Saturday, April 14, 2012

Second Sunday of Easter - 2012

t seems different:  Easter Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday.  Different from the Christmas Season and the day after and the day after; indeed the entire week after Easter Sunday is so different than Christmas week, isn’t it?  What about Easter itself.  What happens?  Already the chocolates and other sweetened candies have been retired from front and center places in stores to out of the way reduced sales price areas.  The commercial world cannot allow the Easter season to endure for one week.  Already Mother’s Day is the agenda in card and gift shops.
So what is going on?  Well, it is this:  indeed Easter is different from Christmas and other holidays because after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Easter shaped and transformed our Church and all of Christianity..  Easter in its own way puts a unique stamp upon our Church, a stamp that will not be changed.  It is a stamp of permanency and awareness of what it means to be an Easter people, what it means to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ. Whether it is in the first century or our 21st century what becomes clear in the readings proposed for our prayer from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday is that our Church was, in its early days, counter cultural.  Even today in many ways our church is counter cultural.  What stands forth with prominence in the readings is the sense of community that is so strongly stressed in what St. Luke wrote.    Concern for community and common good was very strong in that first century.  Personal possessions and personal ranking in the community were not seen as the more important realities of life as did the sense of community and common good.  And in these there is an an underlying power, the power of love for one another.
St. Luke’s mentioning these words that they had all things in common is clearly a good presentation of what life was like in the early Church in Jerusalem.  Indeed it was a radical view of how members of the Church there lived out their faith.  In fact this view was so well accepted by the community there that poverty and hunger did not exist in the community.  Followers of Jesus’ mission and the teachings of the apostles in this early Church would freely give of their finances and there material goods to help others where there was need.  For example a little later in the accounts of the early Church there is the story of Tabitha.  She would take extra cloth that she had to make clothes for those who lacked clothing.  Even Barnabas sold some of his property and belonging to be able to help those in need.  The very fact that the members of this new Church would not put a tight grasp on their holdings was a sign to the world that the followers of Jesus were different.  They marched. Indeed they marched to a different drum than the rest of the world. For the early Christians giving was something they held a very dear and important.  Community was something that was genuine and real ... perhaps more so than today.
Of course the rest of the world took note of these strange birds, the Christians, and their community, concept their community drive, their willingness to share whatever they had, their radical attention to common good.  All over the world people were trying to understand what made these Christians tick the way they did.  Of course those examining this style of life were wondering if it was nothing more than an a Shangra La, a idealize form of Christian life at best.  There are many religious communities built upon this style.  As well there are some lay communities with this operative principal.   
Others wonder if it is a sustainable way of living, wondering if it is possible in this world of ours today.  This common style stands in contrast to the experience we have with western Capitalism.  It may be for some just another form of “Occupy Wall Street.”  To others it may sound like socialism or communism.  Some see it a just something that will not work.  However, we must remember that Scripture writers were not offering economic theory for the world.  Neither is it a mandate for new ways of Church finances.
Paul asked his hearers to provide funds for the Church in Jerusalem ... suggests that the common life style there was not working at one particular time.
Point of the story is not about Econ 101.  St. Luke, the doctor that he was, seemed to be trying to teach that the radical care for one another was something that would occur for a church when it based its way of life upon the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially through his death and resurrection.
What Luke is teaching is that whether someone has abundance, all of us have to realize that what is ours is first and foremost a possession of God that he share with us.
We might think today:  our society does not have high regards for the concepts associated with the word “common.”  If you ever listen to  Garrison Kieler’s story about a hometown called Lake Woebegone, you hear that every one in that town wants to be above average.  Commonality is not some to be achieved.  In schools don’t we do the same?  Success is rated by how far above the standard or common line a student scores.
Our Church is teaching in the elevation of the common good to its its highest good is that no one is above another person.  No one more important than another despite accumulated possessions nor wealth.  In our society, there is a line drawn that divides many of us from a few ... the 99% and the 1%.  So what the Church is teaching continues to be a radical concept.  We notice today that things are different when a group of people take the time to help others in terrible circumstance.  Take the Hurricane Katrina and the impact, the destruction is levied against the city of New Orleans.  Live and property were destroyed.  Money and presence were the gifts of so many Americans.  To the world we were a model of so many people coming to assist, to work for the common good because what happened in New Orleans damaged so many who actually did not live along the Gulf coast line.  Relatives, friends from all parts of the USA were damaged by the deaths and destruction when levies could no longer fulfill their purpose.  Flood waters powerfully overwhelmed a city but a nation overwhelmingly stunned the world with the response to assist those whose homes, whose lives were washed away.
Hopefully we see that the answer to those who are stunned by such common good thinking and acting and question what drives individuals to so turn their lives around to help other will see in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ the answer the power to overcome what seems at first glance beyond saving.  The Resurrection teaches us that for the “common good” Jesus died not so that some might be offered salvation but that all will be invited to partake of his gift of redemption.

So, once again, we see what it means for us to walk with Jesus ... even after his death and Resurrection!