The Third Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2017
The Rev. Austin Rios
St. Paul’s Within the Walls
This week, the Pope generated a lot of buzz by giving a surprise TED talk at a conference entitled “The Future You.”
His 15 minute offering to the now famous idea-sharing TED community centered on a call to a revolution of tenderness, and, among other things, he encouraged the technological-scientific community to explore the connections between human beings with the same fervor and passion that gets dedicated to interplanetary study.
But one part of his talk in particular gripped me, and that was his simple, yet profound, explanation of how hope takes root and spreads in our world.
I am going to quote the section in its entirety, because for those of us who continue to walk together into this Easter season, this message has special significance—it is the heart of the Gospel story of which Pope Francis speaks.
“To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another “you,” and another “you,” and it turns into an “us.” And so, does hope begin when we have an “us?” No. Hope began with one “you.” When there is an “us,” there begins a revolution.”
The link between “you” and “us” and this “hope” that we proclaim in the Resurrection, is what most concerns us today, in the midst of Eastertide, and as we stand on the verge of initiating a new member into the mystical body of Christ.
Baptism is the way we acknowledge the very real, but often invisible, connections we share within this mystery called church.
It is a process by which a “you” gets grafted into the larger revolution being carried out by “us,” and that revolution has its root in the hope that spread from one “you” to another “you” from the moment of Jesus’ birth and baptism, through his death, resurrection and presence within the community gathered together in his name.
Our readings today all have something to do with transmitting the future— this “hope”— through telling the story.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus are in a state of shock and grief, because the death of Jesus has signaled a death of their future, and an end to the revolution for which they had hoped and prayed.
“But we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” they explain to the stranger who has joined them on the road, and who has asked them about the “things that have taken place in Jerusalem in these days.”
Their story is one of defeat and despair, but soon the stranger begins telling them another story.
Using scripture, the stranger makes the case that their story is not yet over.
And when they choose to act upon the hope that they learned as part of that revolution of “us”… when they offer hospitality to the stranger and share a meal with him…they realize that the “you” in which they placed their hope is truly alive and active once more.
It is the same “you” which turned Peter from denier into proclaimer, and which inspired the 3000 who heard his story that day in the book of Acts to be baptized.
And that “you”—which is the living, animating, resurrected Christ— is among us today in this place as we prepare to baptize another “you” into this movement.
I don’t know all the burdens you may be bearing today—the broken stories and dreams that threaten to snatch away your hope and keep you isolated from your fellow brothers and sisters.
Whatever they are, I’m sure they are heavy, and I’m sure that at times they can be overwhelming.
Just as Pope Francis said that “Feeling hopeful does not mean being optimistically naïve and ignoring the tragedy humanity is facing,” our hope in Jesus Christ does not erase the pain and the death that accompany our humanity.
Crucifixion is real and tragic.
But what we know of this story, this revolution, and this hope is that being a part of it orients us toward the fullness of the reality that stretches beyond the world of pain and death.
That reality is founded upon a love that death cannot conquer, and is formed in this earthly plane of existence when the many “you’s” understand and live in such a way that “you’s” turn into an indomitable “us.”
Strangers become family, aliens become neighbors, enemies become friends.
Because in the great mystical Body of Christ…in the kingdom of God that Jesus’ came to proclaim, and for which he died and was raised to new life…there is no longer Jew nor Greek, no longer slave nor free, no longer male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus.
There is only “us” and “we” from now on, and our experience of the kingdom of God’s reality on earth while we breathe the air and feel the sun shine upon us, is directly linked to our ability to proclaim and build up greater and more nuanced versions of “us,” instead of falling into the trap and diminishing returns of “me” and “mine.”
The earliest disciples were no strangers to sadness and had to overcome much to begin sharing the story of salvation with conviction, power and grace.
That story was shared through words, through the breaking of bread, through acts of healing and inclusion, and sometimes through martyrdom.
But tell it they did, and as other “you’s” began to hope in the new reality and revolution of which they spoke, they baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, grafting them into the body…making their connection as one of “us” eternal.
As so we continue to do so today.
We tell the story in thought, word and deed…we bear hope and light even in the midst of the darkness…and most of all, we keep fighting for, hoping for, and loving for the body of Christ’s reign to outshine the lesser reigns of this world and transform the several lived nightmares of the children of God into the dream which God intends for all.
That is what it means to be an Easter people, a baptized member of the body of Christ, a “you” whose hope can never again be overcome because you are now an “us.”
Make no mistake friends, what we are doing today is revolutionary.
Come to the waters and remember who we are and will become through the grace of Jesus Christ.
Then go forth boldly, and tell the story in myriad ways, trusting in the same Spirit to intercede and interpret that hope to a world full of souls, hungry for and longing for the truth.