Homily for the third Sunday of Easter - Peace to you

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Good morning bus riders!

This is the third Sunday of the Easter season. We are now fifteen days towards the time when the High Priest will deem us good fruits. Jesus is that High Priest.

In the Christian count to fifty days [which does differ from the Jewish Counting of the Omer], we still have some ripening to do. We have some maturing still to accomplish.

I don’t want to sound like a skipping record – for those who know what that means – but I have said a couple of times recently that going through the reading led me to see them in a new light.

Well, it happened again this week.

I guess that shows that no matter how mature one gets as an Anointed one of Yahweh, there is always more maturity still to come.

It makes me feel like a green fig again!

<Look for smiling faces.>

Do any of you here have children?

<Look for raised hands.>

The reading today from First John speaks of the children of God and he speaks to the readers of his epistle as “Little children.” That is an address that that makes John seem fatherly.

In the verses we read from his letter, he goes from saying, “We are the children of God!” to calling others like him beloved children. Instead of being fatherly [and by the time he wrote his first letter, I imagine John was old enough to be a grandfather], John was speaking as a child of God.

In the same way that I read Scripture, words that I have read before and see things that I had never noticed prior, you think you know some things and then wham! You are back in the play pen again, like there is so much more growing still to go.

Forever young!

All you who have children were once children, with absolutely no concept of what having children means. If you are old, like me, you have grandchildren. As adults, we like to think of ourselves as mothers and father, as grandmothers and grandfathers, but even then … we are still children, whether or not our parents are around.

John wrote, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.”

How many of you have a father?

Trick question. When the disciples were getting drunk on Seder wine, Jesus said he would soon be going to the Father’s house. That caused Philip to say, “Make known to us the Father.”

All the disciples knew Jesus was a man of flesh and blood. Like them, they expected Jesus to have a father, such that some probably knew Joseph the carpenter as his father. Because Joseph had died before Jesus began his ministry and began gathering disciples, every time Jesus spoke of the Father, that reference flew over their heads.

That slip of Philip’s tongue … loosened by alcohol … said they never once knew “the Father” was Yahweh. They heard the word “father” and thought of the man who had sired Jesus, just like they all had fathers.

Now, raise your hands if your biological father is the father of everyone at this bus stop.

<Look for raised hands.>

It is crazy to even ask such a question, isn’t it?

Then, why would anyone in the world – of all religions, all races, all creeds, all kinds – ever think “the Father” – as God – has that relationship with everyone?

God can be called the Creator of everyone. God can be seen as the source of life breath that is what makes everyone be alive in the flesh; but God cannot be called the Father of everyone.

It is the same as my not being able to point to you and say your father is my father … so show me where he lives.

If one does not have a direct relationship with God [Yahweh], as His child, then one does not have the right to call God one's Father. That title demands a special relationship.

That is what John wrote in his epistle.

For as much as one can think John’s words are some namby-pamby that says we are all God’s children, listen to how he said, “the world does not know him.” A sinner cannot call God the Father, because (according to John), “no one who sins has known him.”

Now John’s letter is quite deep and profound. I recommend reading the breakdown I published about what I saw this past week. I wrote three thousand words about it, which could have gone longer. Just know that being a child of God demands a close spiritual relationship, one that allows one to call Yahweh the Father.

As children, we all need to be taught. Our parents teach us to talk. We go to school and are taught to read and write. Our coaches teach us strategies and fitness exercises. Our ministers and pastors teach us how to believe in the unseen. We find work and are taught how to follow orders, methods, or techniques.

When we think we know some things, then we get married and have children; and, that becomes a new learning experience, where we learn how to become teachers, by teaching ourselves. Often, that means making up a few rules we were never taught.

We becomes newbies all over again. The cycle returns us to where we began, same song, next verse.

As adults we fall for the illusion that we know it all. We see that lesson in the Acts reading today.

I ask everyone to always approach the lessons of Scripture from the perspective of the least, rather than the most. In other words, the Acts reading features Peter speaking. Peter is the most in this reading, so It is then easy to read it from the perspective of Peter; so much so that one thinks, “I am Peter.”

Then there are those to whom Peter was talking. They seem to be the least, as they approach Peter [and John and the healed man] as accusers. Boo accusers. No one wants to take that perspective, because it is more prideful to be Peter. We would never accuse Peter of anything wrong!

Still, the one who is overlooked, therefore the least in this reading, is the healed man. It becomes important to be him when understanding this lesson, as it fits in with the other lessons of the third Sunday of Easter.

We don’t know how old the lame man was, but he was born lame. Like the man who was born blind that Jesus healed, the disciples asked Jesus who sinned? They would have similarly wanted to knw here: Was it the baby born deformed who sinned; or, were the parents who gave birth to a crippled child the sinners?

