The Second Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2017
The Rev. Austin Rios
St. Paul’s Within the Walls
Just a little more than a week ago, Peter was about as far away from salvation as he could possibly imagine.
He had just finished cutting off the ear of the high priest’s slave, Malchus, and had been reprimanded by Jesus to sheathe his sword.
He followed the arresting mob to Caiaphas’ house, only to then deny that he even knew the man they were ready to crucify.
And when they lifted his master up upon the cross, so that all the world could see what Rome and shadow religions do to threats upon their power, Peter was nowhere to be found.
I imagine that he was somewhere outside the city trying to make sense of where his life would go from there.
Maybe in Bethany, maybe as far as Bethlehem.
For the last three years, Peter’s life had been totally turned upside down.
He abandoned his father and the family business of fishing, to follow a man who promised him he would learn to fish for people.
He had seen his mother in law healed, lepers leaping for joy after being cured of their disease, fish and bread multiplied to feed a multitude, and a dead man raised to new life.
Peter had seen miraculous things at work in Jesus.
But when push came to shove, Peter had failed.
He had done the very thing he said he wouldn’t, namely denying Jesus, and part of me wonders if he had resigned himself to the fact that it was all over after Jesus’ death.
Or maybe, the little part of him that did still believe in the Resurrection, might have been concerned that Jesus would come back only to punish him along with all the other enemies of God.
But no matter how far Peter ran, he could not run away from the resurrected Christ.
Jesus appeared to Peter and the 11 in the locked room breathing the balm of “Peace be with you” and then returned again to that room to appear to Thomas.
And for forty days, the resurrected one walked with, ate with, and abided with his disciples.
All was forgiven…salvation had run its course despite, or because of, the misdeeds of the good intentioned 12, and the question before Peter is the same one that confronts us all today.
What do you do when everything is possible, and you have no limits except the ones that you choose to impose?
If the calling of the disciples had turned their ordinary lives upside down, the Resurrection had turned ALL life upside down.
The ultimate limit, death itself, had been conquered, and Jesus was standing right before them as a testament to all he had ever said and done.
All his teaching, all his actions…they were finally starting to become understandable to Peter and the others…as is often the case with the truth that is too outlandish to accept at face value until it has been tested and proven worthy.
But what would Peter do now, as a consequence of the new life and forgiveness he had received?
As we see in the first and second readings today, his choice was to proclaim the news far and wide.
Peter began to tell the story of what Jesus had done for him and for all creation, person by person, town by town, city by city.
He went from being a Rock that was known too often for being thick headed, to the rock upon which the whole Church was built.
Here he is today, sharing his account with all Jerusalem, and then later in a pastoral letter to us and all those who over the years would encounter it.
No longer shy, Peter boldly begins to become the general of the movement within Judaism that would lead to the Church as we know it.
Why did he do so?
Why would we?
On this second Sunday of Easter, I think it is important for each one of us to think about how we too might be called to respond to the overwhelming and unexpected graces of the Resurrection.
Perhaps we too, like Peter, have wondered if after the summation of our lives, we are worthy to receive the riches of our God…if we are capable of accepting the free gift of God offered to us in Jesus Christ.
Each one of us must decide if we will let go of past regret, let go of shame and recrimination, and embrace the love of God in Jesus Christ.
If we do, then one of the first things we realize is that such grace and love is so overwhelming, that it actually cannot be contained within oneself.
It is literally too wonderful, too powerful, and too great to keep to one’s self.
Too brilliant to hide under a bushel.
It must be shared.
The question is how.
How do we share the resurrection, especially in a world that seems weary of religion, and anything that goes against the clamor of commerce and the status quo?
The answer is, we share the resurrection by living in such a way that the words, thoughts, and actions of our life testify to the fact that all is not as it seems, destined for death and decay, but rather, there is a power that desires us to live, and live in abundance.
That power is available to all regardless of race, language, culture, and nationality, and that power changes the quality of the life that we live for the better.
God does not need sour evangelists, out there blearing on the street corner for all sinners to turn from their wicked ways and be saved.
But what God does need are willing workers who will channel that passion and spirit into building the kingdom of God on earth, and who will take their liberation from fear and employ it to tell and show resurrection to those who have not yet experienced it.
If you are wondering dear people, this is how the church was born.
And in my 12 years of serving in this body as an ordained priest, I dare say that it is the only way that resurrection gets shared effectively.
How are you going to choose to share the good news this week?
How are we going to tell the truth about what we know God has done in Jesus Christ?
These fifty days of Easter are days in which we wrestle with how to most effectively go from being sad and guilty, to being alive and active.
God’s resurrection is not about revenge, but about empowerment.
Go forth this day, like Peter, and tell the good news.
Far and wide, with power and with grace.
Tell the fullness of what God has done for us all in Jesus Christ our Lord.