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A sermon for the fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Acts 4:5-12

 

“When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7).

 

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Open my mouth, that I may proclaim your Word

Open our eyes and ears, that we may see and hear you

Open our hearts and minds, that we may joyfully receive you.

Amen.

 

How did you get here this morning? I do not mean did you walk or did you drive? I am not interested in what route you chose in order to avoid traffic or to get a coffee on the way. I mean, how did you end up here, at St. Matthew’s on a rather chilly Sunday morning in April? How did it come about that you are part of this particular community? Well, I would hazard a guess that most if not all of us are here because we have some sort of faith in the risen Jesus. But how did that happen? I’m sure that for every person here there is a unique answer to that question. Yet, what all of our stories likely have in common is that we ended up coming to the place where we express some sort of faith in the risen Christ in large part because of somebody else. This just seems to be how people generally come to faith in Christ. Typically, the gospel does not simply drop out of the sky into our laps. Rather, it comes to us through our neighbour. I remember when I was seventeen years old and was sent off to a Christian camp for the week. I was thrilled at the chance to spend a week away with friends. I was less thrilled to find out the day before that none of them were going anymore and less thrilled all the more when my parents forced me to go anyway. What could have been a terribly lonely week turned out to be life altering in large part due to a persistent camp counsellor and friend who towards the end of the week must have sensed what God was doing in my life and asked me if I would like to pray with him. To be sure, that moment when I glimpsed what God had done for me in Christ Jesus and surrendered to him, was an act of God. Yet, it was an act of God that required my saying yes to a neighbour whom God chose to use in the power of the Holy Spirit. The point is this, God has bestowed upon the Christian community the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the power of the risen Jesus Christ, so that we can participate in God’s redeeming work in and for the world.

Our reading from the fourth chapter of Acts began with the words: “The next day…” (4:5), which of course begs the important question, “What happened yesterday?” Well, yesterday a crippled beggar was healed. Peter and John were on their way up to the temple as was their daily practice when said crippled beggar, whom Luke makes sure to tell us was lame from birth and had to be carried to the place where he would beg, asked Peter and John for alms. To cut to the chase, Peter has nothing to give the man besides everything: “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk,” says Peter. Not only did the man stand up and walk, but he entered the temple with them leaping about and praising God (3:8). Of course, this all drew the attention of the crowds, the man was lame from birth, after all. All sorts of people gathered around, amazed and filled with wonder (3:9-10), they were “utterly astonished” (3:11) says Luke. Peter turns to the crowd and asks, “Why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?” (3:12). Peter is clear, this man was not healed because of them. Rather, it is by faith in the name of Jesus that this man is healed. The Jesus who was dead but is now alive, that is. Luke then notes that as Peter and John were saying all of this to the crowd the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them and they were, to quote Luke, “much annoyed” (4:2). Peter and John are arrested by these religious leaders and thrown in prison for the night and thus we arrive at the beginning of this mornings reading.

The next day the leaders reassemble and with Peter and John standing in their midst they inquire, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (4:7). Indeed, “power” is an important theme for Luke in both of his books. The birth of Jesus comes about by the power of the Most High (Lk 1:35). Jesus’ ministry begins in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14). This same power is characteristic of Jesus’ ministry as he casts out unclean spirits (Lk 4:36), heals the sick (Lk 5:17), and enters Jerusalem on the way to the cross (Lk 19:37). Further, this power is characteristic of Christ’s return and the redemption of the world (Lk 21:26-27). Yes, this power is characteristic of Jesus’ own person (Lk 22:69) which cannot be separated from his work. Luke tells us that people wanted simply to touch Jesus, for power would on occasion come out from him and heal all those who touched him (Lk 6:19; 8:46). Luke continues on to tell us that Jesus gives this very same power and authority to his disciples (Lk 9:1), “and then he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal,” (Lk 9:2). Included in this power bestowed upon the disciples by Jesus is authority over “all the power of the enemy,” (Lk 10:19). Luke finally ends his gospel with Jesus telling the disciples that they are his witnesses and that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them they will be “clothed with power from on high,” (Lk 24:48-49). And here’s the point, that in Acts the very same power that was characteristic of Jesus in Luke’s gospel account becomes characteristic of the Christian community in order that “you will be my witnesses,” (3:12; 4:33; 6:8; 19:11).

