Faith United Methodist Church
April 15, 2018
Third Sunday of Easter
Rev. Kristabeth Atwood
Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48, 1 John 3:1-7
Prayer of Illumination:
Risen Christ, come to us now. Open our ears, that we may hear your word. Open our minds, that we may understand the scriptures before us. Speak to our hearts, that our lives may be transformed by your love. Guide our steps as we go forth, that we may be your beloved children, witnessing to your resurrection, and proclaiming your message throughout the earth. Amen.
Sermon: Family Reunion
If you’re having a feeling of déjà vu ~ if you sense that you’ve heard this story before ~ you would be right. Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke is very similar to the story the Bishop shared with us last week from the Gospel of John. It was the first day of the week and the disciples were huddled behind closed doors in fear. Rumors were swirling that Jesus, the one who had been crucified, was risen from the dead. The disciples didn’t know whether they should be terrified or rejoice. And then Jesus ~ Jesus ~ came among them to show them his hands and feet, to eat with them, to assure them that he had indeed overcome death.
Two weeks later and it is still Easter. At home we’ve probably put away our plastic eggs and Easter bunnies. But here it’s still Easter. Could it be that we’re belaboring the point? Isn’t it time to move on to something else? The Bible is chock-full of interesting stories. Yet here we are on the Third Sunday of Easter telling the same story. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed…..
Maybe the wise people who put together the lectionary recognized that we are not all that different from the disciples. The disciples didn’t get it the first time Jesus told them that he would rise from the dead. They didn’t get it the second or third or fourth time either. They didn’t even get it when Mary Magdalene came to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.” And this Scripture tells us that even in seeing the risen Jesus for themselves they didn’t get it right away. Luke tells us, “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” Perhaps they thought Jesus was a ghost, not their friend, their brother, raised from the dead. And, like the disciples, maybe we need to hear it again and again. “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name…”
So today we have another account of the resurrection, the one recorded by Luke. It is a story filled with the ordinary and the extraordinary. It tells of gathered loved ones sharing food and studying the Scripture ~ all pretty ordinary things. Yet in this story the beloved had been resurrected, the meal echoes miracle in the sharing of bread and fish, and the Scripture opens the disciples’ eyes to see that their beloved, the one that they thought had died, was not ghost but had indeed risen from the dead. Jesus used the ordinary to point to the extraordinary. Jesus used regular things, everyday things to witness to the divine among them.
And maybe that is why they didn’t recognize him right away. One might think that the Resurrected Christ would appear in a blaze of glory. One might think there would be a chorus of angels and seraphim to announce his resurrection. Instead of simply walking through the door, one might think the Resurrected One would blow it off its hinges. I mean, no one had ever come back from the dead before Jesus arrived on the scene. Perhaps the disciples would have been more convinced by a show of power. Wouldn’t it make sense that a resurrection would be accompanied by some fanfare?
As we will see in a few weeks, some fanfare will accompany the arrival of the Holy Spirit, but for now things are pretty quiet. The resurrected Jesus approached the disciples as one would approach loved ones, joyfully, intimately, behind closed doors, around the table, over a meal. In fact, the scene reminds me of a family reunion. Jesus and the disciples had been separated, not just by time and distance, but by death. In coming back together, the family was reunited. Where there had been fear and loss, there was safety and love. Together again.
Then Jesus shared with them what had happened since they last had been together. In a moment of vulnerability Jesus wanted them to recognize him for who he really was. He trusted them enough to share his wounds. “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
For the past four or five years I’ve gathered with my cousins, mother and aunt for a girls’ weekend. After my grandmother died we drifted apart, as families tend to do when the central figure that draws everyone together is gone. Thankfully, we recognized that and our girls weekend is a perfect new tradition. We shop and eat out and take silly pictures. But it is in the quiet moments – over coffee in the morning or in the darkness of late evening – that we share the things that are most important. Our hopes. Our dreams. Our worries. Our wounds. While we may no longer have a central place to call home, home is created wherever we gather together.
Jesus comes to us in a similar way, in quiet moments through the ordinary things of life. Jesus comes to us through bread and wine ~ grape juice in our case ~ which are among the most ordinary things of the earth. And, as was the case last Sunday, Jesus came to us in the waters of baptism ~ ordinary water offered to us by God for extraordinary blessing. If we weren’t paying attention we could almost miss these gifts, yet in seeing them, in beholding them, our life is changed. As recipients of these gifts, we are given a home and made part God’s own family.
That Jesus reunited with the disciples after his resurrection from the dead may give us pause to consider what we are called to do as those who bear Jesus’ name. As Kate Huey explains, “The experience of the early disciples who touched Jesus, put their hands in his wounds, heard his voice, fed his hunger and received his blessing, is the same experience of Christians today who feed the hungry, break bread together, hunger for God’s blessing, and respond to the call to turn our lives toward God once again.” If Jesus accepts us as part of his family, if Jesus makes himself vulnerable to us and welcomes us into intimate relationship, aren’t we also to offer those gifts to others – so all can be part of the family? So all can find their true home?
It is still Easter. What good news! What good news for those disciples in the upper room! What good news for all of us. The days pass, the weeks go by and it is still Easter. Our brother Christ blesses us with peace. Our brother Christ gives us gifts to share. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Thanks be to God! Amen!