I remember landing at Jalalabad Air Base in Afghanistan very early – maybe 2 a.m. – some December morning in 2011. The base was very dark to prevent night-time mortar attacks. As we navigated the small Forward Operating Base to get to our temporary barracks, I remember hearing a very loud, high-pitched hum coming from the flight line. It sounded unlike anything I’d heard during my previous almost six years in the Air Force Reserve – like a very loud swarm of bees. When I woke the next morning, I discovered the source of this mechanized buzz.“So this is what a drone looks like,” I thought to myself, reflecting back on the headlines from earlier that year, which warned of the proliferation of drone strikes under President Obama.
This evening’s passage from the book of Acts takes us to a small crowd of believers, about 120. Not thousands of people from Palm Sunday, not the angry mob from Good Friday. The believers are meeting to take care of business together. Some time has passed since their last meeting. Some folks have left the cause; some folks have passed away. Peter stands up among them and recounts Judas, and the void he has left behind. I imagine some folks are still shocked, completely surprised by Judas’s actions. Why was Jesus crucified? Was that part of his plan all along? Why Judas? Why our friend? These questions didn’t get answered for the apostles, and we’re still wrestling with them today.
Tunnel vision. Flop sweat. Ears ringing. That strange sickly feeling of “I don’t know what I am doing.” This evening’s passage from Acts 4 takes me straight to that moment; do you know the one? When the floor drops out from you, your stomach lurches, and the creeping realization that you’re stuck oozes its way across your body. I’ve had a few of these moments in my life. There have been swims in the ocean where the riptide is so strong I don’t feel I have the strength to get back. Auditions so disastrous I feel like I could never show my face again. We’re not even going to talk about my experience taking the SAT -- Stuckness, and panic. Phew, shake it off with me.
Context is everything. Last week our gospel reading was one of the most famous texts of the Easter season. We hear it every year on the second Sunday of Easter, from the Gospel of John, the story of Thomas refusing to believe in the resurrection until he puts his fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hands and until he puts his hand in the wound in Jesus’ side. A beautiful story and, in the end, Thomas gets his wish – a wonderfully intimate image, preached on excellently last week by Rev. Tessa.
So, when we hear Luke’s version of the story – as we just have – Jesus holds his hands out to the disciples, he hops on one foot and wiggles the other one around in the air for them, and in our mind’s eye we see those same open wounds that were described to us last week. But that’s not the way Luke is telling it, is it?
This is my wedding ring. It’s a piece of yellow gold. And there’s a story written into it. My ring’s not inscribed with a date or a word or anything like that like some wedding bands are, but the story is in here, in the very molecular structure of the metal of my ring – every atom of gold carries a history that is important to me.
And when I tell you the story of my wedding ring, like I’m about to do, I’m not telling you the story of a piece of gold, I’m telling you a story about who I am and how I honor the vows of my marriage.
I knew the style of ring I wanted – a yellow band of gold, rounded edges, something that’d get all beat up, scratched and pitted over the decades, and show its history. But the idea of just going into a shop and buying this ring didn’t feel sacred enough for what I was going to ask it to do for me.