Ever Since Easter: Continuously Praising God

I don't know about you. But as for me, I'm always challenged by the words we often say in church. Like, "Let what we say with our lips be lived with our lives." One of my favorite writers puts it this way. "Be sure you live in the house where you preach." Helmut Thielicke So I hope we all pay attention when we say in our (Apostles') Creed. I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints,

the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body

                                   and the life everlasting.  Whew!

Do we really? … Especially on a day when we remember that great cloud of witnesses. 'Those who've taught and shown us what it means to follow Jesus.  Oh, what a weekend, what a day, this. Three great themes on one fine day. Ascension Sunday. We recount, recall and rejoice in Jesus' final charge to us and his return to Heaven-as-home. (Both his and ours!) Memorial Weekend, nationally. Time to re-call and give thanks for those who've given so much, given their all for us, in uniform and out. And for United Methodists, Aldersgate Sunday! (How many of you got up today to say, "Whoopie!!! It's time to remember John Wesley's heart-strangely-warmed today?") Oh, and how many of our members, neighbors and friends will settle, just to make this a long weekend? Chores. Sales. Malls. Beach. Ballfields with the kids. Picnics. The signal summer's here. 'Nothing wrong with any of these. But even all together, they're no substitute for the gifts we gain from scripture and creed, remembrance and redemption. Let's serve up a hearty helping on this holiday weekend!

First, let's come to table with all the family, gathered by the Spirit. How often and easily we speak of the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the forgiveness of sins. They run together without a story or a meaning for us personally. So let's go back to the beginning and work forward.

Luke gives us two accounts of the Ascension, Jesus headin' home (to heaven), Lk. 24, Acts 1. In the Gospel account it's Easter Evening. What a day it's been. The women discover the empty tomb; two angels report he's risen. The disciples respond, "Naa!" But Peter runs to the tomb, looks in, goes home amazed. That afternoon two more disciples goin' to Emmaus encounter a mystery stranger. He interprets the Scripture for them. Then he breaks bread with them. Their eyes are opened – it's Jesus! Then poof – he vanishes. That gets us to Easter evening. The two disciples race back to Jerusalem. The 11 + companions are in the dining room! Jesus appears, and scares them half to death. They think he's a ghost. But he says, "Touch me and see. A ghost hasn't flesh or bones." To prove that he's no poltergeist, he eats some broiled fish off the grill. (Hey it was a holiday weekend, you know. Passover. The Jewish Memorial Day… recalling God saving the nation from Pharaoh's fate.) Listen to the table talk. Jesus tells them, "Everything written of me in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." He opens their minds to the Word, and says it's come true. The Messiah has suffered and risen! Now, "Repentance and forgiveness of sin are to be proclaimed to all, starting from Jerusalem" And just who's supposed to do this? Jesus leans across the table. "You are," he says, probably pointing with his fork. "I'm sending you! Just wait here. The Spirit'll clothe you with the power." They leave the table covered with dirty dishes. 'Hike with him to Bethany. He gives them a blessing … and is carried up into heaven. Easter! Memorial Day! Ascension! All in one. No wonder they return to Jerusalem, worshiping Jesus, praising God continually in the temple. This is not just their story. It's ours. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I really trust that God breathed on the earth, and walked on it in Jesus. And still does. 'Still makes himself known, tomb to table, no ghost but a savior for sure. I believe in the holy catholic church, the universal church. It started around the table Easter Evening. It took its first baby steps on Pentecost. It's been carried by the saints of the ages and the saints that I personally have known personally. Take a minute here. Call out their names. Who's not here who brought you here? Remember?… Who is here who keeps you here?… Rejoice! Speak up/out! Thanks be to God! The Spirit is still moving! So what was their story/your story/our story? FORGIVENESS. That's our story.

Now second, let's tune in, let's lean in… to the conversation. Never underestimate the significance of what happens when we break bread together. Why, it can be life changing! Even eternity determining! We learn who we are. And whose. And how we're supposed to be. And how we got this far. And how it is we can get home. 'All the way home. 'HEAVEN-home. 'Following Jesus. If there are uniforms at home, there are stories in your closets. Some should stay there. ('Too painful.) But over the grill, or across the picnic bench or kitchen table, what better weekend to tell our best stories. Especially to the young. Show who we are and they learn who they are. If there are photos at home, take 'em in hand and to heart this weekend. And re-tell the stories. And if there's a Bible, and I know there is, thumb to your favorite story, read or tell it to somebody you love in the next 36 hours. (Even if you have to use the phone.) If you have no favorites I give you three. Luke 15 (God's favorite family photo album.) Luke 24 (Treasured pictures of God's son.) Romans 8 (Best video of vital faith.)  Don't hesitate to get your kids and grands to the Sunday School tables. Some of the best table-talk anywhere happens right there. Somehow, some way, every day lean in, lean over and listen. 'Forgiveness in the air! Favor is on the air. Sacrifice can be breathed in. Who we are, given new life. I remember so vividly this week (5/19+10) grown grandchildren weeping at the bedside of a dying grandparent. Tears rolling, and these words spoken, "I'll remember the stories. I won't forget. And I won't let them pass way." I've seen this many times. It's the commitment to table-talk, of families and of faith. It's how we get from the table to the hillside where Jesus' rising promises our own!

Third, be certain how we clean the table. Let's not leave anything behind! All picnics end. 'Evening meals, too. Be certain how you and those you love clear the table. Leave nothing behind. Especially should Jesus point his fork at you and say, "You tell them. I'm sending you!" Leave no gratitude behind. Take up every thanks that Christ died for you and for all, is risen, living and saving you and yours this very day. Thank God for every other good and perfect gift you've received, in persons and in things! Don't snack on false entitlement when you can fill up on real thanks.  Generosity, new life. Wipe up all the generosity you can. Be giving in every way toward those who don't know the sacred story. And support every one who tells it (word/hand) best you can. Leave no hint behind that speaks new life in Christ. Take them. Tell them, especially at table with the young. Start like this, "I believe…" You'll be a Holy Spirit witness, a saint of the church universal, century to century, generation to generation; a forgiveness giver; and resurrection-itself in the flesh, God-praising without ceasing!

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