Ironic that this is the third Sunday of Easter and the scripture for this morning shares the story of Jesus 3rd appearance, post resurrection in the Gospel of Luke. On Easter Jesus appears to the women and Peter at the tomb and the appearance right before the one we read is to the couple traveling on the road to Emmaus.
At this point one would think that Jesus resurrection wouldn’t come as a surprise to the disciples in Jerusalem, no more than it is to us every Easter that we celebrate it. I guess the disciples didn’t get the memo. Their faces when Jesus stands among them show that they still don’t get it.
And Jesus responds: Peace be with you.
I’m going to take same preacher interpretation liberty here…
I think what Jesus mean to say here is: Don’t freak out.
I know I am supposed to be dead. Don’t freak out.
No I am not a ghost. Please, stop freaking out.
Here take a look. My hands, my feet. Touch them. You don’t need to freak out.
By the way, got any fish to eat?
The disciples obviously didn’t understand what is going on. I doubt Luke’s initial audience really knew how to explain the resurrection. And despite volumes of theological reflection and a few History channel specials no one now really knows how to explain the resurrection.
All we have, all the Luke’s readers had, all the disciples had is their experience of the resurrection.
So what is your experience of the resurrection?
What freaks you out more the resurrection of the idea that I might make you answer the question out loud?
Presbyterians aren’t really good at freaking out in worship, I may have to bring back some Pentecostals to worship…. I will if you aren’t careful…
We are really good at freaking out during other points in our life.
Over the past few months I have noticed how much the church is freaking out. Not just ours but most of them. The world is changing so much and the church isn’t sure how to respond. Declining numbers in the pews and in the bank account.
Maybe you have been a part of these conversations, if not think about the last time you really freaked out about something… personal, job related, family, whatever…
Not a pleasant feeling but I figure that misery loves company and I feel like I have been in a perpetual state of freaking out lately. A couple of factors play into that. Kids of course. The job situation, not so much mine but with a spouse in the automotive industry… there are so many unknowns.
The biggest fuel to my freak out fire is my relationship with God.
This is really personal to be sharing like this, but I trust you all.
Lately I feel like I am reading the Bible and seeing what it means to be a Christian community in a whole new way.
I’ve spent most of my life being a student. High school, college, seminary… I didn’t stop my formal education until I came here to Caro. And when you are in formal educational settings there is this advantage of looking at life instead of living it. I looked at life and faith through the eyes of other people, mainly through their books. Volumes and volumes of books. How other people experienced life and their relationship with God. I wrote volumes and volumes (or so it seemed) regurgitating what other people thought.
Now that I have been in ministry for a few years, that newbie pastor feeling is wearing off. I feel like I’ve got a hang of things, preaching, potlucks (if you can’t tell), moderating meetings, visiting with people, becoming involved in the larger Caro community….
Getting the groove of the pastor rhythm has allowed my mind, my heart, my faith to wander a bit. I’ve been spending more time in spiritual reflection, prayer and studying the Scriptures. I’ve been feeding a part of me that formal education did not make room for. I am learning to experience for myself what it means to be in relationship with God and live that out in Christian community.
I’m reading about Jesus life in the scriptures and seeing them with new eyes, hearing them with new ears and opening to them with a heart that begs a response. I walk around our neighborhood, I see the people who are homeless who suffer from mental illness and I can’t ignore that God intends healing and wholeness for their lives. I hear stories about families barely making ends meet because both the husband and wife lost their jobs and want to do something to ease their burned. I pray for young pregnant woman facing all sorts of complications with the baby and my heart longs to offer God’s hope.
I use to feel an overwhelming about of guilt that I couldn’t do enough to stop the hurting in the world. Lately it is a different kind of feeling…. Like a transformation of some kind. I don’t’ know how to describe it other than to say that I am freaking out.
Jesus is standing in front of me poking at his crucifixion holes telling me not to freak out.
Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to look, to touch, to freak them out anymore than they already are. It’s not a guilt thing either. Jesus could have so easily gone that route with them. Remember the disciples weren’t exactly supportive during Holy Week. Betrayal, denial… Jesus knows that the disciples did not cause those scars, anymore than I directly cause all the pain in the world. But we can’t run away from it either.
I debated as I wrote this sermon whether or not I would go this personal, share this deeply about my faith struggles right now. Because we don’t even want to look at our own wounds, let alone someone else’s. We want to run away from it all.
Jesus tells us to stop freaking out.
Look. See. Come to terms with the pain and suffering. Get over the guilt. It is all there, but it isn’t then end.
God did and is doing something new in the resurrection of Jesus, and in a sense, God is doing something new each time we experience the risen Jesus.
What does all of this mean in our lives? How could this profoundly change each of our own lives? In the remembering and telling of this story, it seems to me, the church is, like Jesus, interpreting our experience of the risen Jesus--something that happens to us in many different ways--in light of the living Word of God.
I’m freaking out a little but trying to make sense of it all seems to be easier, or at least more fruitful, in a community that shares my experience, my questions, and, in the end, my call.
A call that begins with an empty tomb and leads me back to the life of Jesus. One that reminds me that I am a witness. I can’t ignore Jesus teachings, how he touched people, healed them, prayed for them. That as a witness I am, we all are, called to live a life where God’s grace, love, forgiveness overcomes the hurt, suffering and even the guilt.
It’s not a coincidence that Jesus goes from telling the disciples not to freak out to finding out of they have any food. Jesus brings table fellowship right back into the narrative, because it's still at the core of our story and at the center of who we are. Eating, feeding, serving.
The experience of the early disciples who touched experienced the resurrection with Jesus. They put their hands in his wounds and 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.
Yeah, so freaking out. It is a lot easier to look at life instead of living it. Living a transformed life where the resurrected Christ stands before us all, wounds out in the open and says that we are the witnesses. Getting past the guilt, the fear, to the core of who we are. We are a community that receives God’s blessing together, breaks bread together and with open eyes and hearts responds to those who are hungry.
May the peace of Christ surround us as we live the Easter life God blesses us with.