So then, when the leaders drag Peter and John before them and demand an answer to the question, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Peter’s answer can not possibly be, “By our own power, of course!” Remember, the day before Peter had already denied this possibility when the crowds were amazed as if it were they who had healed the crippled man. Two things in particular strike me about Peter’s response to the religious leaders. First, Luke makes sure to tell us that Peter’s answer was possible only because he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (4:8). Second, Peter’s answer is premised on, or rather his answer is the reality that Jesus is not dead but is, in fact, risen, living, and reigning. To be sure, these two things are intimately connected (the risen and ascended Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit). In John’s gospel Jesus says to his disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you,” (16:7). And again, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…and he will declare to you the things that are to come,” (16:13). In our reading this morning from the epistle of John we read that the good shepherd who laid his life down for his sheep, “abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us,” (3:24). In other words, where the Spirit is there the risen Christ is also. Thus, Peter responds to his interrogators saying, “this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” (4:10). The phrase “the name of Jesus Christ” is Luke’s expression for the presence of Christ. Indeed it was Christ who healed the crippled man, and Christ is present with his community because, as Peter says, this Jesus Christ is the one “whom you crucified, [but] whom God raised from the dead,” (4:10). The leaders whom Peter addresses are the builders who rejected the stone which has now become the cornerstone, the one who by virtue of his death and resurrection we see all things in their proper light and whose presence with us by his Spirit enables us to be the sort of community which bears witness to this risen, living, and reigning Lord. The point not to be missed here is that it was the alive-and-well Jesus who healed the crippled man. Yet, Peter and John had a role to play in it all. Someone had to utter the words. Someone had to reach out their hand to the man and raise him up (3:7). The thrilling bit of it all is that you and I together are invited to actually do something. However, this something which we do is not something we could do by our own power or ability. Rather, the something which we do is to participate in what the risen Christ is currently doing. Just like Peter and John then, we today are invited to participate in the ongoing ministry of the risen Jesus Christ of Nazareth which he accomplishes in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must on the one hand affirm that Jesus is not only risen and living but has ascended to the right hand of God the Father where he has authority over all things. And then, on the other hand, we must affirm that this very same exalted Christ is present with his community on earth and sustains them by his Spirit. Indeed, it is the very exalted Christ in whom, as Luke will later write, “we live and move and have our being,” (17:28). In fact, Jesus Christ is so present and so identifies himself with his community that to reject and persecute the church is to reject and persecute Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus asks (9:4). Through the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus is present to his community and Jesus’ ministry continues on in his servants, but it is his ministry. And this ministry is nothing less than the redemption and reconciliation of all things to God. As Peter says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved,” (4:12). The Venerable Bede commenting on this verse says, “For there is no redemption of human captivity [to sinfulness] except in the blood of him who gave himself as a redemption for all.” Christ’s saving work in and for the world finds it’s locus in the community of the Spirit of truth, where real human beings are reconciled one to another as they are reconciled to God in Christ. This is why, for example, to hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness is not only to reject one’s brother or sister but it is to reject Jesus himself and the power of the Holy Spirit which he has given us.

Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a pledge or a downpayment, a first-fruit. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a foretaste of the reality that is to come for the whole wide world. This gift empowers people and forms a community of truth which bear in their own life together God’s saving work in and for the world. Because Christ is present with us by the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the risen Christ is given to the community which the Spirit forms so that this community can point away from themselves and towards the risen and reigning Jesus. The healing of the crippled man in the name of Jesus of Nazareth is evidence of this. Notice how Luke passes from the particular to the more general, from the healing of a crippled beggar to the healing of the world. This miraculous sign of healing is meant to direct our attention towards the ultimate act of healing which God accomplished in Christ Jesus. In the same sort of way any acts of healing that occur in the community of St. Matthew’s Riverdale, be they the healing of some physical illness or the reconciliation and healing of a once broken relationship, are signposts that point to the reality of what God has done in Christ and the fact that this work of God in Christ has once-for-all changed the reality of the cosmos as we know it and is indeed bursting through into our present experience of the world in such a way as to point onwards toward the culmination of all things in Christ. The healing of this man reveals Christ as the only Author of Life. Amid the various blessings of God we must take note of this, that He is the source of salvation. This one man’s physical cure is a picture of the salvation which is offered to all in Christ.

