Third Sunday of Easter
15 April 2018
1 John 3:1-7
I don’t watch TV.
I listen to the radio and I read but I don’t watch TV.
That means I hear different stories.
In middle school before class on Wednesday mornings the boys would stand in a huddle outside the class room and talk about the latest episode of Starsky & Hutch. My family did not own a TV. That was OK with me.
On Thursday I ate lunch in restaurant. I arrived before my company and I was surprised to see almost everyone present wear a jersey. The voices were happy, there was much chatter, and the jerseys were from many different teams. When my company arrived I asked what this was about and they explained to me that it was Jersey Day in solidarity with Humboldt.
I heard about it on the radio on my drive back to the church. And by the time Wally come to choir wearing his Luongo Jersey, I had understood.
Incidentally, it was also Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday.
The bus crash of Humboldt shook everyone. It was in Saskatchewan but it could have been anywhere.
The people on the bus could have been our kids, our grandchildren, our neighbours.
I rode tour buses when I was young.
Even the truck driver is someone we can relate to because most of us drive.
We found our own lives wrapped up in this tragedy.
Tragedies make me speechless and I find it difficult to find words. That may be why I said nothing last Sunday, expect pray.
Words seem so inadequate in the face of deep suffering. There are lots of things one can say, but in the face of suffering many things we want to say sound trivial or don’t get traction.
When a tragedy hits so close to home, we are reminded of our own mortality. We feel powerless which is why we start to do things like donate money, wear jerseys, and change our facebook profile picture.
We live in a society with many differences, in world that is fragmented, and seems ever more fragmented. And so it was truly heart warming to see how people with many differences became one community.
In our reading from the Book of Acts we hear Peter preach a sermon. In Acts Peter’s sermons are always an event. Peter seems like a rock and there is always some kind of response to his preaching. It can make preachers jealous.
In Acts Peter always finds the right words, the Holy Spirit always gives him the right words.
But we do well to remember that Peter did not always have the right words and that the boisterous Peter once was a broken man. In our reading from Luke’s Gospel we learn that the disciples were afraid. I am not so sure they were afraid because they weren’t sure what to make of Jesus or because they weren’t sure what Jesus was going to say to them and do with them, them who had denied and abandoned Jesus in the hour of his greatest need.
It is likely that their very brokenness allowed God to draw them closer and to make them new. Pentecost is just around the corner, for the disciples as for us.
Peter once was a broken man. Jesus was broken for our sake, to heal the broken and to heal this broken world. In the resurrection appearances we see the broken One come to the broken ones.
The theologian James Alison speaks of Jesus as the forgiving victim. Alison does so, attributing sin and violence to us, forgiveness, restoration, and salvation to Jesus who for our sake became our victim.
I think of Alison’s language when I think of Humboldt. We speak of the victims of the crash. Jesus became a victim for us, for the world.
I think of Alison’s language of Jesus as victim when I think of the Holocaust, six million Jews and many many others. If the broken One visits the broken ones, then Jesus the victim has also come for the victims.
In the same way that Peter did not always find the right words, so the beggar who clung to Peter and John and whose healing had caused the turmoil that had necessitated Peter’s sermon, had not always been well.
Peter and John famously said to him when he was asking for alms, “We have no silver or gold, but what we have we give you.”
Peter did not begin to preach until the masses pressed in on him. Peter and John began by giving of themselves, giving what they had, sharing God’s healing presence. Words followed later.
There are many tragedies each day and through the media we learn about more than we can possibly process. Some are closer to home than others. But I wonder how the beautiful moment in which all identified with the victims and their loved ones can bring us to identify with other victims in other circumstances, for God is the God of victims.
The tragedy of Humboldt has made us not only see the humanity of the victims as we so easily identified with them but also the humanity of each other despite whatever else it is that divides us in our fragmented world.
When Jesus came to the disciples he did not see faithless friends, he did not see their failing, rather the Human One saw their need and their humanity.
When Peter and John saw the beggar at the temple they saw neither a beggar nor a person with disabilities but they saw a child of God.
God who on the cross became our victim has made it possible for us to identify with the victim, victims of tragedies and victims of violence. In Jesus Christ God has made it possible for us to no longer identify with the winners of history but to stand with the victims.
May God use this moment and our powerlessness to overcome our cynicism, our indifference, our coldness of heart and open our eyes to see our common humanity, despite our differences. In Jesus God has made it possible to love before we speak, to act before we preach, and for our speech be informed by God’s Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with the love of God, that our lips can speak what our heart is full of.
For all who are in Christ Jesus are a new creation.