To Be Known and to Know
Third Sunday of Easter
May 4, 2014
Grace Episcopal Church, Charleston
I Peter 1:17-23
I grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My elementary school was across part of town – but not too far away. In fact, most school days I would walk to and from school with some friends. For some of the way, we would go through a city park, which was not very special, except for one thing. A corner of the park was fenced, and inside the fence were goats and chickens and a very old, African American man named “King.”
Now, I don’t know if the man’s name really was “King” – but we called him that, with his permission. And, I don’t really know how old he was – but we thought he was at least a hundred years old. The really significant thing about King, though, was his graciousness and hospitality toward what must have been some very bothersome, white kids. We regularly spoke to King, and he spoke back. Sometimes we would stop and talk with him, and he took the time to ask about us and to answer our questions about him. And I have to think that some cracks developed in the walls of segregated society of the South, in the 1950’s, because of the kindness of this man, King. At least for me, that is what he has become known for.
Some of us here this morning will be presented for Confirmation and Reception in a few minutes. These candidates have chosen to be known for something – in this case, known as ones who take on their baptismal promises for themselves. In the words of the Prayer Book, the candidates will “make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism” (BCP, p 412).
From this day forward, then, our candidates today will be known for the promises they make, the intentions they state, and the prayers offered on their behalf, at this time of Confirmation.
The story today about King and the example of today’s candidates raise the first of two questions I want to ask this morning. And the question is this. What are you known for? What are you known for?
One day two men were walking along a road – and they were doing more than strolling on their way. Actually, they were running away from what had happened in Jerusalem, and they were quite fearful. At some point, they were joined along the way by a stranger. As time passed, a conversation took place among the three of them, and then, eventually, a meal was shared. And, according to St. Luke’s witness, the two men said later that Jesus “had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (24:35). For centuries ever since that encounter – up to and including this morning – the Church has offered thanks in prayer that Jesus “made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread” (BCP, p 224).
Thus, we arrive at the second question for today. How does Jesus become known to you? How does Jesus become known to you?
After this year, Good Friday will never be the same for me again. In early Lent, the clergy from the Southern Deanery of our diocese asked me if I would take part in a deanery liturgy during Holy Week. Before hearing any more about the particulars of the plan, I agreed. On a subsequent phone call, I learned more. There would be one liturgy used by all of the churches in the deanery on Good Friday. In addition, the liturgy would be held in one place other than the deanery churches. That other place would be the Federal Corrections Institute, in Estill, South Carolina. And guess who would be going to prison on Good Friday?
During my Good Friday homily, I spoke of a familiar Holy Week theme. That is, during that week we have the opportunity to relate to our Lord’s life in particularly meaningful and profound ways. Jesus certainly knew the highs and lows of human life in that one week – from the hero’s welcome of Palm Sunday, to the bond of friendship at the Last Supper, to death on Good Friday’s cross; from the crowd’s adoration to the people’s condemnation; from affirmation to rejection. Surely our Lord knew life intimately during Holy Week. And we are invited to know him, especially at these moments of vulnerability and shared humanity.
In my prison homily, I mentioned in particular one of our Lord’s Holy Week experiences – his arrest and confinement. I looked at the prisoners that day and said, “You know Jesus through that experience that you share with him … and he, with you.” As I looked around the room, I saw one man begin to weep … and then another … and then several more. I knew they were not only crying because of their present circumstances. They were overcome by this opportunity to know Jesus – a prisoner and a captive, like themselves.
The disciples’ experience on the road to Emmaus and Good Friday in prison raise that second question for today. How does Jesus become known to you?
We all are busy in the lives we lead. We have important things to accomplish, most every day. But I suggest to you today that these two questions should rank up there among the most important things we consider in life. What are you known for? And, how does Jesus become known to you? Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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