Christ The Servant Church
homily april 2017
Homily for april 23, 2017
These readings demonstrate the fundamental evolution from Jewishness to Christianity
The readings for this week illustrate the fundamental movement away from what was a small Jewish Jesus movement towards a universal faith filled Christian religion.
What many modern Christians often disregard is the fact that Jesus and his immediate followers were not Christians but mostly Jews that wanted social and religious reform.
Jesus desired a fundamental reformation of Jewish institutions for a variety of reasons not the least of them a new way to live that would allow all people to be bound to a loving, rather than vengeful God, who is the source for all goodness both in Heaven and on Earth.
The first reading takes place some years after Jesus’ passing. The reading describes the evolution of a new “Christian” community where people come together not only to worship but also to learn from the apostles how to live together in a supportive social environment that is now in fact fundamentally different from the old Jewish traditions.
The traditional religious structure demanded that new adherents needed to follow strict Jewish laws which obviously caused a problem in growing the community past its small Jewish base. St. Paul championed a new attitude towards non-Jews. He encouraged the acceptance of gentiles by insisting that faith and righteous behavior are far more important than gender, dietary rules or circumcision. (see Paul at Jerusalem: Galatians, 2-3)
These new Christian communities included both men and women who communicated and prayed together in a loving and uplifting social setting that concentrated on a thoroughly charismatic experience reinforced by signs and good deeds.
This new Christian experience was immediate, powerful and present in the lives of the followers of Christ Jesus and was designed to bring all people together under a universal envelope of shared belief in God’s love in order that they might be prepared to live in God’s kingdom both in heaven and on earth.
One can only imagine the shear joy that active mutual love and caring produced in these new “Christians”. This was “the” earthly kingdom of God promised by Jesus. A kingdom without loneliness, hunger or fear.
(connect to our experience as a Church)
The second reading, exalts people to internalise the powerful relationship between the risen Christ and God. This reading shakes off any residual feelings of sadness and hopelessness and requires that we redefine the very structure of our faith in life everlasting.
This reading states unequivocally that we will be saved irrespective of our trials and tribulations. The reading also emphasises the purpose that faith plays in the new spiritual relationship we have with the risen Christ.
When Jesus walked the earth the core binding agent between himself and his followers was loyalty. The theme of disloyalty is examined, for example, in the stories of the Garden of Gethsemane and the behavior of Judas Iscariot.
Once Jesus was lifted into the heavens, however, the earthly issue of loyalty was replaced by the heavenly issue of faith. As a result, followers of Jesus were no longer bound by loyalty but by their common faith. This faith would be the binding agent that would hold Christians together with, as the song says,
“cords that can not be broken”.
The importance of faith is further examined in our Gospel reading which is of course, is the story of doubting Thomas. Faith and its relationship to fact and belief is powerfully illustrated in this core story examining Thomas’s doubtful mind.
(the joke about the guy hanging from the cliff)
The great conundrum of Christianity is the requirement to have faith without proof and yet, so much of the new testament is rife with clear examples of the miraculous nature of Jesus.
Jesus turned water to wine, cured the sick, raised the dead, fed the multitude and walked on water. (not to mention inspiring a faith which has lasted over 2000 years.) These examples were clearly designed to provide proof of his undeniable relationship with God.
How could that relationship be proven to exist beyond a doubt now that he was apparently dead?
Obviously through his resurrection.
Jesus was transformed into the risen Christ and came among the apostles in a dramatic physical tour de force that saw doubting Thomas stick his fingers into wounds left in Jesus’s hands by the nails of the cross as proof of his continued existence.
“Doubting Thomas” stands in for all of us who constantly need the reassurance of real, clear and present proof that something actually exists.
Jesus the Christ, in turn is shown as not just a purely spiritual being but a living breathing example of incarnation. This heavenly proof of incarnation sets up a new vision of reality that reflects the fact that both the spirit and the flesh are real.
Perhaps I can illustrate this more clearly through the example of spiritual love.
When my parents where with me I could physically interact with them. I could hug them and converse face to face with them, but when they passed on all that stopped, their physical presence disappeared but what was left was love. My love for them is as real and immediate as if they where alive, so which situation is more real? Are the physical experiences that drifted away reality or is the love that continues the more important and lasting reality?
The story of Jesus the man becoming the Christ is also an allegory of our journey from physical reality to spiritual reality. It is about the need to understand that our physical needs, wants, desires are of course focused on and limited to the physical world into which we are born. But the world to come is more like a world of feelings and these feelings are no less real than physical things.
So where should we put our faith in physical existence or spiritual existence, which has the greater value?
Jesus teaches us that each reality is important in its own time and space. Physical things like food clothing and shelter are necessary and undeniably the existential requirements of simply living. (give unto Caesar that which is Caesars’s) But if you are to enter the spiritual Kingdom of God you must prepare yourself here on earth.
Having faith and belief in the spiritual promises of the risen Christ gives us the motivation or reason to live our lives as Jesus the man taught. When we live righteously we are in fact preparing ourselves to accept the fullness of Gods gifts which are, love, forgiveness, grace and everlasting life.
And so, it is through faith and righteous conduct that we are lead to Christ and the promises of Christ.
As I said earlier, faith is what binds us to these promises yet God has also given us choice, we can choose faith or reject it.
If we choose to reject faith in Christ we are left with doubt, darkness and despair if we accept faith in Christ there is light, joy love and contentment.
As for me and my house I choose the lord.
What these readings are asking us to do is have faith in the promises of Christ live a righteous life and step through the door of faith to experience not only the reality of heaven to come but also a more heavenly place right now, here on earth, with each other.
Peace be with you!