Summary: Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, based on the lesson from ist John, who calls us to be the family of God.
3rd Sunday of Easter April 30, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ, who through his death on the cross atoned for our sins, and through his resurrection, defeated death. We give you thanks, that through our baptism, you claim us as your own children, united to our Lord’s death and resurrection in such a way that we share in his victory over sin and death, and become heirs of your heavenly kingdom. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts to your word, and deepen our faith, that we might truly become your church, and bare witness to your redeeming grace. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
I would like to begin my sermon this morning with a brief reflection upon one the meditations that we pondered on Good Friday, as we considered the seven words that Jesus spoke from the cross. According to John’s Gospel, “Standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, his mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your Son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour, the disciple took her into his own home.
In my meditation on this word of Jesus from the cross, I suggested that it meant more than a dying man asking his close friend to take care of his mother when he was gone. The Greek words that John records Jesus using here quite literally mean, “This is your mother.” This is your son. Jesus is not asking this beloved disciple to care for his mother as if she were his own mother. In the original language, there is no as if about our crucified Lord’s intention.
As Richard Hoefler points out, these words seem to “have a creative and sacramental ring to them – like God speaking out on the day of creation, saying, ‘Let there be light’… They come not as a request, but as a proclamation… Something new is being created by these words – a new relationship between John and Mary. A new family is being established from the broken lives of all who stood and will ever stand before the cross (of Christ).”*
With this in mind, consider the very first verse of our Second Lesson for this morning. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are…”
The author of this text, writing about 100 years following Christ’s death and resurrection, affirms the fact that the early church came to see themselves, not only as individuals living in a new and redeemed relationship with God. But as a result of their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, they also came to embrace each other as brothers and sisters in Christ – as children of God, as a new family.
Earlier, in the history of the church, as is recorded in the first few chapters of the Book of Acts, this new relationship between those whom God has redeemed and who have became children of God through their baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, are depicted as actually embracing a new lifestyle. As children of God, they considered their relationship with each other so important that they expressed their concern for each other through communal living. They actually sold their personal possessions, and along with those proceeds, contributed their daily wage to a common fund, which was distributed to every member of the church, according to their need.
As I have mentioned before, I consider it fortunate to have grown up in a huge, extended family. My father was one of a dozen children, who were all expected to come to Grandma’s house on Sunday evening. But it was often more than just a gathering to renew family ties. Sometimes there were family meetings, in which they would discuss one of the family in need of help – usually financial help.
And more often than not – more often than even my mother wanted to agree with – the other members of the family would do what they could to help out the person in need. As my father later explained to me, “You have to care for your family, just as you care for your children, even when they don’t always make the right choices in life. The bonds that unite us are worth some hardships throughout the years.”
I’ve never forgotten those words of my Dad. Nor have I forgotten the love that once united us as an extended family. Since my brother and I were the only siblings in my immediate family, I was fortunate to have an extremely close relationship with one of my female cousins of my age, who became my sister, and to whom we both are thankful for helping each other through those difficult teenage years.