By seeing imperfection as an indicator of sin, this man and his parents had been outcast by a religious society. Thus, this man had been raised by his parents and taught the only thing they knew how to teach their lame son, so he might possibly be able to fend for himself after they were gone: they taught him to be a beggar.

Now this man was carried by someone fit enough to carry a lame man and the lame man was set on top of a mat, positioned outside the temple in Jerusalem. Probably he had a cup or a bowl in which Jewish pilgrims could place a coin of some kind – alms for the poor.

Probably, the one carrying him and setting him in that position was a relative; and, he was probably using whatever alms the man collected to subsidize the living arrangements the lame man needed. Because of that constant need for care, the lame man was like a child that was unable to care for himself.

That lame man reflects everyone during the Easter season, as he was suddenly transformed from a human being that had previously been reduced to begging, in order to have some semblance of life. See that as a reflection of a sinner who constantly has to beg God for forgiveness.

“Alms for the poor?” is our constant sinner's prayer.

Now, based on what Peter told the crowd, the lame man had been taught the Scriptures, as a Jew. He was deemed a sinner because of his inability to walk, thus he was not allowed inside the temple proper. But, he was allowed to beg outside, because his parents had taught him to never give up belief in God.

When Peter and John walked by him, he held out his beggar’s cup and Peter told him he had no coins, but in the name of Jesus Christ stand up and walk. He did just that, with the help of Peter's right hand.

For the first time in that man’s life he stood on his own two feet and walked. Then, he leaped with joy and praised God. He did not praise Peter. He did not praise someone named Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He praised God.

He then went inside the temple for the first time in his life, along with Peter and John.

When they left the temple after morning prayers, the pilgrims in town followed the man who had been healed, with their stares being placed on Peter and John. They thought the lame man had never been lame; and, they thought Peter and John had set them up, prompting them to give coins to someone who was then suddenly able to walk and leap and shout with joy.

It really does not matter now what Peter spoke to the pilgrims at Solomon’s portico. I wrote about that also and posted it on my website. I recommend everyone read that commentary too.

The point I want to make now is that healed man is a reflection of someone who has been newly filled with the Holy Spirit of Yahweh and made whole. He had become like a newborn child of God. He suddenly had two fathers, one human and one heavenly. He was both a "son" and a "Son of man."

Having just been healed, he was still wet behind the ears, so to speak. He needed time to get used to his new God-given abilities.

And, that is what the Easter season is all about.

Not long before the lame man found (as Jesus would say) his faith had made him whole; Peter and John were just as lame.

When they stood up and began speaking in foreign tongues on Pentecost morning, the pilgrims had shouted out, “It’s just rubes from Galilee. Pay no attention to them, because they do not have polished educations.”

Those complaints were like the thoughts of pilgrims thinking the healed man was either a fake or someone experiencing some kind of sugar rush that would soon wear off and he would collapse back into lameness.

Certainly, dumb Galileans speaking fluently in foreign tongues was some trick and not real.

Still, for the disciples, their 'Easter season' actually began three years prior, when their faith had made them whole, so they stood and walked behind Jesus. It took them three years of practicing that walking ability, before they were ready to enter ministry.

Jesus was their teacher, their rabbi, their earthly father figure, their coach.

The lame man that found his faith allowed him to walk, he was like the disciples of Jesus, in the sense that he needed some seasoning before he would be ready to serve God as another Apostle. He was green fruit that needed to ripen and mature.

The one thing he knew was joy.

That is a big lesson that needs to be learned by all who think the Easter season is meant for them and for all who think it only takes seven weeks [forty-nine days] to be ready for ministry for Yahweh. To think that, one has to first feel the joy within.

At the end of David’s Psalm 4 is sung the words:

You have put gladness in my heart, more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

In those words one can sense how David knew the same elation that the healed man felt. When he said, "More than when the grain and wine and oil increase,” he meant the joy brought on by Yahweh is not seasonal, or temporary, like when the bounty of the land comes, after waiting and hoping all the right conditions are met. "More" means the joy becomes permanent, unending.

When applicants for ministry are questioned by church leaders as to their ripeness and maturity, they ask to be told how God has called them. There should be this great sense of joy as part of one's explanation of that call.

When we read David sing, “I lie down in peace,” this needs to be felt as metaphor for death, where self-sacrifice is made to Yahweh, where “asleep” is the figurative death of self-ego. One’s sense of self as being almighty “lies down.” One’s whole reason for living is “for only you … Yahweh.”

The Easter season is when that “all in” commitment is put to the test. It demands one’s soul be married to God, where the presence of His Holy Spirit fills one with so much joy that one leaps and praises Yahweh from the bottom of one’s heart.