This is, of course, all a revelation of the pure grace of God. In Christ Jesus we see the fullness of God. Jesus is the unveiling, the revelation of who God really is. Thus, we cannot know God nor be saved from the powers of sin and death apart from what God has done in Christ. Because human creatures cannot ascend to heaven to attain God, says Calvin, “It is necessary that God should not only invite us to Himself but should reach out his hand and offer salvation to us so that we may enjoy it.” Peter says that this is what God has done in Christ, who came down to earth to bring salvation with him. And this very power, the power of the risen, living, and reigning Lord who has reconciled all things to God is bestowed upon the community of believers that they might participate in this ministry of reconciliation and in so doing bear witness to Christ Jesus in the midst of a watching world. Friends, may we see that this is indeed true of St. Matthew’s right here in Riverdale. Amen.

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John Calvin, commenting on Peter’s rebuke of the religious leaders in Acts 4:5-12 says:

“From his severe rebuke of their crimes we are to learn a rule of speech for the occasions when we have to deal with the open enemies of the truth. For we must beware of two faults in this connexion. The first is that we do not appear to flatter by keeping silence or turning a blind eye, for silence by which the truth should be betrayed would be disloyal. The second is that we are not puffed up with impudence or undue indignation, as men’s tempers are liable to break out in the heat of contention. Let us therefore show gravity, yet not more than is reasonable. Let us rebuke freely, and yet stop short of the passion of abuse. We see how Peter stayed within these limits. For at the beginning he addresses them in honourable terms, yet when he comes to the point at issue, he attacks them sharply, for such shameful wickedness as theirs could not be passed over in silence. Those who follow this example will have not Peter only, but also the Spirit of God as their guide,” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries. The Acts of the Apostles vl.1, 117).

The church is the community of the Spirit and, as such, the Body of Christ. This means that the risen, living, and ruling Christ has aligned himself with this community in a particular way or, rather, that he has aligned this community with himself in a particular way by virtue of his promise. However, it is important to remember that for all of the continuity and unity between Christ and his church there is at least as much discontinuity and freedom. The risen Christ and the Spirit are not bound to the Christian community. Oft it has been said, it is truer that the ministry of Christ has a church than the church has the ministry of Christ. Put another way, we are more perfect in Christ than he is in us. In light of this, one of the things which must mark the church is continual repentance and reform. We have not arrived, we are simply bearers of the first-fruit of the Spirit for the good of the world. The church, like the world, is sinful and in need of rescue.

So then, to the untruth in the world, let us show gravity, yet not more than is reasonable. And, to the untruth in ourselves, may we do the same.

Father and daughter.

This past Sunday, April 22nd, 2012, our daughter Charlotte was baptized.

To many of our friends and family who are more evangelical in orientation this was unfamiliar territory, if not theologically errant!

I think I became convinced of infant baptism when I grew into a higher view of the church. Interestingly, infant baptism is usually practiced by those churches with a high ecclesiology and avoided by those churches with a low ecclesiology. Needless to say, (infant) baptism is very much tied to the sort of community the church is.

Here is a post I wrote almost one year ago outlining some popular evangelical arguments against infant baptism.

Here is a post I wrote shortly after to counter some of those arguments and put forth a different understanding.

Here is another related post on the language of decision and response and how that relates to baptism.

OK, so a short debrief.

