Easter 5B

 In the name of God: the source and clarity.  Amen.

 One of the things that has brought me the most comfort through the years is that I’ve learned to appreciate the value that can come, even from the struggles I’ve sometimes faced.  Even when things aren’t going well – or at least aren’t going as I’d have them go, if I had my way, I remember that other times like that in my past have helped me to become the person I am today.  As an old Gospel song says, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”  Even though that journey sometimes hurt a bit in the making, it got me where I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

 But that’s the grace of hindsight.  We say that hindsight is 20/20 – of course that’s not always true.  Sometimes hindsight gives us rose-colored glasses; making the past seem better than it actually was.  But the grace is in that there is sometimes wisdom that comes from seeing a fuller picture of our experiences – the kind of fuller picture that can’t be seen when we’re in the midst of a moment.

 Like those earliest days of pandemic back in March of 2020.  Do you remember how naïve we were?  Do you remember people saying, “this lockdown should only last about two weeks, then we’ll have this thing nipped in the bud.”?  In the moment, I don’t know if any of us actually believed it, but we all wanted to cling to that prediction.  Now we know it was pure folly.  Now we know it would take a lot more.  But in the moment, our hope clouded our vision.

 The gospel that we’ve read today is, for us, a kind of “hindsight”.  The story is taken from a section of the teachings of Jesus known among biblical scholars as the “farewell discourse” – it’s the bits of parting wisdom and advice that we get from Jesus as he prepares for the end of his earthly ministry.

 But given to us here, on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, through the lens of the Resurrection, these parting words ring differently than they did in Lent.  They certainly carry a different kind of meaning for us living in the context of Resurrection than they must have carried when the disciples first heard them.

 “Abide in me as I abide in you.”  That must have sounded vastly different to those earliest followers once they heard it in the context of the Resurrection.  When Jesus first said it to them, it must not have made much sense.  Maybe they thought it meant to trust in him.  Maybe they thought it meant to feel comfortable and at home with him.  But it takes on new dimensions in Easter.

 Through the context of Easter, “Abide in me” seems like a sort of glorious invitation.  Live in my life – live in my renewed life – live in this unending life I offer.  But then he says, “as I abide in you.”

That gives the message a twist…  Before his death, it must have sounded like, let’s make our home with each other.  Let’s abide together.  You will be my home and I will be yours.  But now it sounds like something more.  After Easter, it’s not just Jesus inviting us into the Resurrection life, but calling on us to embody that Resurrection life, too.

We are invited into Resurrection, and we are called to be a part of Resurrection.

 With great power comes great responsibility.  With great gifts come great callings.  And our great calling in an Easter world is to be the place where eternal life makes its home.  We’re all familiar with the calling to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world, but it doesn’t stop there.  We’re also called to be the life of Christ in the world.

 The world may have pronounced Jesus dead, but the Church, through the grace of God and with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, continues to be called by God to breathe life into Christ.  The world closed the door, but the church is called to fling it open wide.

 I love this story of the Ethiopian eunuch.  It’s the story of a person with political power, but who, even so, lived as a cultural outsider.  He lived outside the gender norms that were expected of most people.  But even through his status as a sort of a simultaneous insider and outsider, he longed to live as a person of faith – a person with a real relationship with God – but the religious traditions at the time said that he couldn’t.  He was outside the bounds; a relationship with God wasn’t thought to be suitable for him.

 But God called Philip to live the Resurrection for the man.  God called on that abiding presence of Christ to work through Philip to open the doors of the faith to the Ethiopian eunuch.  Not because of his political influence.  Neither in spite of, or because of his status as an outsider in much of the culture of his day.  God called Philip to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world for this man, simply because of his longing.  The man’s longing was met by God’s equally passionate longing.  They found each other, like the poles of powerful magnets dragging across a table, longing for reunion.

 And that’s a big part of what it means to embody the life-giving power of the Resurrected Christ in this world.  It means to show that life to those who believe (or those who have been told) that they’re outside of its reach.  It means to embody that final image of Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross by opening ourselves wider to the world.  By opening ourselves and our churches – our abiding places – to invite in and to incorporate into this unending life – everyone.

 Through the grace of hindsight, the cross, that image of death and punishment is seen more clearly as a sign of invitation, incorporation, and embodied love.

 There’s another great old gospel song called “I don’t feel no ways tired”.  It says, “Nobody promised the road would be easy, but I don’t believe God brought me this far to leave me.”

 The cross wasn’t an easy road to take, and sometimes our lives aren’t either.  I imagine those first followers of Christ felt lost up until they started remembering where they’d come from – remembering the lessons and the love that formed them into the community that they were.  They probably feared that God had left them, until they started looking back, and seeing Jesus’ teachings with broader wisdom.

 When we look back with a wide-enough lens, we see that we haven’t been brought this far for nothing.  We will see that God is still in the story.  Hindsight may not be 20/20, but it sure is filled with grace.  Amen.