Acts 5:12-16+Psalm 147:12-20+2 Corinthians 4:13-15+John 5:25-29
…they even carried the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, so that Peter’s shadow might overshadow some of them as he passed. (Acts 5:15)
Whose shadow passed over Michael Tufano as he lay on a bench in Church Square Park this week and died there? Maybe you didn’t know his name, but you certainly saw Michael. He was a familiar sight on Hoboken streets, propelling himself backwards in his wheelchair, frequently parked across the street in front of Dunkin’ Donuts.
According to Jaclyn Cherubini, Executive Director of the Hoboken Shelter, Michael had been a frequent guest at the Shelter since at least 2000. He was an artist who both took and taught classes at the Shelter, drawing in a primitive style with such intensity that he continually broke the pencils he sketched with. Through the hard work of Shelter staff, he was placed in veteran’s housing for 10 years, until 2020. And then? No one really knows why he left, but he did. He continued to show up at the Shelter, and the staff there, including Rev, were trying to get him into a nursing home because his body simply was not able to function well anymore.
How many people walked past, their shadows falling on him, not just last Monday when he was found dead, but in all the years he moved about this city, backwards, in his wheelchair? And yet, for Michael, the healing did not come.
Early in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit came upon the people gathered together with the power from on high that Jesus promised. Those who followed Jesus became healers and, much as with Jesus, people from all over brought the sick and lame to the disciples for healing. It is extraordinary that the disciples are on Solomon’s Portico, a part of the eastern end of the Jerusalem temple some 200 feet long, a covered walkway bounded by a row of massive columns. The fear that seized them after the resurrection appears to have left them. No longer hiding away in an Upper Room or away from Jerusalem up in Galilee, they are walking where Jesus walked and healing and teaching and preaching where Jesus did. They are, in short, living resurrection lives.
Truly, truly, I tell you all, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (John 5:25)
There are many ways of being dead, and being dead in fear is one of them. The disciples have come alive. No longer are they simply followers of Jesus, but they have been sent out, and people from all over recognize this power and authority and want to be near to it.
In many ways, it seems as if we have been dead these past two years. This is not to say that many, many of us have not continued in the “apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers,” as we promise in baptism. In these past few months, however, we have been emerging into life reborn, venturing out of our homes and into our workplaces and public spaces, and I wonder what kind of resurrection life we carry with us, even as COVID continues to lurk at the edges.
We have been reborn with Christ. This is our understanding of our lives as baptized persons, following in the footsteps of Jesus. We, too, have power to proclaim the healing love of Christ to those we meet, and yet, too often, we keep that treasure hidden in our clay jars, as we heard last week.
Friends, we can’t afford to do that any longer, not because All Saints needs to grow or we have concerns about the viability of this parish (because we don’t). No, we can’t afford it because the people in our community can’t afford it. Our neighbors are hurting. People are afraid. The world seems upside down where fiction is passed off as fact and matters we thought settled long ago are suddenly open for debate. A white supremacist walks into a grocery store in Buffalo and opens fire, and according to a manifesto attributed to him, he was radicalized by the hate spewed on our airwaves and a New Zealand anti-Muslim terrorist attack three years ago.
Yes, COVID took a toll on the mental and spiritual health of just about everyone. All of those people who identify as “none,” or having no religious preference, are seeking something that they can’t even name.
Do we simply walk by, allowing our shadow to fall on them without offering the Good News that they are loved? That they have a community that loves them even if they never walk through these doors?
We have all been isolated and sheltered for so long that we crave connection. Many are willing to risk their health and well-being, throwing caution to the wind and gathering with no protections and following no protocols just to be together. Perhaps we are a bit more careful, but our faith is nothing if it is not in relationship with others.
With young people who are increasingly vulnerable to depression and suicide.
With transgender youth, especially, who are being made invisible in many parts of this country.
With parents who have just been holding it together in the shifting sand of raising a family in a pandemic.
With the elderly among us who long for human companionship.
And with Michael Tufano and all those like him who are invisible to us. So invisible that they die in our parks and no one notices until it is too late.
If this Easter season means anything, it is that Christ has risen from the dead so that we, too might come to life. Truly living in the light of the resurrection.
Our community needs us. Our neighbors need All of us Saints. We have no time to lose.