Tomatoes or Avocados?
ACTS 4: 32 – 35
JOHN 20: 19 – 31
April 11, 2021 – EASTER WEEK 2
Good morning friends … We as the people who believe in Jesus Christ are called to be so much more than mere citizens of the world … we have now travelled a journey of 7 days since the celebration of the empty tomb and the end of the season of Lent … And, I can still sense and I sincerely hope that you too … can still sense and want to experience again … the joy, the vibrations and once again hear the echoing voices after I proclaim HE IS RISEN <<HE is Risen Indeed!>>!! Even on a rainy day; a sunny day; a day filled with gloom and clouds or our days filled with smiles and laughter the EASTER TRUTH remains, it brings us joy and hope, and it is valid and life changing … HE IS RISEN!! <<HE is Risen Indeed>>!
Last week I posed the question, doesn’t it feel so good to shout with joy that the promise of God’s love and forgiveness has been fulfilled in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? I know I feel so good when I shout with joy about my God and Savior, don’t you? Isn’t it powerful to know that declaring JESUS CHRIST is the RISEN SON of GOD … is the truth? Make you feel good? It isn’t trite … it isn’t a passing fad … here one week after Easter I don’t think any of us are hoping to call the whole thing off and return to the day after Good Friday when Jesus was still presumed dead and buried do we? You DO NOT want to live like Jesus IS NOT alive and with God in heaven do you? We do want to worship God and Jesus Christ with renewed energy because we know the EASTER truths, don’t we?
Jesus, we heard in today’s Gospel, appeared before all but one of the disciples. They were behind locked doors still afraid of the authorities who wanted to eliminate the reality of Jesus Christ. They were hiding and not wanting to show their faces in their neighborhoods where someone might associate them with Jesus Christ who had just been taken to the cross or the Christian lifestyle. I am sure the last thing on their minds in those moments was actually living as Jesus taught or in sharing His message out of fear of what might happen to them; what might be said about them; or how their lives might be ruined or taken from them. If identified with Jesus they couldn’t fit in with everyone else. Someone might criticize those disciples on their Facebook pages if they stood up for the message that Jesus taught about love … can’t risk FACEBOOK attacks, right?
Those POLITICALLY POWERFUL self-serving leaders guised in religious clothing with religious titles that one would presume made them understanding of God’s message were absolutely and selfishly focused on blinding the world and especially their followers to the truth of God by doing all they could to eliminate Jesus; His message; and His followers. They were afraid of God’s truth because it might eliminate their power so they attempted to wipe it out … erase the concept of loving one’s neighbor perhaps by stating on their news programs that one’s neighbors might bring harm to society … they were focused on laws administered by human powers that rewarded some and diminished all others rather than in accepting that God wants humanity to love God and then love all of our neighbors equally with any other laws or rules being linked to just those two directives of God. The disciples feared these leaders and their followers because they were in control and had the power to set rules that harmed others and took away the rights of those who disagreed with them.
But friends, Jesus came to them … Jesus came to them to bring the God-focused clarity of what is to matter in life. This Easter season; has Jesus come to you again and renewed you? Have you heard the clarity of Jesus teaching once again? One man I am working with told me that he sensed the rush of the Holy Spirit this Easter. And, so, has the Holy Spirit lifted you up this season? Have you opened yourself to the messages on living that Jesus focused on in his teaching, which are God’s expectations? God’s expectations for the disciples and God’s expectations for you and me. Clear directions on what should matter in the lives of those of us living today just as they were God’s expectations for past generations and will be for future generations.
But in the dark moments behind closed doors the disciples were calling the whole thing off … in the year 2021 so many Christians who have been happily following the stories of Jesus one week after Easter are finding it rather easy to again call the whole God and Jesus thing off so that they can fit into the world but the truth remains HE IS RISEN <<HE is Risen Indeed!>>!
And, Jesus found them … Jesus knew where they were and what they were thinking and what they needed. He knows us as well. And, so we heard in today’s Gospel a message of comfort and challenge wrapped up in the Living Savior, our Living Savior … our Risen Lord, the Son of God.
“PEACE BE WITH YOU … as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you!” Jesus’ words that I am sure made the disciples consider and remember the words they had heard from Jesus just a few days before, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father in heaven will love him and will come to him and make our home with him. He WHO DOES NOT LOVE ME will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.”
