’s work, and what a joy to do the things that God is trusting us to do.
So don’t wait.
Do it now!
Put on your resurrection robes and go in peace and joy, carrying God’s goodness and mercy out into the world with you.
Keeping Holy Time: Studying the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C. Edited by Douglas E. Wingeier. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press, 2003.
Ramshaw, Gail. Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary. Minneapolis, MN. Fortress Press, 2002.
Boring, Eugene, and Craddock, Fred. The People’s New Testament Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
The Harper Collins Study Bible: Including Apocryphal Deuterocanonical Books with Concordance, Fully Revised and Updated . General Editor, Harold W. Attridge. Harper Collins, 1989.