1st Scripture Reading: Acts 3:12-19, and Psalm 4 (p.727VU)
We, like Moses, may not see the Promised Land. That doesn’t mean we should give up and join the unbelievers. On this Sunday, April 19, three days before Earth Day, we are reminded by Peter in the reading from Acts 3, that the apostles, and we, must look beyond our human capabilities to the power and purpose of God in the healing of people, and of the nations, and indeed of all creation.
I don’t know about you, but as I look around I get depressed, sometimes, at the amount of sickness and suffering I see in the world around me. I am amazed at the money being spent on cancer research, and other kinds of human illness without too much apparent benefit. We are still dying in vast numbers from these diseases. Yes, we have more life-extending treatments and we can prolong life, and often the attendant suffering for much longer periods. But I believe it is hubris, pride, to believe that we are anywhere near being able to do what Peter and the other apostles did in the period immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
And I get depressed when I look at the way we ravage the earth without conscience or concern for long term consequences. We are making the earth and other species ill by our ill-conceived actions and our economic system which demands unlimited growth in a finite and fragile planet.
In the latest issue of Island Tides there is a letter from a person named Terry Slack – a letter about the “missing fish” – the once vast oolichan runs of the Fraser River. Before European settlers arrived this incredibly abundant source of food protein and oil was an important economic staple in the lives of BC’s aboriginal peoples. Do you all know about the “grease trail” that wound from the coast into the interior of the province, so that coastal communities could trade oolichan oil with those groups with no access to this resource, for things they needed from the interior.
The writer laments the demise of this important fishery as most of the spawning grounds for oolichan have been destroyed in the North Arm of the Fraser River. Oolichan feeding birds which used to come to the spawning grounds to feed on the dead bodies of the spent fish, no longer come to this once rich feeding ground. The author calls it a “silent spring” – reminiscent of Rachel Carson’s almost forgotten work on the deadly effects of pesticides and herbicides in our environment. We have taken too much, we have deforested too much, and we have given away responsibility to those whose concern is only money.
More hubris – more pride. We are not the creators of this amazing gift we have been charged to steward. Generations to come will have to live with the long term effects of what we are presently doing to the earth and all creatures in our arrogance – or in the biblical language – in our wickedness.
Yes, at the risk of being pelted with rotten eggs and tomatoes, I will name it wickedness. We have no right not to consider the consequences of what we are doing on future generations. Personally I have difficulty looking at my children and grandchildren without feeling some guilt at not having done better, at not having done enough.
And yet, God IS with us. Peter points to God’s presence and active intervention in the healing miracles performed by the apostles. They were not special people – they were not different from you or I. But they knew Jesus and what happened to him with an immediacy it is hard for us to fathom. Their stories are a lamp to our feet – they must be remembered or we will totally lose our way. The power to create life is not ours. It is the power of the Almighty – the God of love and mercy who nevertheless will let us fail – will let us wallow in our wicked ways, if that is our choice.
As the psalmist says: “How long, you people, will you defame my honour? How long will you love what is worthless and seek lies?....Stand in awe, and cease from sin; commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still.” And yet, even as we lament our failures, and then turn again to God, we know that God is still there, has always been there…and then there is peace. “Safe and sound, I lie down to sleep, for you alone, God, make me dwell in safety.”
Hymn # 278 VU “In the Quiet Curve of Evening”
2nd Scripture Reading: 1 John 3:1-7, and Luke 24:36b-48
The writer in the letter from John chapter 3 affirms for us what we often forget, that as followers of Jesus we are “children of God”. But sometimes we forget the part that says “Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as (God) is righteous.” And of course the flip side of that is that anyone who does not do what is right, and who does not seek re-direction, is therefore not righteous – is a sinner, lost in wicked ways – even if that person is nominally a Christian.
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth or action.” This writer goes on to talk to the early Christians about Jesus’ commandment to love one another – we will know each other by the deeds of our hearts and hands, and not so much by fine speech that doesn’t come from the heart. I have a cartoon on my fridge that says that going to church no more makes one a Christian, than being found in a garage makes something a car!
At first, of course, the early followers of Jesus were skeptical, as we would no doubt be skeptical. When he first appeared among them, after his death and resurrection, he had taken on physical form, and he invited them to touch him and even asked for food!
Now lots of people dismiss this event as fantasy or metaphor. Whatever, the story serves to remind us that with God all things are possible, and without God there is only darkness and the victory of death and evil.
This experience of the Risen Christ energized and motivated a demoralized group of Jesus’ followers to witness joyfully to what they had experienced: the supremacy of God. Strong in this belief they were unstoppable. They were unbelievably courageous in the face of unrelenting and cruel persecution. They were able to continue to perform miracles of healing as Jesus had instructed them, and as they knew themselves capable of doing, but only as instruments of God’s grace and will. As Healing Pathway practitioners we seek to emulate this practice, and we place the responsibility for all healing that occurs, plus praise and gratitude for that, squarely in the hands of God.
People of God, we are God’s beloved children. I believe we are called to a very high purpose, the establishment of the kingdom of God here on Earth. Once we choose to align ourselves with God’s will for us, then we will know God’s great peace, and we will be unstoppable. And we must continue to witness to these things we have been told and believe in our hearts to be true.
Hymn # 157 MV “I Am a Child of God”