The Fifth Sunday of Easter E. Bevan Stanley
May 10, 2020
1 Peter 2:2-10
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
This homily is going to have three sections that at first will seem disconnected. We will see if they come together in the end
We start with the Gospel. Jesus says we should not let our hearts be troubled. In this time of the COVID19 pandemic, many of us may find it difficult not to let our hearts be troubled. How are we to find peace in our hearts when thousands are dying around us? Jesus says, “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Believing in God is pretty easy. God is kind of an abstract idea. Sure God is out there; God made everything. And God made this virus. Why did God do that? What does that say about how trustworthy God is? Now we are asked to go a step further and believe in Jesus.
Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” To put it in our vernacular, when Philip asks to see God, Jesus says, “You’re looking at him.” Jesus is God. Jesus is right here with us. Jesus is God sharing our human life. In Jesus God risks catching the corona virus.
That’s the first part. For the second part we turn to the first letter of Peter. He writes, “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” This pandemic with its accompanying discipline of keeping physical distances has robbed of us of our usual ways of worshiping together. Her I am in an empty church building and you are participating remotely in your homes. It gives us the opportunity to think about what do we mean by “church.” Clearly, it is not the building. The church existed long before special structures were built for worship. Now, when we cannot meet together in the building, we are still the Church. Peter reminds us that we are living stones built into a spiritual house. The Church is we the people of God. Nevertheless, this physical structure is a sacrament of our unity and mission as a gathered community of Christians. It is important though not necessary, that the Eucharist be celebrated in this space rather than my study at home. Peter goes on to say, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. When he says that all of us together are a “royal priesthood,” he is saying that collectively, as the Church, we perform the functions of priest. The function of a priest is to stand between the world and God. This works in two directions. First from the world to God, we stand before God on behalf of the world in intercession. We offer sacrifice to God on behalf of the whole world. That sacrifice is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and it is the oblation of our lives in service to the world. Second, as a priesthood, we speak and act on behalf of God to the world. We proclaim the good news of God’s love and we work with God to build the kingdom of God on this planet. This is what is means to be a royal priesthood.
This brings us to the third part of this sermon. I cannot let another Sunday go by without saying something about another epidemic in our land. That is the epidemic of racism and the unwarranted killing of African-Americans. I am referring to the murder of
Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February. Here is an unarmed black man out jogging when two white men accost him and shoot him. The two white men said they thought he fit the description of a suspected burglar. The white men were not police officers, though one was a retired law enforcement officer. Their lives were in no way at risk. There was absolutely no reason for them to fire on this man. Then these two were not arrested for two months because of their relationship to the local District Attorney’s office.
This is has to stop. It is wrong. We cannot honestly hold ourselves out to the rest of the world as the land of freedom and equality when, our citizens can be killed simply because of their skin color. One of the ways we can be a royal priesthood, that we can act on God’s behalf, that we can help in building God’s kingdom is to use our voices and our votes to insist that every time an unarmed person is shot, especially by people connected with law enforcement, that the perpetrators be held accountable.
As you know, it is not my normal practice to talk about such things in a sermon. I do so today because I truly believe that as Christians, as members of the Body of Christ, as a royal priesthood, we must offer ourselves to God to be used for the building of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. And if we find the way confusing or difficult, we have Jesus present with us, who is the way, the truth, and the life. We have God in us and among us as the Holy Spirit. We live in the compassion of God for ourselves in this pandemic, for Ahmaud Arbery and his family in their suffering, and for the two perpetrators whose fear and insecurity drove them to a terrible act.
In a few minutes as we offer the bread and wine to God at this altar, we will also be offering up ourselves to be transformed by God’s love and power into sacraments of God’s compassion and wholeness for our families, neighbors, and nation. In this we need never fear. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. We have no better friend or guide.