Some brief reflections:

(1) Charlotte’s baptism was done by sprinkling. Father Ajit held Charlotte over the baptismal font and poured three cupfuls (?!) of water over the crown of her head. I think there is a lack of theological support for this method. I would rather have seen Charlotte baptized by immersion, though I think there is a lack of scriptural support for that as well. While there is certainly theological significance to immersion (dying and rising with Christ) I think the real thrust of baptism in the New Testament is that it’s a bath. Baptism is, most properly, a washing. This is Robert Jenson’s view as argued in his book Visible Words and that would have been my preference. No worries though, I do not think that the integrity of the event was diminished, it’s mostly just a matter of my own preference.

(2) I was somewhat uncomfortable with a few of the prayers said during the ‘Presentation and Examination of the Candidate’. In particular, I am thinking of the following questions that the parents and sponsors were asked on behalf of the candidate (Charlotte): Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Saviour? Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love? Do you promise to obey him as your Lord? To all of these, we answered on behalf of Charlotte, “I do”. Maybe it’s just that low-protestant itch I have but I admit I felt ever so slightly uncomfortable with these words. It just felt strange answering those questions on Charlotte’s behalf. That being said, I understand the significance and the theological mandate behind them and ultimately I am comfortable with that! Yet, there was also something beautiful and significant about it all. After all, is not the Incarnation Christ Jesus acting and answering on our behalf?

(3)Just prior to the ‘Thanksgiving over the Water’ the entire community prayed the following prayer for Charlotte:

Let us now pray for this child who is to receive the sacrament of new birth. Deliver her, O Lord, from the way of sin and death.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Open her heart to your grace and truth.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Fill her with your holy and life-giving Spirit.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Teach her to love others in the power of the Spirit.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Send her into the world in witness to your love.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Bring her to the fullness of your peace and glory.

Lord, hear our prayer.

It was very moving to be part of the community as we together prayed this for Charlotte.

(4) Many of the other prayers that were said were deeply moving. For example, after Charlotte was baptized Father Ajit prayed: “I sign you with the cross, and mark you as Christ’s own for ever.” And then: “Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon this servant the forgiveness of sin, and have raised her to the new life of grace. Sustain her, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give her an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.” Truly, this is our prayer for Charlotte and we will try to make a habit to pray these words for her each day.

Family and friends.

Anyways, those were just some thoughts that I have had since Sunday. It truly was a wonderful day and we are grateful to our family and friends that were able to join us on that special day.

Mother and daughter.

With the Godparents.


For the Apostle Paul the life of the believer is both supported and guided by the will of God. Thus, says New Testament scholar V.P. Furnish, “the life yielded to God is the life dedicated to the discovery of God’s will (Rom. 12:1-2) and responsive to the divine “call” (cf. I Thess. 4:3, 7; 2:12),” (Theology and Ethics in Paul, 227-8). Since Paul does not think of God’s will in the sense of a list of duties or a systematic ethical program the important question becomes how is it to be discerned in particular instances.

How is one to discern God’s will in one’s own life? To be sure, for Paul, this is possible (and urgent!) because the Christian is a “new creature” whose life has been taken over by Christ (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:12). Life in Christ is life in the Spirit and thus life in the community of the Spirit, the church. The communal aspect here is key. For Paul, one cannot discern God’s will apart from the community of the Spirit. In the Christian community we speak the truth to one another in love and learn to hear the voice of the Spirit together. To quote Furnish at length,

“Paul never pictures the believer as confronting alone the bewildering complexity of various possible courses of action. The believer’s life and action are always in, with, and for “the brethren” in Christ. For him, moral action is never a matter of an isolated actor choosing from among a variety of abstract ideals on the basis of how inherently “good” or “evil” each may be. Instead, it is always a matter of choosing and doing what is good for the brother and what will upbuild the whole community of brethren,” (233).

In other words, discernment is not a matter that individuals engage in by themselves but rather a matter that requires the community of faith for whom we act in love. So, in Corinth when the matter of meat offered to idols surfaces what is important is not who is “strong” and who is “weak” but how this decision will effect one’s brother (1 Cor. 8:9, 11). “Build one another up!” says Paul in 1 Thess. 5:11. For Paul, mutual upbuilding is central to the life of the church: “Within this context and standing under this claim the Christian is called to discover and do the will of God,” (234).

