Sunday, April 17, 2016

Our Way of Life

Easter 4 Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 17 April 2016
RCL Year C: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice.
I know them, & they follow me.” Following Jesus is a way of life.1 It's our way of life.
Notice the great multitude of Jesus' sheep in Revelation, this great multitude of our Brothers & Sisters in Christ no one can count, wearing white, carrying palm branches, “symbols of joy & victory”2.
Jesus gives his sheep eternal life. He says they will never perish, & “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus says this not just about the great saints, not just about life after we die. Jesus' guarantee covers all his sheep, including you & me.3 
How do we live into this Good News – this unmatchable guarantee, as Sermons4Kids calls it,4 this great, assurance active now

This great guarantee reaches beyond the larger life we will have after our bodily deaths. You are safe in Jesus's care now. You/we can live in Resurrection joy on this side of life. As Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist says in his “Empty Tomb” sermon posted for the April 14 daily meditation,5
Jesus invites us, saying:
“'Join me in the Resurrection...Even now, even today – don’t wait 'til you’re dead.' Come out of the small, dark, confining places of life into the broad & bright places...”6

Our scriptures today are full of broad & bright places, full of descriptions of “our way of life” – the way of life with Jesus, our self-sacrificing shepherd.
  • Notice the way of life, the brightness that shines from Peter in our 1st reading when he responds immediately to a call for help.
  • Notice the way of life Tabitha/Dorcas shows devoted to good works of charity to brighten darkened lives. Like the light-footed gazelle which her name means, Dorcas holds material possessions lightly like Jesus does.7
  • Psalm 23 says this about our way of life: our Shepherd guides us along right pathways & comforts us.
  • Revelation reminds us the Lamb who shepherds us guides us to the water of life. We drink the water of life, God's grace that flows from Jesus, as the Catholic Bible notes.8

We share this flowing grace in many ways, including at Holy Communion, during which we mix a bit of water into our wine to remind us of the grace that flows from Jesus, his blood & water that flow from his side when he is pierced by a spear as he hangs on the cross, where he died so that we can live in the Light of God's Love now & always.

Jesus dies & the Holy Spirit comes to guide us in our way of life that trusts God's Love.
Even in the shadow of death, as Psalm 23 says, we do not fear. We walk in the Light of God's Love.

Notice the light we see in today's Gospel. Jesus' encounter is during the festival of the Dedication, that's Hanukkah9, the 8-day festival of lights that celebrates the temple's reconcecration & rededication of its altar in 164 B.C.10 Here's Jesus in Jerusalem for this December11 event, walking in the portico of Solomon, which faces east [from which comes morning light],
east toward Gethsemane.12
Our Gospel shines the Light of Jesus' Love for his sheep in a location that looks ahead, foreshadows a darker future event in Gethsemane.
Jesus faces this darker time & embraces it
so that you & I can walk in the Light of God's Love.

This is our Way of life. This is our calling: to shine the Light that shines in our hearts so our brothers & sisters living in darkness can see clearly & live in the Light, too.

We can enlighten them with the Good News: God Loves You. [And you, Beloved Brothers & Sisters know what to say, so say it with me:]
God Loves You.
No exceptions.
All are welcome.
God's Love, God's Light make you, make THIS a happening community where we live God's Love.

In the Jesus' good, strong, nail-scarred hands,
we sheep are safe & secure
no matter what life throws at us.
No matter what changes life brings,
nothing separates us from God's Love
that Jesus gives us.
What a gift!
It guides us now. It never fails.
It is ours now & always.

You have this gift of eternal life now. You know this!

What sheep do you know who needs to know
what you know?!
Who needs to hear you share the Good News of
new life Jesus offers?

Who needs to hear the assurance of this forever guarantee
that is available now & not just after death?

Forever guarantee:

Why wait until you're dead to start

living the Resurrection Life?

Who is the child of God you know
who needs to hear from you

– in word or by deed –

that they will never be lost
from God's Love?

Brown, Brother Mark. “The Message”. Accessed: 04/14/2016.
"Guaranteed Forever”. Accessed: 14 April 2016.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: Jams. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1985.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.

2 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1380.
3 "Guaranteed Forever”.
4 Ibid.
5 Brown, Brother Mark. “The Message”.
6 Ibid. Brown.
7 Ibid. New American. P. 1182.
8 Ibid. P. 1381.
9 Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: Jams. L. Mays. P. 1063.
10 Ibid. New American. P. 1553.
11 Ibid. Harper's.
12 Ibid.

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