Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

“Going Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 24:1-12
April 21, 2019

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. — Luke 24:12i

“Then he went home?” At first, this shocked me. I would have thought that the folks who had staked their lives on this would-be-Messiah would have been the first folks Peter told the news to. Didn’t they have the most to lose on Friday and the most to rejoice over this Sunday morning? He had been with them through thick and thin – the days of triumph and miraculous healing, the days of rejection and misunderstanding. But Peter? He went home.

Still trying to sort this out, I did what any good preacher would do: I goggled it. As it turns out, Peter had a wife. That’s according to Eusebius of Caesarea, a church historian who wrote during the third and fourth centuries, and according to Clement who wrote in the second century, Peter and his wife begot children.

Why my interest in Peter’s marital status and his parenthood? He went home. Home to those whom he loved most. Home to those who had endured this mad mission of his. Home to those who had stood fast when Hosannas turned to crucify Him. Peter went where we, too, must go – home.

Had it been me, I am not so sure it is home to which I would return. Peter’s glory did not rest with those within his immediate family. Peter’s glory would come through those who would launch a worldwide movement – a movement so powerful that we meet some 2,000 years later to commemorate the very event that led Peter home. I might have sought out the fame that awaited. Or, had I not been so crass, perhaps I would have wanted to assure those who had given their all to follow this Jesus of Nazareth, who met huddled in a lock room fearing for their lives, that all they had hoped for and trusted in had been made victorious, that their sorrow could now give way to unfettered joy.

Oh, how easy to meet today in this place where the very space in which we sit speaks of heavenly things. It is reflected in the symbols of the cross, the stained glass that surrounds us, the vaulted ceiling that speaks of something grater than ourselves. We have rightly come to this house of worship but it is not here that we will stay, it is not here that we do our daily living. When the symbols are gone; when the music has fallen silent; when day turns into night and night into dawn; when our time here today is a memory and try as we might the world invades our euphoria, will we still know the joy of Christ’s triumph?

Peter went home and so too must I. Home to taxes that are yet to be paid. Home to the worry of carrying for a disabled son. Home to the anxiety of not knowing where our health benefits will find their coverage. Home to a woman I love more than life itself who knows not where she will find gainful employment. Home to dinners yet to be made and to dishes yet to be washed. As Peter did, so must I and so, too, must you.

So I offer this. There was a young man who joined the army. He was poor, uneducated and hungry. In the army, he would receive a small stipend, be fed, clothed, and housed. At the time, he was living in the south east of France and Europe was awash in violence. From 1618 to1648, competing armies would trample for some thirty years bringing devastation in their wake. The village of Rambervillers had 2,660 inhabitants. Over an eight-year period that number would be reduced to 400 survivors. During the conflict with the Swedes, the young man was wounded leaving him permanently lame. He saw unspeakable atrocities. He may have even participated in some. He never spoke of what he had seen or endured. But into this sordid mess, God’s grace moved and he had a transforming religious experience and became a devote follower of God.

When his military service ended, he joined a religious order as a lay brother and was given the task of preparing meals for the brothers, doing the dishes, repairing sandals. These are not lofty tasks. He was not given the role of contemplating deep questions or pondering the mysteries of faith. He did what you and I must do every day – the pots and pans.

He became known as Brother Lawrence – a rather gruff and unrefined person with a heart that made room for everyone he met. He has something to say to all of us who must go home. Brother Lawrence believed life was to be lived as one continuous prayer, that the distinction between offering prayer and doing one’s daily chores did not exist. God was found in doing the dishes.

Peter returned home and we may think this an odd thing to do. Yet we, too, are homeward bound. Perhaps Peter, like Brother Lawrence, came to find the presence of Christ in the tasks of life. Perhaps Peter came to learn that all of life is to be lived as a prayer. May our parenting, marriages and the making of our lives be done to the glory of God who this day has sealed God’s unconditional love for us. Christ has risen. It is time to rise and go home. Let us pray…

iLuke 24:1-12

1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.