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Second Sunday of Easter, April 12, 2015

Sometimes there is a seminal event in a family – one that is so important that it changes the nature of the family relationships. It might be a family reunion or a wedding or a funeral or a holiday celebration. But whatever it is, the family becomes somehow newer and hopefully better.

If you watch NCIS or another show about government activities, sometimes there is classified information that a person or persons needs to be “read into”. That means in order to know what they have to know to solve the case, the person has to know the background of the events leading up to this one incident.

The community the author of 1 John is writing to is being read into the Easter story. They know it already because they are already a gathered community, but it is necessary to tell it over and over again so people do not drift away. It is necessary to proclaim this most important event in Christian history so relationships can be transformed and hope for the future continued.

The author proclaims first the nature of God’s revelation in the Easter faith and then tells the community what good things they can expect because Easter happened. The Easter faith is from the beginning. From the time when the Word of God helped create the world, this event was planned for the creation. God was going to come Godself to save the world from the inevitable separation that would be caused by Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, an event God hoped would not happen and yet knew the inevitability of it. So the Word made flesh was revealed to preach God’s kingdom to people living in an earthly world full of sin and death. The Word in Jesus came to let people know about God’s passionate love for them and God’s desire for their wholeness.

And God became human. None of this “spirit” stuff or a God who did not take care of the people personally and intimately, but the Word become flesh, sharing our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but risking so much more than we were able to about telling the truth of God’s ways to power. The writer of the gospel takes pains to let the readers know that he has seen and heard and touched this truth of God, this word of life than was revealed to humans. Jesus was truly incarnate, a living breathing being who suffered and died and was resurrected by God, bringing us all hope for eternal life. This is the message that has been proclaimed, the one that the writer wants this congregation to stay faithful too.

The joy of Easter is transformative. Belief in its truth brings us fellowship – fellowship with God and Christ, fellowship with the author and the other apostles, fellowship within their own group. This fellowship brings joy, because it is so good to share the knowledge of this news with others, to meet together and study together, to serve one another and to grow in the faith. And as a community, they can reach out to others and proclaim the message they have been told and invite others to join them.

Belief in the truth of Easter also brings us the knowledge that God is light, that in God there is no darkness at all. The light of the resurrection is the main focus, the miracle of love that God has delivered to God’s people. In God, we can see things as they really are, not as they are in the world we live in. There is a clash of values between God and the world, but because of the light of God, we can truly see for the first time what the coming kingdom of God is like and it brings us hope. Walking in the light means doing what Jesus would do. It means obeying his commandments and doing our best to be righteous in all our actions. God’s light also reveals us to one another, each of us a beloved child of God, who should be loved by us in all our strengths and weaknesses, just as God loves each of us. God’s light also reveals the shadows in us. The author is writing so that the community will not sin, but also recognizes the inevitability of sin. The power of sin can be deceiving, convincing us that we didn’t really do anything that bad or that we haven’t done anything wrong at all, but we need the light of God to help us see the truth about ourselves – good and bad – and be honest in acting on that truth. We have to confess our sin, which means to agree with God about them, to receive the forgiveness we crave.

Part of Easter joy is also the reconciliation we have with God. Christians have the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his glorious resurrection to tell us that we are healed and forgiven — not because of God’s wrath being assuaged, but because of our decision to ignore God and run our own lives. If we believe this, we have Jesus as an advocate, who intercedes with the Father on our behalf.

All those transformative moments add up to a Resurrection that brings joy and hope for the future. It brings the good news of eternal life with God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. It brings the knowledge that the word of life has actually existed in a particular time and place and has given himself for our redemption and been raised to assure us of God’s victory over death.

How has the resurrection transformed your life over the Easters you have seen? For me, the promise of forgiveness has led me to a greater and greater degree to forgive myself. I know that I don’t have to be perfect. Perhaps your experience with the resurrection has done the same for you. Perhaps you have been hard on yourself in the past and you need to know about God’s unconditional love, shown in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Our Easter experience with forgiveness also reminds us that we need to forgive others. They are not perfect either God wants us to have the best relationship possible with everyone, and forgiving someone who has hurt us is key to this reality. Accepting God’s forgiveness – and the forgiveness of others – for the mistakes we have made is a transforming reality of the Easter life.

God’s light has transformed my life as well. I want to live in the light and do the right thing according to God. I have no hope of doing this myself, but with God’s help I can come closer to this ability. Easter transformation for me has meant doing my best to put God in the driver’s seat. The bumper stickers that read “God is my co-pilot” really ought to read “God is my pilot” to get at this truth. Where in your life are you asking God to do God’s will. Do you turn your health over to God, your finances, your relationships, your plans for the day? How do you live and work in the light of God and put aside your own plans, knowing that God will take care of you. It is not always easy to trust God, but God’s love in the Resurrection is certainly a huge point to consider in deciding whether you will trust or not.

Fellowship with God and neighbor is how our community functions. We need to have this fellowship to exist as a Christian community. We love and care for one another at St. John’s and engage in mutual ministry – you serve me and I serve you, whether it is in the exchange of ideas or hugs or pastoral acts. We worship together and are sustained by the Body and Blood of Christ to keep acting on our baptismal vows, to become the persons Christ would have us be. There is also fellowship with others outside our community whom we want to invite to join us. It is our job, as it was the author of 1 John, to proclaim the message, to write people into the greatest event on earth, to help them remember what they have forgotten or ignored as irrelevant, to bring them into our community.

The joy of Easter is transformative. It gives us life and light and joy. It gives us the community we all need. May this Easter season be transformative for you as you continue to remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ around which our entire faith revolves.

AMEN

     - Rev. Ann Barker