Let’s Practice Resurrection Here

Gracious, it was a gorgeous day here!  We had a great weekend at the church – the Missions Committee hosted a Spaghetti Supper & Dessert Auction last night – they raised over $3,700 for their continued work in the community!

Here is this morning’s sermon … enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
April 12, 2015

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133

Let’s Practice Resurrection Here

Who took a nap at some point on Easter Sunday?

Who was either hosting people at their house or spent the day traveling to other people’s houses and did not take a nap, but really wanted to?

We had an exhausting, but absolutely wonderful Easter celebration at the church. From our wonderful children’s choir that sang on Palm Sunday to the powerful Maundy Thursday service that moved many of us to tears, from the sunny Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday (what rain in the forecast?) to the beautiful sunrise over the reservoir that served as a backdrop for our sunrise service and from the music that literally vibrated the walls of the sanctuary during our worship service to the living cross that was planted boldly on the front lawn of the church, no stone was left unturned (pun intended).

I spent most of this week trying to (unsuccessfully) clean my disaster of an office while attempting to figure out what I had been working on and planning before I got lost in the land of Holy Week and Easter. I am assuming most of you did the same at home! Your house was quiet again (or quieter) and you put away your decorations, washed the guest sheets and towels, consolidated Easter candy and tried to come up with creative ways to use the 16 pounds of leftover ham in your fridge.

So now what? The dust has settled from our Easter celebrations – what do we do now? Do we carry on business as usual? Do we just move to the next thing? Do we give thanks for a wonderful celebration but then find a way to get everything back to normal so we get on with our plans for the spring?

We could.

But let me ask you a question: If we did that – if we just carried on, business as usual, got back into the swing of things and carried on as though nothing had happened – then what was the point of Easter? What was the point of the sacrifice that Jesus made? What was the point of the abundant love and grace that God poured over all of us through the resurrection? What was the point of any of that if our lives were not going to be changed by it?

It is tempting to celebrate the resurrection once a year at Easter and then just be done with it until Easter comes around again the following year. But if we do that, how are we supposed to grow in our faith throughout the year? How is the resurrection supposed to change us in our everyday lives? How will we continue the work that Christ started the other 364 days of the year?

Even though Easter is over, the resurrection of Jesus still has the power to transform people’s lives. We cannot put that power away with the rest of our Easter decorations.

This morning’s scripture reading comes from the book of Acts, or, the Acts of the Apostles. Acts tells the story of the earliest Christians; it is a theological narrative about what happened immediately after the resurrection. It is as close to a historical account of the beginning of the church as we are going to get. Acts gives insight into how a moment of miraculous grace birthed a movement that has come to be the church as we know it today.

Obviously, the church as we know it did not exist immediately, but we see in this morning’s reading from the fourth chapter of the book of Acts that people were starting to come together around a common belief. And as they came together a great power enabled them to bear witness to the resurrection and to practice resurrection in their community so that their lives would be changed and the lives of others would be changed as well.

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul … [and] with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection. [1]

And there, but by the grace of God, the church was born.

Christianity is not a religion that has been passed on throughout the years by laws and customs; Christianity is an experiential religion that has been shared with generations upon generations through testimonies of those experiences. People experience God in their lives in very real and powerful ways and they come together and share those experiences with others. And as those experiences are shared, more and more people’s eyes are opened to the ways that God is working in this world.

That is what the apostles did 2,000 years ago and this is what we are still doing today.

We have to pass along our faith to the next generation. What would have happened if the apostles had just gone on, business as usual, after the resurrection? Where would we be – we as a church and we as individuals of faith – if the apostles had not come together and spurred the Christian movement? We have to continue what the apostles started if we want the Christian faith to be sustained in the generations to come.

We have to share our faith, we have to encourage others in their faith and we have to find ways to tangibly practice our faith in our lives and within our community. What if the apostles had just frozen their leftover ham and gone back to work? Where would the church be? It should NOT just be business as usually around here. We have to intentionally come together – just like the apostles did – and be part of a community. We have to – as that community – bear witness to the resurrection so that we can help one another grow in our faith and become more whole. We have to practice resurrection in our lives and in our church so that we can strengthen the work that God is doing throughout the world.

We are called – just like the apostles – were to come together and allow that great power to work through us and give testimony to the resurrection and to the promise that God’s love always wins.

The power of the resurrection did not come and go with that first generation of apostles; the resurrection still has the power to transform people’s lives and this is the type of power that can and will change the world. It is our witness to the resurrection that gives it its power and it is our practice of the resurrection that will make this world a better place.

In the calendar of the Christian year, the Easter season (or Eastertide, as it is often referred to) lasts for seven weeks – from Easter Sunday through the 50th day, which is the celebration of Pentecost. It is during this season that we celebrate the resurrection and the power that it still has in our lives today. We hear stories in scripture about the early church and reflect on the ways that we are part of this transformative Christian narrative that is still being written. We reflect on the ways that we are heeding the call to be Jesus’ disciples; how we are not only experiencing resurrection in our lives, but are intentionally practicing it as well.

So here is my challenge to you all throughout this Eastertide: Let us practice resurrection in our lives and in this church.

Let us come together as a community and think intentionally about what God is calling us to do and how we can live out that call. Let us not only tell the world with our words that we believe that resurrection is still happening today, but let us show them with our steps and with our actions.

Remember that we have to practice resurrection in our lives if we want it to continue to have the power to transform our lives and the lives of the people around us. And not only do we have to be the hands and the feet and the face of Christ, but we also have to come together like the apostles did; we have to remember that who we are as a community of faith is so much stronger than who we could ever be as individuals. Scripture says that “the whole group of those who believed” came together – not just one person. We – we as a community of faith – are being called to practice resurrection together.

I think it is important to remember that scripture records that the apostles were of one heart and one soul – but nowhere does it say that they were of one mind. The psalm that we read this morning rejoices in “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” [2] Unity does not have to come from being in agreement with one another; unity comes from being in a community of belief with one another.

That is where God’s power starts to work.

So let us practice resurrection in our lives and in our church. The source of our power already exists, and in the midst of a very chaotic world, we can all be a tangible reminder that God’s love always wins. Throughout this Eastertide, I encourage you to think about the ways that God is calling you into the life of your faith and into the ministry of this church. Challenge yourself; do not be afraid to take chances. Tell your friends and your family how the resurrection has changed your life and how it can change theirs as well. Practice resurrection in your heart, in your mind, in your voice and in your steps.

The walls of our church may have stopped vibrating, but our faith is still vibrating strongly within us and among us.

So let us share that with the world. Let us not only celebrate the resurrection, but let us practice it as well.

How “good and pleasant” that will be!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

***

[1] Acts 4:32-33, NRSV
[2] Psalm 133:1, NRSV

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