This is my sermon April 23, 2023, the Third Sunday of Easter in Year A. We are using Wilda Gafney’s, A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, Year A. The readings for this Sunday were Sirach 4:11-16, Psalm 34:1-14, Hebrews 5:7-14, and John 5:25-29.
We have in the reading from Hebrews a line I find really delightful, but then I have that sense of humor that, when I realize God seems to be saying, “ha, ha,” I laugh out loud.
“About this we have more than a word and it is hard to explain because you all have become slow in understanding.”
What a nice way of saying, “Hey fools, you don’t get it.” We have that line in the letter from Hebrews about our understanding, specifically our lack of understanding, which is followed by, “at this point in time you should know enough to teach all of this.” And I realized that one of the reasons that I found that line so amusing is, and you’ve heard me say this before, that in my own life I’m now never surprised when I realize, “Oh, you’ve had that wrong for decades.” I especially enjoy it when one of our kids will ask us a question and, before I can even respond, they give me the answer and I think, “Wow! You are the theologian in this conversation.”
We all have those times when we think we know and then assume that’s the end of it. Sadly, I think that is how often we approach relationship with God and how we approach an understanding of God. And I think that is one of the reasons, if not the only reason, that so often people who believe that they are good Christian people, do things in the name of God that are so incredibly hurtful to others of God’s beloved children. It is about believing that what you know or think you know is the fullness of what is to be known. You learn something and think that is it for all time. I learned things in the Episcopal Church 55 years ago that we know, or think we know– perhaps believe is the better term – were likely to be wrong because we have been open to discerning, to inviting the Spirit into our lives. A glaring example is that 55 years ago I could not be standing here, either as priest or lay preacher. Fifty-five years ago, women could not serve on vestries. Women couldn’t do those things because we just knew it wouldn’t be pleasing to God.
We all have these kinds of awakenings. We have this beautiful reading from Sirach today that basically says, “open yourself to the Wisdom of the Divine. The Wisdom of God will bring you to where you need to be, where you want to be, to where God desires you to be.” It’s about always being in the conversation, always being open to the Wisdom, and that, I think, is one of the reasons the readings Dr. Gafney chose for the lectionary today, the Third Sunday of Easter, are such beautifully relevant readings for the Eastertide. They are not what we’ve grown up with in the Episcopal Church but they are beautifully relevant, compelling even, because when we realize what we know, what we think we know, isn’t the end-all-and-be-all and maybe we’ve been wrong about it, we get the chance to wake up and have a new understanding. We get the chance to wake up and have newness in our life with each other and newness in our life with God. And if newness and life is not an Easter message, then we’ve all got this wrong.
This is about knowing that as much as you think you know about God and relationship with God, it pales in comparison to who God is, how God is, and what God would have you learn about yourself, about being in relationship with other people, and about being in relationship with God. When we are doing this right, we know that we are changed, that our lives are transformed, and that is not because God is any different today than she was yesterday, but because we’ve woken up to a new understanding, we’ve woken up to something new.
That is perhaps the only reason to have hope for our world today because if we continue to think that the way that we’ve lived for the past couple years, for the past decade, for the past century, is the way God would have us live, we are dying. We are killing ourselves and each other. I trust God enough to believe in the eternal life with God, but how we live today is not the life God would have us live as we seek better understanding.
In the reading from Hebrews we have this line about how we not getting it and then we have the line that we should already know it well enough that we should be able to teach someone else. I’ll admit that line tripped me up. I thought “Uh? What is it I not getting?” And then I realized if this is an ongoing life of new understanding and deeper understanding of who God is, how God is present in our lives, and how we’re supposed to live, then what we are supposed to be teaching is not what we know absolutely, certainly that God would have us do, today, tomorrow, and for all time. What we’re supposed to be teaching is this way of opening our hearts and our minds and our lives to whatever it is God will show us next. And what ever it is, God will teach us how to be more the people God created us to be, and how to live with each other in ways that bring us deeper into the heart of God and invite to participate in the realization of God’s dream for God’s people on God’s earth.
It’s ongoing – more than just a day-by-day – it’s a minute-by-minute decision to be open to the Spirit moving in us, to be constantly inviting the Wisdom of God to be a part of who are in our decisions, in our behaviors, and in our thinking. The hope, the incredible hope we can have that this new life in Christ is ours, is right there. We don’t create the new life in Christ. We don’t make it happen. We choose to walk with Christ as we follow God’s Spirit. It’s all about God’s invitation to the new life and our willingness to say, “Thank you, and I’m happy to be along on this incredible ride.”
It’s Easter each and every day when we make that kind of choice. Amen.