Marriage is until death do we part, but it begins when death to you, as one all-important self, so you can begin to join in union with another in marriage or partnership. To "lie down" "for Yahweh" means the parting of a soul from the sins influenced by one’s flesh. Those sins are what cripples one, makes one lame and keeps one from walking for God.

When David sang, “I lie down in peace,” that becomes the core of the reading from Luke’s Gospel, because when Jesus appeared, he said, “Peace to you.” Both references have to be seen as a divine state of being, not simply some temporary sense of calm.

Raise your hand if you have ever heard someone say, “Peace,” like it is some ‘hippie’ slogan?

<Look for raised hands.>

The Episcopal Church uses “Peace be with you” as some form of greeting, much like the Evangelicals (Episcopalians love to hate) say, “Have a blessed day!”

The word Jesus spoke that is translated as “peace,” in Greek, is “eiréné” [e-re-ne]. That word was used much like the Jews use “shalom,” as a way to begin and end meetings.

Because of that standard usage, when we hear Jesus say, “Peace to you,” we think of it as if he is simply saying, “Hey guys! I’m back. Everyone can calm down now.”

Even though Jesus repeated that in John’s reading of last Sunday, saying it twice so the second time makes us pay closer attention to that as having a higher meaning, it is something that it hard to understand as more than a recommendation to be at ease and calm.

We think the same thing when we hear someone sing Psalm 4 and say, "I lie down in peace.”

This past week, I was amazed by reading those words spoken by Jesus in a completely new light.

I was led to see it in a new light by having first written my commentary on the Acts reading. I saw those words as being no different that Peter saying to the lame man, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”

In essence, saying “stand up and walk” is the same thing as saying, “Peace to you.”

Think about that for a moment, please. It is important to grasp.

<Pause for a moment.>

When Peter said his words to the lame man, Peter was “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”

Being “in the name” means being in relationship. It does not mean, “Hey, I know the name of someone. I am a name dropper!”

Simon bar Jonah transformed from being the son of Jonah to being Cephas of the Father, the Rock of Jesus. He went from being a child of man to being a child of God.

If you believe Peter was still the Simon Peter character of the Gospels, as one of the disciples who knew Jesus of Nazareth, who happened to walk by a lame beggar without any cash, so he said, “I want to tell you I knew a man named Jesus Christ of Nazareth, so stand up and walk,” … try that yourself when you leave here, later today, and see what happens.

I’m sure it will go over about as well as saying, “Peace to you, brother” or “Have a blessed day, sister.”

Peter was Jesus resurrected in his soul. The body of flesh that was named Simon by his father, then nicknamed Peter by Jesus of Nazareth, became Jesus resurrected when he heard the voice of Jesus say to him, “Peace to you.”

Then, as Jesus resurrected, it was the body of Peter that walked by a man of faith that was crippled from birth, with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ being who commanded the lame man, “Stand up and walk.”

Peter opened his mouth, Jesus spoke the Word, and God healed one of faith.

Then, the lame man became another who had been told, “Peace to you,” so he was Jesus resurrected one more time.

To understand this better, think back to the Gospel reading choices from Easter Sunday, when the women who went to the tomb saw Jesus spiritually, outside of themselves, not looking like Jesus. He was there but unrecognizable. Todays’ reading is after Cleopas and Mary returned from Emmaus, after they had walked there with a stranger, one whom they realized was Jesus, but – poof – he was gone.

Last Sunday we read from John’s Gospel about Jesus appearing twice, once when Thomas was not there with the group and then again after Thomas was back. Todays’ reading from Luke is taking place at the same time as that second appearance.

What we have to realize now is how Jesus said today: “a spirit does not have flesh and bones.”

That means seeing a young man dressed in a dazzling white robe, enthroned at the right hand was seeing a spirit … like a ghost. Mary Magdalene was told, “You cannot touch me,” because she was seeing a spirit, not flesh and bones. Cleopas and Mary ran back to Jerusalem because some stranger sounded just like Jesus, but then disappeared … like a ghost!

When Jesus appeared and told his family, followers and disciples, “Peace to you,” they all saw Jesus alive IN THEIR FLESH AND BONES!

He was not an untouchable ghost, but the Holy Spirit of Yahweh merged with their souls, so “Peace to you” was no different than “Stand up and walk,” IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH!

Now, this is new to every one of you, I know. It was new to my eyes too, when I saw it just a few days ago for the first time.

I know the bus is about to arrive soon, so I urge you all to read my commentary about Luke 24 on my website. You have to be able to see this for yourself. Once you see it, you cannot un-see it.

With this being the Easter season, we are symbolically preparing to enter ministry. We cannot even think a personal Easter season has begun, before our souls have married Yahweh. We have to feel that joy of union, first and foremost.

The disciples’ souls made that commitment when they chose to follow Jesus. They had been married spiritually for three years. That was their ‘Easter season.’