The following is the text of a sermon that I preached at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Riverdale, on Thursday, April 5, 2012.

__________

John 13:1-17, 31a-35

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Back before movie cinema mega chains had moved into the suburbs my father took me to our little local theater to see a film. I was about 15 years old at the time and it remains one of my favourite films, even today. The Matrix. The first one, that is. The good one. How many of you here have seen it? Well for those of you who have not seen the movie it depicts a future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality created by sentient machines to pacify and subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. The main character, a young computer hacker named ‘Neo’, played by the awe-inspiring Keanu Reeves, comes to learn from some mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. This happens when those mysterious rebels come bursting, quite literally, into Neo’s world, an event which so disrupts Neo’s life that he is left with a decision. Morpheus, a man who can help Neo, presents him with two pills, a red one and a blue one. Neo can take the blue pill in which case, “the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” as Morpheus put it. But given what Neo now knows, given that his reality has indeed changed, this would be for Neo a self-contradiction. Thankfully, Neo choses the red pill and the film gets a whole lot more interesting! Now, like any analogy this one does not fit perfectly but I think it bears at least some resemblance to our gospel reading for today. What our readings from today proclaim, is that our reality has indeed changed and it has done so in Christ Jesus, and as a result a new way of living is opened up to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The opening words of our gospel reading from this evening provide for us the key to understanding the passage: “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father,” (13:1). At the beginning of the next chapter Jesus says to his disciples that he is going away to prepare a place for them, “And if I go to prepare a place for you,” he says, “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” (14:1-4). Again a few verses later Jesus says, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me,” (16:16). Jesus was aware that he was leaving his disciples in order that he might go to the Father. Yet he was also aware that he would return. Well, a number of years have passed now since Jesus left his disciples to go to the Father and he has not yet returned to judge the world and set all things right. We now, like the disciples then, are living in the time between the times. Here we are, living between the ascension of Christ and the return of Christ, a seemingly lonely place to be. Yet, we are not alone, we have not been abandoned here for Jesus also says, “I will not leave you orphaned…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you,” (14:18, 26). So, to recap, Jesus is going away, he will return, and in the mean time he has sent the Spirit to us in order that he may “guide [us] into all the truth,” (16:7, 13). Further, as we read just a moment ago Jesus told his disciples that they knew the way to the place where he was going (14:4). When the disciples replied that they, in fact, did not know the way Jesus responded thus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” (14:6). OK, so, Jesus is going away, he will return, and in the meantime we are to follow in the way of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In our New Testament reading this evening we heard the words of St. Paul: “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes,” (1 Cor. 11:23-25). “On the night when he was betrayed…”. Here we have Jesus, knowing that he will be betrayed, knowing that he is leaving to return to the Father and he takes the bread and he breaks it, and he takes the wine and pours it out. In his absence, Jesus does not just give the disciples a theory or an explanation to tie them over until he returns. Rather, he gives them a meal to share, an invitation into a particular sort of life. Indeed, this meal is the fulfillment of Jesus’ high priestly prayer for his disciples later in John’s gospel that they may be one as Jesus and the Father are one (17:11, 21, 22, 23).

