Easter 3B’21
18 April 2021
I John 3.1-7
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Amen.

        –    I John 3.2 NRSV

I certainly hope you had the chance to watch the funeral for HRH Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh yesterday. Funerals and weddings in the Anglican tradition are where our church speaks in its clearest and most beautiful voice, of the great mysteries of life and death. Prince Phillip demonstrated so vividly through his life; as well as through the funeral service he had preplanned, that we humans, regardless of our birth and station in life have much in common – the tragedies, the triumphs, the unexpected curves, turns, and perfect imperfections along the way. There were so many memorable images, from the 8 min. processional, to the setting of the magnificent St. Georges Chapel, the sounds of glorious music and cannon fire, to images of the grieving Queen all dressed in black, and sitting alone due to COVID precautions, and the hopeful signs of reconciliation as Princes William and Harry talking as they walked up chapel hill after the service. All in all, a beautiful witness and reminder of the Christian hope of resurrection.

The early Church referred to Day of Resurrection as the “8th Day.” Not on the Jewish Sabbath, or on the last day of the week but on the 8th day, the beginning of a new week, where something entirely new was at its start. Jesus continues to show himself if we but have the grace to keep on the lookout for him, and with eyes to see him. He shows up through the beauty of creation, through the gifts of his children, and in the lives of the members of his body, the Church,

I’ve been struck by three examples of Christ’s life breaking into ordinary life in extraordinary ways – in the lives of three particular individuals whom I happen to know. The first is of a deacon in this diocese on the occasion of their 25th anniversary of their ordination. To say this individual is a ‘character’ is an understatement. They bring three primary ingredients that when mixed together makes quite a concoction: 1) Great Faith 2) Strong political views 3) a Zany sense of humor. We got him a serious gift but we also got him a gag gift. It was my pleasure to call him to the front of the church and to recognize his milestone and present him with his gift. I set it up as follows: ‘I’d like to ask the deacon to come forward and be recognized.’ Before handing the gag gift to him I said, ‘Deacon, as everyone knows, you are a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party (the truth was actually just the opposite- he was a big-time Republican, and everyone knew it) I continued, ‘So we found a little something that we are sure you’ll be proud of.’ He opened the sack and pulled out the gift – it was a pink t-shirt with a huge image of newly elected president Barak Obama! He turned all shades of red, while everyone dying of laughter gave him a standing ovation!

I was surprised to see at the reception that he was proudly wearing the pink Obama t-shirt over his clerical shirt and collar.   There was so much love in the room for him – that day we could celebrate the life and ministry of a deacon, and laugh at our differences while holding to the much deeper truth that we were all part of Christ’s Kingdom that would have no end, where all political parties will be a distant memory.

{in the midst of very ordinary lives, Jesus was very much alive and well!}

Another example where the risen Christ showed up in the midst of ordinary life happened between a Catholic priest and a College professor. They had had a falling out over the priest failing to publicly recognize her upon the successful completion of her dissertation and had left the dedication of altar flowers in memory of her deceased mother out of the church bulletin and newsletter. The professor gave the priest a severe tongue lashing, the priest tried to explain his actions, but she was not having any of it. The professor would not return the priest’s phone calls and she did not return to church for two years. Then her devout Catholic father died and, the funeral would have to be at the church. The priest dreaded the funeral and assumed that the professor dreaded the priest. There were times before and after the service where the priest was civil and respectful but avoided the professor. Then as the reception was ending the professor made a b-line for the priest – he was cornered with no escape route. As the priest prepared for the worst the professor’s first words were, “Fr. William I am so very sorry about the way things ended between us.” The priest’s mouth dropped open, not believing his ears, the professor then added “I don’t hate you, you’re a good priest, and I really appreciate what you were able to do today to honor my dad’s memory.” The priest returned words in kind, that he too had been so very sorry about the way things had ended between them. The conversation ended with mutual respect and forgiveness and with the professor becoming an active parishioner again!

{in the midst of very ordinary lives, Jesus was very much alive and well!}

A final example of Christ showing up in the midst of ordinary life, happened between a physician and their father. The physician was an internationally known and much sought-after orthopedic surgeon with degrees and honors out the wazoo! His head had been known to swell on occasion as he would brag on his accomplishments. His father was in his 90’s with dementia and was incontinent. On a visit to see his father the home health nurse was called away for a family emergency leaving the surgeon and his father alone. While the nurse was out the father had a profound episode of incontinence and it fell to the world renown surgeon, the son, to clean up the mess and his father. During the process the surgeon that was also a son had a moment of clarity as he cleaned his father. He recognized the state of pride he had been living in, he had flashbacks of his unkind treatment of nursing staff who on a daily basis, had to perform duties like the one he was performing. He became disgusted with himself, repented and returned to the Lord, and now walks humbly with his God.

Jesus continues to show himself if we but have the grace to keep on the lookout for him, and with the eyes to see him.

{in the midst of very ordinary lives, Jesus is very much alive and well!}