Sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter

Yesterday I joined Deacon Ann and Dwight, Mother Betsy Roadman who is the diocesan EFM coordinator at the Protestant Family Day at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, one of the maximum security prisons for women in New York State.

The food was good and the play—almost a morality play in the best medieval tradition—was performed earnestly. There was a gospel choir and a dance troupe. Inmates and their families including a horde of children filled the gymnasium.

As things were winding down one and then another inmate announced that today was the birthday of their child—a little girl and a 7 year old boy. And I found myself thinking, “what a contrast to Chucky Cheese or a party at the Castle in Monroe.

And yet in many ways it was vastly superior because of the love evident and the hope that these women and their families had that there was a future. There was no sense of entitlement; no carrying on by children over presents—just the hope which was almost palpable.

Our readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Revelation to John speak to that hope because as our patron writes to the seven churches the one who loves us is he who was and is and is to come. So all have a future with God through the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world—your sins and mine among others.

John reports that the Lord God proclaims that God is the Alpha—the first letter of the Greek alphabet—representing the very beginning and the Omega—the last letter of the Greek alphabet—representing the very end of all things.

This God whom we worship is the be all and end all and expects to be obeyed as Peter testifies to the high priest and the council. God is the ultimate authority and yet for far too many in the world, God is ‘out there’ and passive and not particularly relevant.

Taking that position means that we move through life sometimes riccocheting from one crisis to another depending on self help books and what seems right at the moment.

But God offers direction and has a vision for us as worthy as God’s vision for Israel—repentance and forgiveness of sins. John encapsulates that vision as love—it is found throughout his gospel and his letters to the churches. Love for one another and love for ourselves as worthy to die for.

Godly love can refocus us on the eternal truths that transcend any particularly time or fashion—that as John writes elsewhere: we love because he first loved us.

Reminiscent of his prayer lesson to the disciples that we call the Lord’s Prayer: we love because he loves; we forgive because we are forgiven; we care for others because he cared and cares for us. And importantly, we hope because he is our hope.

Jesus is at once Leader and Savior. Will we be led? Will we act as if our lives are forever guaranteed?

Every time I hear the words ‘near death experience’, my ears perk up, for I believe in them and I am particularly intrigued by the outlook of people who’ve experienced one.

The former things aren’t important; the striving departs and people express the very peace that Jesus commended to his disciples as they hid out. Peace to replace fear. We all can use some of that peace—it’s being offered.

Amen.