Be Not Afraid

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5 Easter 2017

I Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Risen Christ, you are ever preparing a place for us.  Draw us more deeply into yourself,

through scripture read, water splashed, bread broken, wine poured, so that when our hearts are troubled, we will know you more completely as your true and abiding self. Amen.

In the lovely words of singer/songwriter John Michael Talbot:

“Be not afraid

I go before you always.

Come follow me

And I will give you rest.”

This little band of disciples in our gospel do not want life with Jesus to change.  Stay with me… like a child going to sleep wanting someone to stay with them until they are safely dreaming.  Yet their hearts are sorrowful for Jesus has been preparing them for

these moments of change.  He cannot stay; he has a crucifixion ahead of him.  These beautiful words are spoken by Jesus in that upper room of our Maundy Thursday.  Judas has just left to go to the Temple authorities in order to act our his betrayal.  And yet…  Jesus says to these fearful ones be not afraid, do not allow your hearts to be troubled.  And these words are for us this day.  For we are God’s people; no matter our fears or our disappointments we are in God.  For there is always more room in God

for everyone; even as the universe continues to expand, so God expands to invite

to include all who come seeking all who come fearful or despondent.  It is a powerful image to ponder.  God through the love and the death of Jesus, through the resurrection and the ascension includes more and more people into these rooms prepared.  God is a roomy God!  But even as we are included in that roominess we, like the disciples,

cannot stay there.  We are called to ever enter into the mystical presence of the crucified and resurrected One.  Through our times of prayer, through our times of anxiety, through our times of pure joy we are to enter always into that essence

of Jesus which is self-emptying yet ever open to God’s goodness.  We are to be hungry for God.

The story of is told of Catherine of Sienna in Italy, one of the mystics of the 14th century

who had such a hunger for God she desired no other food than the bread of Holy Communion.  She received it every day for the last few years of her life eating nothing else.  Yes, she died of what is called Holy Anorexia, but she died full of Jesus.  And she lived that way as well, confronting popes for their lack of faith confronting the poor with food and graciousness.

We through the power of both the crucifixion and the resurrection align ourselves in spiritual longing even as Catherine did for the comfort and the encouragement and the evangelical spirit of Jesus’ presence.  Do not be afraid I go before you always; yet always searching for ways to be more and more full of that love of Jesus.  Find the way to Jesus but do not be satisfied to stay there.  There are always oppressive ideas

to overturn every day and simply being content to be the way we have always been

is not the way of Jesus.  His is the invitation to follow which means to expand to include

more and more of his love of his giving away to those who are the least.  The disciples

as we heard those first days after his resurrection were hiding away for fear.  They have not yet believed Jesus could overcome death and a stone-cold tomb.  The place of the dead is a mystery to us all but especially to those who are fearful.  And when we fear

either regimes or the past or the future or even ourselves Jesus invites us into his love

that conquers such feelings.  There are times when we feel invisible to the world, to those we believe love us.  And we fear we shall always stay unseen, unnoticed, unheard.  Yet we hear these words of not just comfort words that say we are God’s people not forgotten not invisible.  For the power of the resurrection is palpable

for these fearful ones and for us. We are God’s people!

We celebrate life every day because death has been vanquished, because life has been promised, not tomorrow, not at death’s door, but today.  A new direction is about to come to the disciples that they cannot even imagine; not to be revolutionaries to upend Roman rule but an engaged compassion for transformation.  This promise of being with us always is to move us out of our complacency into such compassion, such inclusivity

our world will notice we are filled with joy and reassurance of Jesus’ continued presence.  When we pray in his name it is not some dogma to which we subscribe

but a deep inner yes to Jesus and his invitation to room with him.  This is ever the mystery of his invitation to be fully indwelt by God even as he was and still is.

And to go from this place in the power of his resurrection. Amen.

 

Be Not Afraid