In nomine Jesu!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And thus we joyfully proclaim that resurrection is God's last and best Word to Jesus and that likewise, resurrection is God's best and final Word to us. God's YES; God's Word of affirmation. God's Word that sets us free.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And thus we joyfully proclaim to every person of every time and every place that we trust God's YES and that we are boldly using God's YES to guide our way of living, to norm our ways of relating and to shape the social order so that affirmation -- God's YES rather than the persistence of NO -- forms and norms all life. God's affirmation; God's Yes: That's the Word Jesus urges us to keep. God's affirmation; God's Yes: That's the Word God guarantees to help us keep by sending us the Advocate -- God's YES-sayer -- the one we call the Holy Spirit.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

And thus we joyfully, publicly proclaim ourselves to be God's eternally affirmed people.

It therefore shouldn't surprise us when the neglected, the needy or the negated look to us for help.

"Come over to Macedonia and help us!"

Paul's vision of "a man from Macedonia" asking for help came as no surprise to him or his companions, nor was it a surprise to the leaders in Jerusalem who had authorized Paul and sent him with his companions to publicly proclaim God's YES to the Gentiles; and it shouldn't surprise us today either. "Come over to Macedonia and help us." It's only natural that, once they've heard us speak of ourselves as the affirmed people of God, the neglected, needy, and negated would ask us for help. "Come over the Macedonia and help us" didn't surprise Paul then and shouldn't surprise us today. It's what happened after Paul responded, after they crossed "from Troas to Samothrace to Neapolis
and on to Philippi" that surprised them -- surprised and also angered the leaders in Jerusalem -- but we'll get to that shortly. But right now I want us to focus on the plea, "come over to Macedonia and help us," and the response.

I've been thinking a lot about Paul's vision -- "come over to Macedonia and help us" -- and Paul's response to that vision not only because of today's biblical texts, but also because of what's going on between us and our corporate partner. As people who've heard and who trust God's YES to us, we've heard and responded to some form of "Come over to Macedonia and help us" a lot over our 150 + years.

We all know how Paul responded; he crossed the Aegean, entered Greece and therefore entered Europe and ultimately made his way "to the ends of the earth." Our forebears became Christian as a result of that crossing. But have you thought about the ways we at Saint Peter's have responded to the calls to "Come over to Macedonian and help us?"

Saint Peter's was incorporated under New York State law in 1862 and, already in 1865, was
responding to the cries of the neglected, needy and negated, namely to the plight of Civil War orphans from North and South, both blacks and whites, not many of them Lutheran. Even before we had our own church building, the people of Saint Peter's bought land in Westchester County and built what we now know as Wartburg. Within 35 years of that response, we did it again, this time for another group of neglected, needy and negated people — they called them "old people", we call them "seniors," and we built at Wartburg the first nursing home in the metropolitan New York area. Then came the Depression and there were hungry, homeless unemployed men for whom we provided a daily meal. Then World War 2, when we provided canteen services for soldiers from all over the country disembarking from New York to go over and help them "over there."

This building was consecrated in 1977 and then came the 1980's, when arguably the most neglected, needy and negated — and surely the most reviled of all — persons with HIV/AIDS cried out for dignity, community and care and were uniformly rejected by all, except here at Saint Peter's where the Momentum program was created to precisely meet those needs. And
almost simultaneously, this same parish community opened its doors to provide a nourishing, home-cooked breakfast for homeless neighbors on our streets.

When the city and this intersection and especially those who work in the towers around us were panicked and in chaos on and after September 11, we opened our doors to comfort and calm them.

Seven years ago on the day before Holy Week, when that crane collapsed on 51st Street, the city's Emergency Management Office was quick to call Saint Peter's and we gave them most of our building to provide comfort, support and basic resources at the same time we were preparing and executing the most important liturgies of the year.

Our response to these various "Come over to Macedonia and help us" questions brought our jazz ministry, arts ministry, the theater, creative proclamations, our 22 twelve-step programs, our best-in-the-city Senior Center and just five years ago, America's oldest Spanish-language Lutheran congregation to be one with us here.
It shouldn't surprise us that, once others hear us proclaim ourselves the affirmed people of God, the neglected, needy and negated would ask us for help. It didn't surprise Paul. It didn't surprise Paul's companions. It didn't surprise "the acknowledged leaders in Jerusalem" who sent them. It didn't surprise our Saint Peter's forbears and it hasn't – so far – surprised us. That's what this business with our partner is all about.

But there are two consistent matters that took Paul, his companions, the leaders in Jerusalem and us completely by surprise. First, the absolute joy and absolute commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel and absolute ownership of the ministry that follows when the neglected, needy and negated are responded to by us and become the affirmed of God with us. And second — and this is the matter than enraged the "acknowledged leaders in Jerusalem" and more often than not has upset us — that when the neglected, needy and negated experience God's YES with us, we all are changed! Transformed! Christ's Church becomes more inclusive and people — Anietra and the volunteers at our breakfast program; Iris, Juan Carlos, Michael, Betty, Fabian and so many, many others — become like Lydia and her
companions with Paul in Philippi, co-workers with us in the once broken now rising Body of Christ; needy no longer, bound together in love and whole and well and strong in God's praise. Don't be surprised by anything that happens whenever we joyfully proclaim:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
in the City of New York