Sunday, May 14, 2017

Do Not Fret: Easter 5

Lectionary: Acts 7:55-60    1 Peter2:2-10    John 14:1-14    Psalm 21:1-5, 15-16

The deacon Stephen delivered a bold, prophetic overview of salvation history, culminating in a condemnation of the unbelief of the Jewish leadership judging him. They had to decide if they would repent or reject. They chose, like a lynch mob, to silence Stephen, permanently, as they stoned him to death.

Stephen, however, was not silenced, and his words have lived on two thousand years. No one remembers the names of those who killed him, while he serves as the paradigm of Christian martyrdom. Luke purposely uses language to show Stephen dies as the Lord Jesus did. This is in keeping with the idea that the church, filled with the Holy Spirit, is the body of Christ on earth and continues His ministry. Stoning was a particularly gruesome form of execution, ponder it for a moment. However, it is fair to say that Stephen's heavenly vision overshadows his death:

"Look, I see the shekinah glory of God!
Look, I see Jesus standing with God's power!
Look, I see my killers in need of mercy, forgive them Lord."

What if the veil were pulled back and we could see God in His glory with Jesus standing there, looking at us, right now? If you could literally see God, would it change you? Most of us say, "Yes!" If I could only see...but, isn't that what faith is, or should be?

Christian faith is living each day as if we could see the glory of God with Jesus standing at the right hand of the Power. We declare that the Divine glory shines brighter than the darkness of our daily struggles. We may not see with our eyes as Stephen, but, by the Holy Spirit's power, we can believe in our heart as intensely as he. Believing, we can also boldly proclaim the story. 

The Gospel is a popular choice for many funerals. Jesus assures us: "Do not let your hearts be trouble. Trust God. Trust Me." The day after I wrote this sermon I received a birthday present which reads: Trust in the Lord, I think it confirms my message today!

On Ash Wednesday I said reject fear and doubt and embrace love and trust. I have tried, with God's help, to do that, too, because I'm a skilled worrier. You may be, too. We can envision problems and generate terrifying lists of "what if's?" To make it worse, we are bombarded with threats and told to worry. Meanwhile, Jesus is gone and sometimes we feel alone and helpless.

But hear Jesus. He is truly gone, but He tells us that He is gone to prepare a place for us. "Don't worry," He says, "you will be with Me and you will feel the Father's love forever."

A few weeks ago I put a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila on my blog coupled with Bible verses. It is worth reading and remembering. Basically, what she says is based on God's promises of love and faithfulness. Here is my paraphrase:

Do not worry or fear. Everything is passing, so be at peace. Problems won't last, but God is forever. Courage and strength are required--be steadfast! Patient endurance is the character of faith and the Father provides. God is enough. If you live in the Holy Three, you need nothing else. Shalom! peace! No worry. No fear. Jesus is loves you more than you know, so trust Him.

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