Sunday, April 19, 2015


St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
April 19, 2015

Year B: The Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

            Today’s gospel passage – from the Gospel of Luke – is a lot like what we heard last Sunday from the Gospel of John – the story of the Risen Christ appearing to the doubting Apostle Thomas.
            As I’m sure you remember, the Risen Christ shows Thomas his wounds, invites him to touch them – and believe.
            In today’s passage there’s no Doubting Thomas but once again the Risen Christ appears and shows his wounds to his startled and terrified disciples, who, understandably, think they must be seeing a ghost.
            But, they - and we - learn that this is no ghost when the Risen Christ asks for something to eat, takes a piece of broiled fish and eats it.
            Ghosts don’t eat – so the disciples and we are in mysterious territory: the Jesus who was crucified lives again in a new, transformed, but still physical way.
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            After eating the fish, we’re told that Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures – how the Scriptures predicted all that had happened to Jesus.
            And then Jesus concludes with this:
            “You are witnesses of these things.”
            Well, you and I weren’t in Jerusalem two thousand years ago but we are witnesses to these things, too.
            During Holy Week we walked the way of the cross and since the Easter Vigil, the joy of Easter has soaked this place in love and joy.
            And, just like the first disciples, we aren’t supposed to just sit around and talk amongst ourselves about these things.
            Jesus said to the first disciples: You are witnesses of these things.
            We are witnesses.
            But, what does that mean?
            What does that look like?
            Well, these past few weeks leading up to last night’s beautiful recital I’ve been thinking a lot about Fr. Carr – The Rev. Francis Carr – our Tenth Rector and a wonderful friend to me – I think of him still as my spiritual grandfather.
            He used to sum up the Christian life as a life of love, forgiveness, and service.
            Love, forgiveness, and service.
            We are witnesses for Christ – witnesses of Christ – when we live lives of love, forgiveness, and service.
            Now, here at St. Paul’s we’re certainly not perfect, but I think that we do pretty well in the love and forgiveness department.
            Especially considering how diverse we are, this is a remarkably loving and forgiving place. Fifteen years ago, Sue and I saw it the first time we came to a service here when it came to time for the peace and pretty much everybody was out in the aisle greeting each other with love and, every once in a while, I’m sure, extending a hand of forgiveness.
            Through all the ups and downs of the years, that’s something that’s never changed.
            But, then there’s service.
            Together we’ve focused a lot on service to the community, haven’t we?
            We have our monthly community suppers and free community yoga and craft guild (now with coloring for adults). We host our neighborhood association and continue to welcome 12-step groups to meet here. Plus there’s Girl Scouts, our wonderful summer camp, and our many collection drives – most recently collecting 1,163 diapers for families in need.
            But, there’s so much more to do – and, even though we’ve grown, we can’t do it alone.
            During our many long conversations about the church, Fr. Carr used to say to me something like, “When you’re rector of St. Paul’s…” (yes, somehow, he knew) “…I want you to connect with other clergy and work to serve the people of Jersey City.”
            And, that’s what I’ve tried to do.
            Some of you know that for more than a year Rev. Laurie and I and about thirty other Jersey City clergy members from different faiths and denominations have been working with a community organizer named Frank McMillan so that our voices – not just the voices of the rich and powerful - can be heard by politicians.
            In recent months, we have begun to include lay people in this effort – including several St. Paul’s parishioners.
            And now today at the 10:00 service, we are going to set aside time for what are called “house meetings” to learn from you – to learn from each other – what we think are the important issues in our community.
            My hope and prayer is that more of us from St. Paul’s will get involved in this great effort – and find other ways - to serve our neighbors, to serve the people of this city.
            Just like the first disciples, you and I are witnesses to the joy of Easter.
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            Now, let us be witnesses by living lives of love, forgiveness, and… service.