While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you! Last week we read this passage in John which was a little bit different than Luke. This is another theme a similar passage.
In John we read:
In the midst of his disciples, Jesus said that where two or three of you are gathered in my name, there I will be in the midst of you. In Luke we read: It says here that when the disciples were gathered together, Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you! (Luke 24:36-48; John 20:19-31)
And here we are almost 2,000 years later, sitting together, and Jesus is in the midst of us saying: Peace be with you! That’s where we get the tradition of passing the peace. It is the example that Jesus set before us with the words Peace be with you. Jesus is the one that started this tradition as we know it in the Christian Church. This passage tells us that Jesus is always in the midst of His Church. The apostle Paul opened each of his letters with the words “Grace and peace be with you” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2). Passing the peace gives us the vocabulary for expressing peace as we mature in faith and, in fact, shapes our hearts and minds in the form of peace. It is an expression of liturgy, the liturgy of being united in the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.
Unity as we talked about last week is not something we can take for granted. It takes a willingness and effort. Unity doesn’t just happen automatically. In our Collect today we read: Oh God, whose son made himself known through the breaking of the bread, open up our eyes of faith that we may behold him in all his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you in the UNITY, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Unity is an easy thing when everybody does what you want them to do and agrees with you, and never challenges you.
In the last year and a half we have worked hard on our committee structures here at St. Alban’s. Now I know that that word “committee” gets a bad rap. My first reaction to another “committee meeting” is not always a pleasant one. I’ve got to be honest. Committee meetings may sometimes take us away from doing other things more pleasant. They can be boring, monotonous, and tiresome and sometimes a total waste of time. There are times that if you asked me if I would rather go to a committee meeting or sit at home and watch paint dry? That might be a difficult question to answer.
Here are a few other comical responses to committee meetings:
To get something done, a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.
Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.
A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.
A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours. – Milton Berle
I’m not going to tell you that committees at St Alban’s are different. That they are more exciting than elsewhere, because we all know that is probably not true. But I like to look at the committee differently, a committee as a team, an indispensable team. A team that has parameters and everybody has a voice. Every team has a mission statement that coincides with the mission of the church, and with that mission statement we have a vision and a purpose for existing as a committee or a team. And, we have parameters of what we do and what we are not together to do. Committees are not exclusive cure-alls for the church.
Committees are like spokes on a wheel, and each spoke needs tightened adjusted or replaced, and if not the wheel will not go down the road like it is supposed to. A team is not one person. You can’t have a committee of one. A committee is a group of individuals that make up the team and every member has a vote. It’s not just the chairperson that run an effective committee. Every person on the committee has a voice, vote, and every voice needs to be heard.
That’s the voice of the liturgy. Liturgy is not just the stuff we do on Sunday or other meeting dates in our printed bulletins. Yes, that’s also called liturgy, but the liturgy is to equip us to practice liturgy outside the four walls of this sanctuary. Liturgy means the work of the people and it’s when we all work together in our teams, committees, guilds, or groups in order to build the church within the parameters of our committees that we can experience firsthand the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
That my friends is called liturgy. Each committee or team has a vision or a purpose and a reason to be in existence, and in that team or committee you can find a place to actively be involved in the liturgy or the work of the church.
Many of you are on a team, but if not, I encourage you to find a team to work with and get involved. If you don’t see a place where you think your ministry fits, talk to me. Maybe we need to create a team that fits your gift. Right now we are in the process of establishing a strong stewardship team, a committee that meets year round, not just 3 months during our annual pledge drive.
There is a wise proverb about the strength of people united together in unity; it goes like this: By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) That’s also called unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.
In other words, there is strength in numbers. We are in our third week after Easter, headed to Pentecost Sunday. As in our gospel reading today that says when we are gathered together, Jesus is in our midst saying: Peace be with you, so on the Day of Pentecost the Church of 120 or however big the group of disciples was, the message to us is this: God desires to build the church through groups of people, not lone rangers. A three stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.
Liturgy is the work of the people, as we work together in unity. Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you!
Year B – 3rd Sunday in Easter
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen