I’ve sneakily dated this post for last week, when this was the sermon. Sorry it took so long to post! (No sermon this week, but a marvelous service by the Spirituality Committee.)

John 20:19-23

Acts 4:32-35

It’s hard for us to imagine the scene in these passages from John and the beginning of Acts, when Jesus’ followers are gathered behind closed doors in fear of worldly and religious authorities. The church community is growing and sharing its new life, but at the same time it’s closed off from the rest of world. Then, Jesus comes among them and sends them out with the power to forgive sins. The church’s history has been one long (usually slow and rocky) march to greater openness. We’re always balancing openness and coherence, trying to make room for others without forgetting who we are.

The church community gets tighter when times get tough, as we hunker down and try to ride out the storm. But within our community, we also get even more generous. We share even more with others, knowing that it will come back to us if we need it. Iron Rangers share with those in need, just because it’s something we do. It’s a great Presbyterian value, but not only Presbyterians do it. No matter what our community is, all of us share what we can from our unique gifts. None of us can meet all of our needs ourselves.

The early church did this in a radical way, when those who owned houses sold their houses and pooled their resources for the good of all. They gave up their social status for someone else. That act of giving is usually less extreme for us, but it’s based on the same radical concept: that your well-being is more important  than my belongings. It’s a holy moment when we all share our gifts with each other. When we share, we all have something we wouldn’t have by ourselves, and Christ is present in that. Notice in the New Testament that Christ rarely appears to one person by themselves, but he routinely appears to the whole church together. We’re especially blessed when we share together.

With Earth Day coming up on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking about how we’re so abundantly blessed in this world. There is no true shortage of anything, if only we used it well. It’s not that I have everything I need myself – I know I’d starve to death if someone else weren’t willing to grow my food – but we all contribute our share to world, and there’s a share in life’s blessings for each of us. As we see around us today, life falls out of balance, and it’s partially our job to balance it again. But the potential for balance is always there.

Just as we’d do in our own homes and families to meet each other’s needs and keep life in balance, it’s our job to go out of our way to provide for everyone we can. Thinking about Earth Day: the word ‘ecology’ comes from the word for house, as if the world were all one household – and we don’t own the house! That’s not a statement about the natural environment any more or less than it is about the economy, or about peace, freedom, health, and wellness. To celebrate Earth Day is to acknowledge that we all belong to this world, which means we belong to each other.

When we gather here, we pray for the church because we belong to each other, but we also pray for the world because we belong to it too. The world is with us – our extended families, non-Christians, and citizens of countries around the world – and we belong to them. We represent them here in God’s space because God’s love is big enough for all the world. God loves the world through us (as well as others, of course). God is present in our sharing, not just within this particular shape of Christ’s family, but with others all around the world.

That’s where Jesus sends us when he appears to this church: out into the world, erasing debt, filling shortages, sharing all we have with all of God’s people. May that Spirit of peace and reconciliation be ours today and always. Amen.