There is a lot that could be said here about the centrality of this meal for the life of the church but I will simply point to the prayer that we will pray when we celebrate the eucharist together this evening. In a few minutes the community will offer the gifts of God, this bread and this cup, to God, praising and blessing him, and Ajit will pray, “Father, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy Spirit may descend upon us, and upon these gifts, sanctifying them and showing them to be holy gifts for your holy people, the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Grant that all who share this bread and this cup may become one body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your name,” (‘Eucharistic Prayer 6’ The Book of Alternative Services). There is a movement in the eucharist and it is this: The community offers the gifts of bread and wine to God, the Holy Spirit comes upon the gifts and transforms them into Christ’s body and blood, and then the consecrated gifts are given back to the community in order that we may participate in the life of Christ Jesus himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is, simultaneously, another three-fold movement that takes place in the eucharist, that is the movement of the community. In our offering to God we are taken up into Christ’s own self-offering to the Father. The Holy Spirit comes upon the community and transforms us into the Body of Christ. We then become Christ’s Body, broken and offered to the world, “a living sacrifice in Christ”. The point is, and this is the important bit, that in the eucharist Christ Jesus is not merely distributed to individual members of the community, but rather, as we consume the bread and wine that is Christ’s body and blood we are taken up into the one body of Christ. In this meal, we become that which we could not be by ourselves. In Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into something which is greater than the sum of its parts, we are transformed into the Body of Christ and are so for the good of the whole wide world.

We are indeed the Body of Christ. This is true of us before Jesus ever commands us to do anything. This is important because during that meal when Jesus gets up from the table and takes off his robe, wrapping a towel around his waist, fills the basin with water and begins to wash the disciples feet and then afterwards tells the disciples that they ought to do the same thing for one another, Jesus is pointing at himself and essentially saying, “You are members of my Body, this is who you are.” This sort of radical servitude, this love which is so wholly oriented towards others, is proper and fitting for those who are in Christ because this is what the love of Christ looks like. So then, for those of us who are part of this particular community that is the Body of Christ, the sort of loving action that is most fitting for us is precisely the loving action which Christ himself demonstrated not just at this moment, and not just on the cross, but throughout his entire life. For John, this dramatic foot-washing, this act of radical counter-intuitive service, foreshadows the ultimately radical act of Jesus’ giving up of his life on the cross for the sake of the world. To be the Body of Christ, to love like Jesus loves, is to practice the sort of love that leads to the laying down of ones life for others. This is a love which empties itself for the sake of others, and we love this way by participating in the life of Christ as we become Christ’s Body through the meal which he gave us to eat and become bread broken for and sent out into the world. This meal becomes a launching point for mission.

A well known American theologian has said, “Christianity is simply extended training in dying early,”

and I think that is quite fitting in light of this evenings gospel reading. The Christian life is about learning to die early. Of course, I do not mean a literal bodily death, although to be sure this new life which is ours in Christ may actually call for that, and indeed many of our brothers and sisters throughout history have died for Christ. The sort of death I am talking about however, is a life marked by the cross. In other words, a life which, in love, is poured out for others. A life which looks first to the interests of others. A life which is willing and able to say no to itself if it means saying yes to another, especially where this pertains to reconciliation between people. Basically, to say that “Christianity is simply extended training in dying early,” is another way of saying what St. Paul said in Phil. 2:5-11 which Chris preached on this past Palm Sunday: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

This is the responsibility which the disciples were given and it is the same responsibility which the church today has, as we live in anticipation of Christ’s return when all will be fully and finally invited in to the great Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-10). This happens, first and foremost, as we participate in and proclaim Christ’s death in the eucharist. Out of this participation, we learn to die early in light of Christ’s love which pours itself out for others, a love marked most supremely by the cross. Indeed, when we love and serve one another in this way, because we are Christ’s Body, “everyone will know that you are my disciples,” (13:35). Just as Jesus went out from that supper to give his life up for his friends and for the whole world, as we go out from the supper tonight what is it we can be doing, actually doing, to make the risen Jesus known in the world? After all, like Neo, our reality has changed because Christ has come bursting into our life and permanently disrupted it. We could resist but this would be to contradict the truth of who we already are in Christ. Or, we could embrace this new reality and participate in it by the power of the Spirit, which would certainly make things a lot more interesting! This is Christ’s commandment, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” (13:34).

Amen.

O Lord our creator, by your holy prophet you taught your
ancient people to seek the welfare of the cities in which they
lived. We commend Riverdale, and Toronto, to your care, that it
might be kept free from social strife and decay. Give us
strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create
here a community of justice and peace where your will may be
done; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Occasional Prayers, 21. For the Neighbourhood’, The Book of Alternative Services, p.680 (with slight revisions).