Sermon for Sunday, April 18, 2021

Duane Larson
Sermon for B Easter 3
Based on Luke Acts 3:12-19 [20-21] and Luke 24:36b-48

Some of you know the Harvard Business School’s acronym advice for long-range planning. The acronym is BHAG. When you think long-range, think BHAG: Big Hairy Ambitious Goal. Maybe Harvard got this popular acronym by plagiarizing God’s plans. Plagiarizing is bad. Likely it is okay to plagiarize from God as long as you don’t claim you are God when doing so. Maybe that is a challenge for some Harvard folk, but we do pray for God’s will to be done! So, don’t worry, BHAGgy!

God’s BHAG is why the first lesson from Acts was read beyond its assigned lectionary limit. Those two further verses make all the difference in how we understand both scripture texts today. “…turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come,…the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.”

Now there’s a BHAG! Peter declares truly that Christ is about so much more than requiring an individual to repent of peccadillos. Peter hardly speaks even to the occasion for his speech to which many were attracted: that a lame man was miraculously healed, now hopping around like a kangaroo and clinging to the disciples. The healed man was a sign for the greatest thing that everyone could partner into: God’s big ambitious goal in Jesus Christ to restore all things unto the peaceable kingdom God intended from the beginning!

That goal means that with the resurrection of Jesus Christ we live in a brand-new era of time—The Post Easter Era—that will not be replaced, if even holdouts from prior eras still defy. We are in the Post Easter Era. Not Mesozoic; not the Enlightenment; not even Post-Modern. After Easter, everything is different. Everything that God promised is committed anew. Everything that we think counts against us is wiped away. God’s future is now and is wholly open to all of you.

It does not matter that we don’t understand how Jesus was raised from the dead. But we know that he is raised from the dead. We are witnesses to his resurrection since, even as the evil of the old era still traumatizes. We are not pollyannish about the Post Easter Era, for it has not yet fully replaced the old. But neither do we despair! We have seen Easter’s dawn.  Now, you must put your weight on that foot that points toward the sun, even while your back foot is flat in the old, because everything depends on all our feet together leaning into God’s new age.  God woos us to live into God’s New Era; to be-lieve it; to be-live it. If understanding is to come, it comes as we walk the way from fear to courage, for on this way we will be like the disciples, being surprised again and again by Jesus’ showing up with us, breathing new peace, new courage.

But, of course, again and again we are tempted to cynicism, even despair. One mass shooting a day so tempts us. Utterly evil legislation for permit-less unchecked open carry tempts us so tempts us to cynicism. Restricting voter access so tempts us. The authorization of hate and bigotry so tempts us. The celebration of human ignorance and denigration of neighborly care so tempts us. Our consequent suffering of and captivity to ever more trauma so tempts us.  But none of that has to matter. The Post Easter Era means that we can turn our backs on it because Jesus Christ with the wounded limbs is risen and leads us.  We can and God wills that we turn our backs on all of it. We lean forward. We actively live into what has begun anew after Easter!

You are witnesses. Regularly after Easter Jesus comes into our midst. Repeatedly and surprisingly Jesus meets his gathered disciples and leans into our palpable experience. He eats with us. He speaks with us. He shows us his wounds and then says PEACE to us. That’s when we know he is the real deal. Because even if we over-identify ourselves by the traumas we carry, Jesus shows us the trauma of the trauma we inflicted on him and in so doing releases us from our own traumas, freeing us to be-lieve for and with each other. Because whenever Jesus shows up to us and speaks to us, Jesus speaks to us in the 2nd person plural, saying “peace y’all,” and says to y’all that turning from the old age into the new age in the light of God’s forgiveness of sins is your new and wide-open life in God’s growing new society, working in and through each other. We all are witnesses of these things..

This is a communal thing, this worship and work of this congregation. That is to say that even in a time soon of pastoral transition you know what to do. You know that y’all are called and equipped by God’s Spirit to amplify God’s BHAG. You do not essentially need my pastoral presence to receive and steward the gifts, for example, of another congregation that with us yearns to meet God’s new age rightly. You have in yourselves all the leadership for the present moment you need. You need not wait to carry forward with another what you already carry well. Just as a generation ago, when you so effectively re-presented Christ’s Post Easter agenda of healing outreach you do so now, as with LGBTQ and racial inclusivity and AMMPARO. Y’all are living into the Post-Easter Era, and Christ wonderfully surprises us along the way.

Again, there are days when it is hard individually to trust, to lean into the new day. That’s why God made you into Christ’s church. This is a collective task for which we are given to each other. So it happens and it is okay for me to have doubts about myself and Jesus some days because you are given to believe for me. That helps me to take the weight off that foot stuck in the old era and to shift my weight again to the new. I pray that you have known my believing for you.

There will of course be more to say about such things in the final few weeks to come. Now, it is more than enough to say and celebrate that Christ is here, surprising us wonderfully every time we are gathered. God’s future is open. We claim new and full life in this Post-Easter Era. Nothing will change the truth of that designation. We are witnesses to these things.

Duane Larson             Christ the King Lutheran Church, Houston, TX                     April 18, 2021