Third Sunday of Easter, Year B 2021
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
One of my favorite “church songs” that I learned when I was young was “Go Tell it on the Mountains.”
This song is FUN to sing. Go tell it on the mountain, Over the hills and everywhere
Go, tell it on the mountain That Jesus Christ is born.
The tune carries you along, it is joyful and it wasn’t until I arrived here as an ordained priest that I realized it is a Christmas Song. That last line sort of gives it away doesn’t it….. and as a young child I could hold on the chorus but never learned the verses….. which truly tell the Christmas Story.
When I was taught the song I was taught to sing it LOUDLY and joyfully….
and in return the song reminded me that my job as a christian was to GO, Tell, EVERYWHERE—-
Tell the story of Jesus.
And this simple tune reminds me quickly, GO AND TELL is our job to do, daily. Right where we are. GO and TELL it on the mountain.
We are to tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, teaching, healing, suffering, death, and resurrection.
That in the form of Jesus, God came to be WITH us here in our midst.
The tune gives you courage in case you don’t know how, the words gave me instruction (where and how) in case I needed reminding.
Now before you think I have recycled a Christmas sermon today, I will draw your attention to our gospel lesson today, where at the very end of the reading the gospel writer tells the disciples (and us) that we are witnesses to these things.”
For those of you who might have grown up in a different faith tradition, the word witness might bring up the memory of “can I get a witness”- meaning someone to affirm what was saying, or make a public affirmation of faith in front of others.
For those of you in the legal profession (or those who watch it on tv)- a witness is one who has seen what has taken place and is willing to share “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” with those who were not there.
And both of these come from the same meaning of the Greek word used in the gospel today. The word in Greek is μάρτυς, mártys– which of course brings to mind the English word martyr and those witnesses of the early church.
These faithful followers were witnesses of these things without fear for their own lives. Perpetua, St Peter, St Paul, St Sebastian, Polycarp, to name a few. These believers went and told the story, affirmed what was shared from their own experience or those who told them first had.
They told the truth and placed their life upon it. This witness was a deep reflection of the love they received from God and were willing to go over the hills and everywhere to share because the need for this sort of sacrificial love to be understood/shared in this world was greater than their need for safety and security
The early church leadership let go of their personal fears and leaned into God’s being with them.
Letting go is often easier said than done.
In seminary the first Greek word I learned was apolýō– to loosen, to let go of.
It’s the first word we were given because it is the lynch pin of understanding salvation.
Letting go of our own pride and hubris, letting go of plans that were not meant of us, letting go so that we can more fully live into the example that Jesus gave us to live more closely with God.
apolýō is the Greek verb used for the power of forgiveness of sins that Jesus gives to his disciples so that they might free others from what hinders or distracts them to be beloved children of God, to loosen or let go of their sin.
And apolýō is the word that is used when Mary encounters Jesus at the Garden tomb- where she wants to cling to him, Jesus says to Mary, you must let go of me…..apolýō.
Resurrection means letting go of what was and live more fully into what is to be.
Resurrection transformed Jesus and our understanding of God’s Power over life and death.
With Jesus’ resurrection on that Easter morning, there is hope in our future, we live because we know we are not alone, we are beloved and we are more than whatever shame, guilt, or pain has occurred in our past.
Letting Go allows us to Go and Tell, or the fancy church word- “proclaim”, or witness, to truth that there is joy in this world amidst our struggles.
We are not alone, we can do together what we cannot do alone.
This afternoon we will be present for nearly 70 members of St. John’s of ALL Ages to publicly affirm their faith before our bishop. While we will not martyr them, you are ALL invited to come and be present at the outdoor service and witness this, say that great Amen as they make this public statement of faith. We, as a parish, all stand with them witnessing their joy and own experience of good news in their lives and it’s a GREAT day in the church!
This past week St John’s has lived a very real sacramental week. It is not often that you have a funeral, a wedding, and a baptism amidst all of our regular bible studies and services and then confirmations within 4 days- we joked all we needed was an ordination to complete all of the sacraments this week! All joking aside, in each of these sacraments we are reminded of letting go.
At Funerals we are letting go of our loved ones with prayers and celebrating lives transformed not ended by death, restored to wholeness with God our creator.
At baptisms we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ and are making promises for a new life with this love claimed as our own.
At weddings we commit to letting go the lives we had separately joining together as one and beginning a new chapter together- seeing the image of Christ in the other and being an example of God’s love to the world.
And in a new ministry this week, Walking the Mourner’s Path- we completed 8 weeks of walking together praying with 10 people who have lost a loved one some as recently as 6 months ago and some years ago, together we listened deeply to each other –not to fix each other or to have a solution, instead to witness to each other where sadness and anger dwelt and where hope also resides.
Journeying together knowing we can do more together than we can do alone.
This week also we trained new Pastoral Care Shepherds- a new initiative within our parish for how we witness to each other that not one of us are alone in this life, that we are to hold up the light of Christ to each other. You will hear more about these shepherds in the upcoming weeks as we all continue as a community.
We, daily, are called to open our minds to the scriptures, just like the disciples in our gospel today, we too are called to hear again and again the “peace I give to you” of Jesus. And we are reminded that in our letting go of things that have been we can see the new beginning.
We are letting go of a rector in June, we are embarking on parish wide Becoming Beloved Community work in the near future, we are collaborating with Capital Area Justice Ministry and other faith leadership in our city. All of this work means letting go of our own fears and at the same time walking in love together, listening deeply to each other and beginning WITH each other.
Last week with Thomas in the gospel of John, we heard “Peace be with you” said three times. This week, the third week of Easter, we hear those words again in the Gospel of Luke.
What were the disciples holding onto so dearly that these are the first words Jesus says to them over and over again? Where do we need to hear those words in our daily life so we too can put one foot in front of the other?
In church life we are always letting go and at the same time commanded to GO. As Father Wallace mentioned last week, our liturgy calls you into this space gives you sanctuary – a safe space- and at the end we are sent out to GO to love and serve- to tell it on the mountain.
This week what can you prayerfully let go of?
And where will you tell the love of God on the mountain?