EVIDENCE OF THE RESURRECTION
Why do we come to church? Why do we get up, Sunday by Sunday to get here? Why do we pledge?
We do it so we can experience the resurrection. “And they were all of one mind and had all things in common, sharing as any had need.” This is not normal behavior. Normal behavior is competitive yet these did not compete. Normal behavior is selfish and yet these shared. This is Luke’s way of showing that the resurrection had happened and Jesus was among them and so they were behaving… as Jesus would. And not out of nay great effort but naturally, because Jesus was among them and with them and within them.
And so they were unselfish as Jesus was, and uncompetitive as Jesus was, and trusting as Jesus was, and loving as Jesus was. And Jesus promised them this when he told them – greater works than these shall you do if you have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, the size of half a cuticle on your finger nail. And we all have that.
So we come to church to experience the resurrection and be transformed by the resurrection and the presence of Jesus in our lives. We come to church to be converted and transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ, to have our old selves die more and more, and our new selves come to life more and more.
We’ve had several Baptisms in the past few weeks, so we’ve had several chances to renounce Satan, the evil powers of this world, and our own desires. We’ve had several chances to turn to Jesus as our lord and savior and to put our whole trust in his grace and love.
This is why its impossible to be a Christian alone. We cannot experience him alone because he is not alone. He is with all those other Christians and we must go where they are.
Normally I write this sermon up at Holy Cross Monastery right after Eucharist and I must say it just flows. There is something about being exposed to the Eucharist, having it transform your own body and blood as you are exposed to Christ’s body and blood – something about this transforms you and makes you more like Christ.
While in Ossining I found that my youth group did mission activities best on Sundays. We did this partly because the Jewish kids couldn’t violate the Sabbath. But we also did it because that is the day that Jesus sends us out in mission, to ‘go in peace to love and serve the lord.’ And so we do. And when we do, we feel his presence.
We feel it when only two or three are gathered in his name, because two or three are enough to love, enough to share, enough to converse with, enough to eat with, enough to tell stories to. And so we do. And we feel the presence of Christ the way they did on that Emmaus road, when the two disciples did not feel his presence when he was there with them, talking with them; but did when he was there with them, eating with them.
I recently read of a church that was down to 13 members. They hung in there and they all kept coming back because, as one put it, if one of them had stopped coming, all would have stopped coming. Perhaps they felt the presence of Christ when they were together and would not have when they were apart. Perhaps the body and blood drew them into each other. Perhaps that is why the Eucharist is at the heart of all that we do, because Jesus said – “Do this in remembrance of me” – in re-membering him, in putting him back together again, in putting us back together again, as one body.
And we miss that if we do not come on Sunday. Maybe we can believe in Christ just as much on the golf course, though I doubt it, or I doubt it comes as easily; but we certainly can’t experience Christ as much on the golf course, for he is only experienced in communion with other people.
This is why Episcopal evangelism is not about going out and converting other people. It is not about grabbing them by the lapels and telling them more and more about Christ until they finally knuckle under; something we’re not very good at anyway.
Episcopal evangelism is about inviting people to church, where they can experience Christ on their own, with all these other people, and experience for themselves what he is really like.
So invite someone to church, and let them experience for themselves the deep mystery of Christ in his sacrament and with his other people. Let them experience for themselves the Christ who is present in friendship – the kind of friendship everyone talks about here and in many Episcopal churches. Let them experience for themselves the resurrected Christ who is present with us now, here, today, the way he was experienced with the first disciples when he was preached and shred and hundreds were joined to that number in a single day.
This open invitation by Christ is why we do not require confirmation before receiving the Eucharist. We only require baptism and desire before receiving the Eucharist. I tell poele the child need only stick out a hand before I put something in it, nothing more than that, because by being in church they already know the two most important things about eucharist – that it is about community, since everybody comes up for it; and that it is about God since all kneel to receive it from someone dressed in robes.
All that is necessary to eat, is hunger.
So come, eat, be fulfilled, be changed. There is no requirement. Christ invites you. Christ will be with you. Christ will transform you.
So I guess the only thing necessary is bravery.