by Dr Paulo Ueti, USPG, Brazil
SECTION 1: NOTES ON THE READINGS
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, actually the book of the acts of Peter and Paul, is very concerned to underline the continuity of Jesus’ movement and to highlight the figure of Peter as its leader. It is important to have responsible leadership to care about the Creation as a whole. The power of testimony (martyrions) and the power of the word (logos) continue to transform and to draw people to the path of justice, righteousness and responsible behaviour towards one another and the planet. After all, this is the goal of preaching and teaching. The author of this account focuses on calling people to listen and to convert. Conversion is the result of deep listening (obeying) and immersion into love and care, the core values of this community of the way, as the first followers of Jesus were designated. “Repent and be baptised…” Baptism is to immerse into something. Here is to immerse into Jesus’ lifestyle: an invitation to be like him, speak like him, act like him, feel like him.
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
“Il en coûte au Seigneur de voir mourir ses fidèles” (v.15) – It is costly to the Lord to see the death of his faithful. I like this translation from the TOB (Ecumenical Translation of the Bible – Traduccion Œcuménique de la Bible – FR). This prayer gives assurance to the faithful that God loves us and is with us, he is the Emmanuel. Despite the suffering, within and from the suffering he is supporting and caring for us. This recognition fosters new actions and builds resilience, so needed in times like the one we are living in. Because “nothing can separate us from the love of God (cf Romans 8:38-39). Inequality and imperial ideo-theologies are murdering people and raping nature. This suffering makes God suffer as well.
1 Peter 1:17-23
“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart”. Through baptism we were immersed into this amazing project of the kingdom of God. It is demanding and not that easy. But God is with us, he loves us, and this abundant love transforms us deeply. And because we acknowledge we are loved, we are naturally compelled to share this experience by reaching out to others from our deepest selves, as well as recovering our commitment and connection to the rest of creation. We are constantly required to be parables of the kingdom of God here and now.
This second century teaching from the Community of Luke is pointing out how the community, the two disciples, are disappointed and distancing themselves from their family/community. They were expecting one kind of Messiah and Jesus presented differently from their perspectives and hopes. They wanted to shift the power from oppressed to oppressors. They wanted to replace one emperor with another emperor, not change the system of oppression and death. Jesus was another path, another way of bringing the kingdom of God to earth. We belong to God and we are loved by him as his, sometimes, annoying and disobedient children, and because of wrong images of him (of Christ) we might take the decision to run away, like the couple of Emmaus. This account invites us to a method (path, way, journey, behaviour) to recognise Jesus, the Christ: 1) share our context: the sorrows, the joys, what is happening, 2) ask questions and produce spaces to reflect and listen the answers, 3) revisit our memories and the Bible looking for texts that speak about that Jesus, the Christ, the suffering Servant (Is 40-66), not the emperor or almighty king, 4) share resources with others, eat together, say good words (blessings). We are invited to return to the community, say good words and change our lifestyle to match Jesus’ life.
SECTION TWO: DRAFT SERMON/SERMON OUTLINE
One of the most beautiful lines in this story is the invitation coming from the disciples to that stranger, who shared the long journey with them from Jerusalem to Emmaus, to stay overnight. “”Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” I imagine they were moved by the friendship and the good talk during the day. They were concerned about his safety and he might be hungry after all day walking. Maybe the disciples needed more company to overcome sadness and desperation. It seems to me a true expression of care for the other’s safety and wellbeing. The whole creation is precious to God.
- It is time for us to be challenged by this invitation to share our resources and to care about others and the planet. It is an invitation to “approach” and “walk together”, be WITH, be present and be curious. The story starts with this amazing verb “to approach”. I learned once a meaningful word in Swahili “Karibu” meaning “get closer”. Jesus took the initiative to get closer and match his pace with the disciples’. They were sad and disappointed because Jesus did not fulfill their expectations of dethroning the emperor and taking his place. This system of “power over” is a system of oppression and exclusion, privileges and arrogance. Of course, Jesus was not interested in this. Jesus was proposing something different. The “normal” is not good.
