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St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Sermon

April 28th Easter 2, 2019                          John Marsh

(Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31)


Today’s reading from John is the usual gospel for the second Sunday of Easter and given its compelling nature it is to be expected, at least by many, that any homiletic reflections will center on the character of ‘doubting’ Thomas.


As compelling as the story may be, I wish to consider the resurrection narratives from another perspective, one which I hope will open a little room to approach ‘living the resurrection’ differently and within that difference to perhaps glance back and notice Thomas differently.


Our second reading from the book of Acts presents a stylized history of the beginning of the church. Written by the same author as the gospel of Luke, Luke/Acts tells the story of Jesus and the beginning of the Way. One of the interesting features about Luke/Acts is the absence of a doctrine of atonement, to be more correct, the absence of anything resembling substitutionary atonement. Although the message of repentance and forgiveness is connected to Jesus’ death and resurrection there is no indication that his death ‘satisfies’ a debt and ‘wins’ divine forgiveness. While divine forgiveness is freely offered, human choice remains central; our participation in reconciliation remains critical.


As the story from Acts unfolds, it is apparent that humans must discern and choose to give witness to divinity’s action in Jesus’ death and resurrection or to continue to resist. (See Acts 5:28) Invitation to new life is available to all (yes, even high priests) but one must move beyond reflexive self-preservation, choosing to accept accountability and responsibility for one’s actions. We must participate in forgiveness. The acceptance of grace opens us to the transformative action of spirit which subsequently grounds, informs and sustains our witness. Living resurrection changes - us!


So how do we live resurrection?


How do we open to new life?


One way is the perhaps the simplest, certainly universal and potentially the most critical…


At the heart of most spiritual and religious systems is the rhythm of breathing…


The ‘in and out’ of the breath of life…


The rhythm of prayer is inextricably linked to the rhythm of breathing…


“Let everything that breathes praise the Holy One!” (Psalm, 150:6)


The ‘in and out’ of inhalation and exhalation is the rhythm of living…


The rhythm of respiration is inextricably linked to the rhythm of inspiration – if we open to it…


It is the breath of life opening to the breath of the sacred - if we focus our awareness on the rising and falling of our breath…


If we open to deep, intentional and rhythmic breathing, we may open to an awareness of that which we name as spirit - of her movement, of her invitation to participate, of her call to life…


The rhythm of living, the ‘in and out’ of inhalation and exhalation is the breath of life perhaps opening to the breath of the sacred…


“Let everything that breathes praise the Holy One!” (Psalm 150:6)


Yet generally, although it is our nature to breathe, we are unaware of our breathing, unaware of our living within rhythms of inspiration…


Although it is our nature to breathe, we are generally unaware of living within movements of spirit …


And so, the poet dares to ask:


‘Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’ ¹


It amazes me how adaptive we are…


It amazes me how we will breathe but a little and name it as living…


It amazes me how we will adapt to impediments, restrictions and constrictions and consider it a life…


It amazes me how we resist the rhythms of new life…


It amazes me how, usually out of a fear, we will twist the creative drive to fullness of life and hold on to worldviews, self understandings, ways of being and emotional states which are demonstrably against our best interests and the best interests of creation and other life…


Out of fear, we will hold our breath for as long as possible…


And so, again, the poet dares to ask:


‘Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’


It amazes me how we will defend our ‘little’ lives…


It amazes me how, the more we are pushed, the more resistant, defensive and reactive we become…


It amazes me how we refuse accountability and responsibility for our own actions choosing instead to point the finger and blame the ‘other’…


It amazes me how we will refuse that change which is the essence of life, refuse the ‘in and out’ of those rhythms of breathing and the circulation of breath, refuse spirit movement of divinity’s transformative action…


It amazes me how we will resist transformation opting instead for known but nevertheless shallow and diminished living…


It amazes me how we turn a deaf ear to the poet’s question:


‘Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’


Maybe living resurrection begins with hearing the poet’s question…


And hearing it – to pause, to catch our breath and then to slow down and deepen our breathing…


To inhale, and then, pausing, to exhale….


The ‘in and out’ of inhalation and exhalation…the rhythm of living…the breath of life…


Maybe living resurrection is to remember that the rhythm of prayer is inextricably linked to the rhythm of breathing…


Perhaps living resurrection is to remember that god may be as near as our breathing…


Perhaps living resurrection is to remember that the rhythm of inspiration is inextricably linked to the rhythms of respiration – if we open to it…


And in opening to spirit, maybe we can begin to live resurrection…


Perhaps living resurrection is breathing – slowly, deeply and opening to:


Our fears and projections…


Our temptation to save our bacon at all costs…


Our resistance…


Perhaps living resurrection is breathing – slowly, deeply and opening to:


The acceptance of our responsibility and accountability…


The acknowledgement of the dignity and worth of the ‘other’


The courage to risk change and transformation…  


Perhaps living resurrection is breathing – slowly, deeply and opening to:


Allowing relationships to change and grow over time…


Allowing ‘the innocence of irresponsibility’ to be disturbed, dare I say challenged…


Acknowledging the destructive consequences of clinging to outmoded social patterns, economic doctrines and attitudes…


Perhaps living resurrection is to hear the question:


‘Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’


Perhaps living resurrection is to live the psalmist’s truth:


“Let everything that breathes praise the Holy One!” (Psalm 150:6)


And finally, a glance back:


Thomas’ doubt is perhaps his saving grace and ours as well…


His doubt is not his refusal to live resurrection but his desire to experience it. Thomas is not around Easter night; he is left out of the celebration. But he does not leave; he stays close by trying to understand what has happened to his companions.


To be honest, we need more people like Thomas: people who will not run, who will stay close by and do the work of trying to understand, who are open to change and hence open to encountering and breathing in the life of the risen one.


Jesus lives and is more alive than any book or doctrine, and Jesus’ impact is never contained by our institutions. The Holy One gives us the breathing space to imagine Jesus’ ministry in a variety of new and faithful ways!


“Let everything that breathes praise the Holy One!” (Psalm 150:6)



¹ Excerpted from the poem, ‘Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?’ by Mary Oliver.