Suddenly the disciples figured it out … their choices for life were not set out in a grocery store bin set before them where they could easily and haphazardly reach in to grab tomatoes or avocados but rather, as followers of Jesus Christ, it was not to be like the rest of the world where individuals do not care what harm they cause to others by their actions. You see people who are EASTER people are focused on others not self. The disciples, like us, understood in those moments that they were to challenge the world around them by loving Jesus and God and all of their neighbors. They were to confound the world by actually obeying Jesus because Jesus taught God’s lessons and by doing so God will love them even more because they have chosen to love God and their lives just like our lives, when we live for God, will be at home with God not by going through the motions … not by reaching out to accept the bruised and dirty fruit of the grocer like the rest of the world but by taking on the Holy Spirit of God … becoming forgiving people … and accepting God’s peace and God’s assignment to be sent into the world to use our talents and abilities in our lives that share the truth Jesus taught!
“A tradition unlike any other” perhaps … we feel so good on Easter when we declare HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> with joy but one Sunday later, a Sunday when during so-called normal times church attendance is at its lowest, are we going out into the world with the Easter lesson renewed or are we asking why the church can’t act more like the world … accept the world’s rules and priorities and just fit in?
Luke provides insight into the early Christian church and those who believed in our reading from Acts. He reports, “the community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions.” And, therein lies a challenge to 21st century believers because we have been taught to value our possessions, to strive to get more possessions and to compete to have the best in all things.
So, if you heard about a group of people, human beings just like you and me, who desperately needed a drink of water as they stood in a long line sweating in the heat … senior citizens and the disabled … the weak and the vulnerable … and if you were challenged to bring them bottles of water because they were thirsty and hot … would you bring them the water they needed?
In Matthew 25 Jesus taught, “‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you thirsty and give you a drink? A stranger and welcome you? “Then He will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” Would you deliver the water to them if the powerful said DO NOT GIVE THEM WATER … even if they are thirsty? Even if they are hot … even if they are old? Would you welcome them even if they were complete strangers even if your neighbors said reject them? Do you believe that we have a “tradition unlike any other” that calls us to actions that confound the world because they are rooted in the instructions from God that came through Jesus Christ.
Church … HE IS RISEN!! <<He is Risen Indeed!>>. Luke tells us the apostles; the members of that early church continued to bear a powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and an abundance of grace and love was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them; they distributed to anyone who was in need.
Are you part of the all of the Christian family? Are you excited and filled with joy at being a powerful witness to the the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is there an abundance of love and grace working through you? Do believe that those who are in need in this world, in our nation, and in our community should be given what they need so that we can declare that there are no needy people?
Today, is the final round of the Master tournament … until 1975 no black golfer was allowed to play at the Augusta National Golf Course much less in the Masters Tournament. In 1975 Lee Elder was allowed to play. It was not until 1990 that the Augusta National Golf Club allowed a black American to become a member and women were not allowed as members until 2012 and 2019 was the first year that a woman’s tournament was allowed to play on this famous course that I watched great golfers play on year after year growing up … Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Trevino and others. We all accepted it … we treasured it … we ignored who was excluded for the sake of tradition. They called what they had .. “A tradition like unlike any other” and it was a tradition based in racism … we allowed it because we liked it. It gave CBS great TV ratings and created memorable golf shots ….
So there’s a song from the Gershwin brothers that was sung by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and perhaps made even more famous by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong … the lyrics go “You say either and I say EYEthere. You say neither and I say NYEthere. Either, EYEthere, neither, NYEthere. Let’s call the whole thing off. You like potatoes and I like POHTAHTOES. You like tomato and I like TOHMATOES. LET’s call the whole thing off.” But, if we call the whole thing off then we must part.
So many people consider Easter a moment in time rather than a lifestyle energizer. As the service ended last Sunday were you focused on whether you could fondled tomatoes and avocados at the grocery store or in sharing God’s love with others wherever you go?
Jesus looked seriously at Thomas after he had put his fingers in the piercings and proclaimed, “MY LORD and MY GOD” and told him, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see me and yet believe.”
Church, I pray today that whether you call a tomato a tomato or a toHMAHTO that what energizes you is your faith. That you are filled with joy because of Easter’s truth. I hope that you haven’t called the whole Easter thing off until the Christmas season arrives like all too many others because faith is living a reality of change daily not just finding one or two days a year to live it.
That when I declare HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> And, in hearing your own words I hope that you have the urge to get up and praise God knowing God’s love for you is there and that in this life you have you have the desire to stand up for God … to listen to Jesus and to do what Jesus taught no matter what the world says.