- Currently in our crises we hear lots of groups expecting or demanding to get back to “normal”. But “normal” is inequality, pollution, deforestation, violence, oppression, nature being raped, xenophobia, individualism. We might need more accompaniment to see (analyse) and recognise better what Jesus’ project is.
- Walking together with those in suffering or disappointed/frustrated is key to establishing a true and trustful relationship. It is time to get to know each other and form bonds. We (most of humanity) have lost true and trusting relationship with fellow human beings and particularly with nature. Human beings and nature have been turned into resources – commodified. Jesus walked with the disciples. He was PRESENT and CURIOUS. Are we making time to ask questions? Are we interested in walking together, even if we disagree?
- Another milestone in this story is to set aside time to revisit memories and properly interpret the sacred scriptures. Jesus was a bit upset because they were not reading/relying on the right texts and right memories. They were attached to their desire to overcome oppression, by becoming the oppressor. Jesus goes with them revisiting all the texts explaining the way, the method and the characteristics of being the Suffering Servant messiah. The way to overcome the “normal” and build up something different. We have turned human beings (image and likeness of God) and nature into re-source, forgetting they are the source of life and revelation. It is time to rethink seriously our lifestyle and our methods to evangelise and proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
- Reading and interpreting the Bible is key to understanding our role as stewards and brothers and sisters to earth, to Adamah – fertile soil, from where Adam came to exist, the ground-creature. It is time to read and spread more Genesis 2:15, where humanity is tasked to guard and cultivate the garden, rather than Genesis 1:28, where we were told to submit and dominate. Look where humanity dominating creation has got us!
- But, it was still not sufficient to recognise Jesus among them. One ingredient was missing. To act accordingly. Reading and interpreting the Bible only burned the heart, providing the drive to keep moving forward and – maybe – in the right direction. It was also necessary to open up the intimacy of the house and the heart. It was necessary to exercise compassion and solidarity towards the stranger, towards the one in possible danger because the night was coming. We are invited to change our perspectives on the “other”, and nature is here very much included. We are invited to change our lifestyle, to configure it with Jesus’ lifestyle, the way he speaks, walks, relates to other people and to nature.
- In times of quarantine, let’s take the opportunity to review our words, thoughts and actions. Amen.
Blessing – Good Words – Good Energies
D: On the nights in the desert…
T: Walk ahead of us, Lord.
D: In the storms of life…
T: Be our protection,
D: In the uncertainties of the soul…
T: Be our hope
D: In joys and victories
T: Be our praise to you!
D: May the blessing of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be in you forever.
(Bento, Inês F. In: VV. Aa. CultoArte, Celebrando a Vida, Quaresma&Páscoa. Rio de Janeiro, Vozes: 2001. p. 36)
Solidarity with indigenous people
Approaching, walking together, being present and sharing love
The COVID-19 Pandemic has hit indigenous communities in Brazil hard. The Amazon region is suffering. The Brazilian State has neglected its role in protecting indigenous peoples. They are being hit hard by the lack of minimal health care, having no access to masks and protection supplies and much less guidance. The situation is even worse for the people who live on the outskirts of the city of Manaus. Many families have already experienced fatalities.
The Anglican Community of Manaus, Santa Maria Madalena Missionary Point, Apostle of the Apostles, Anglican Diocese of the Amazon, celebrated Paschal Agape differently, sharing resources to manufacture more than 450 units of homemade masks for the protection of the elderly and people at risk in the largest indigenous neighborhood in the city of Manaus, Parque das Tribos, where more than 400 families from 35 ethnic groups live.
The Anglican Community has joined forces with AMARN Numiã Kurá (Association of Indigenous Women Artisans of the Upper Rio Negro) to help more than 70 families led by indigenous women who are vulnerable in this quarantine because they are unable to work and resell their handicrafts which is their main source of livelihood.
We ask all friends to keep this ministry in your prayers as a Christian family so that the Good Lord may support us with the strength of his Resurrection to do good here in the Heart of the Amazon, inspired by the intrepid and tenacious testimony of Saint Mary Magdalene, the Apostle of the Resurrection.
Community of Manaus, Anglican Diocese of Amazon, Brazil, IEAB.
Leader from the Community Parque das Tribos, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil
Credit: Iuri Lima @ieab
by Dr Paulo Ueti, Brazil