While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 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.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “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 to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
Pastor Marc's sermon on the 3rd Sunday of Easter (April 19, 2015) on Luke 24:36-48. Listen to the recording here or read my manuscript below.
So what’s an appropriate reaction to the resurrection?
Now - I’m not talking about a response to the resurrection. There’s something about the word response that feels a little too...intentional - a little too thoughtout. A reaction, however, is much more...unplanned. It kinda just happens. So if we’re looking for a reaction to the resurrection - rather than just a response - what kind of reaction is okay?
Now, today we’re in our third gospel in three weeks. On Easter Sunday, we heard from Mark. Last week, Case brilliantly brought procrastinating Thomas to life for us and that was from the Gospel According to John. And we’ve just heard from Luke and this text needs a little setup. It comes after one of my favorite stories in scripture. Two disciples, after Jesus was killed and his tomb was found empty, left Jerusalem, and they’re heading to a town called Emmaus. A man, who they don’t know, meets them on the road and they walk for awhile together. This stranger asks why the disciples seem so sad. So they tell him about Jesus - about what just happened and what people are saying. And then stranger - well - he talks back. He tells them about Jesus - he opens the scriptures to them - and after many hours together, the two disciples are impressed so they invite this stranger to share a meal with them. So after they find a spot to sit, lite a little fire, and start to eat - one of the disciples passes the stranger a piece of bread to share. He takes it - breaks it - and the disciples suddenly recognize who's sitting there with them. But before they could do anything about it - Jesus - like a ghost, vanishes. So these two, excited about who they just saw, run back to Jerusalem - they go looking for the other disciples and they find them all, gathered together, telling a story we never hear that Jesus had just appeared to Peter.
Can you imagine what that must have been like? The group of them, who just saw their teacher - their friend - killed are now starting to see Jesus all over the place. They probably couldn’t stop talking about what they saw. I imagine the words just came out, spilling on top of each other, because they were so excited. And as they were talking - as they were sharing their stories - Jesus pops in - and says hello.
And It’s like the disciples just forgot what they were just telling each other.
Jesus shows up - and they think they’re seeing a ghost. Now, Peter and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus should know better. They just saw this guy. They have first hand experience of what the resurrection actually looks like. But when Jesus walks into the room - all they want to do is call The Ghostbusters.
This isn’t the reaction they’re suppose to have. But they do. So maybe we should tell ourselves that if we have this reaction - that’s okay too.
Because - when we take a second to strip away everything we bring to today’s text - all the Easter Sundays we’ve attended, all the Confirmation classes we took, the bible studies, the Sunday School lessons - the resurrection, at it’s core, is - really, really, weird. It’s so weird, that even after meeting Jesus in the flesh - even after breaking bread with him, seeing the holes in his hands and feet where the nails held him to the cross - Jesus still feels the need to eat a snack in front of his friends to prove that he’s actually not a ghost. We can hear the story over and over again - we can experience our own forms of resurrection over and over again - and still - sometimes, Jesus is going to need to eat a little snack, answer a little prayer, show up to us in an extremely unexpected way before we get it - just for a little bit. It’s as if we need to live - to spend time with these stories and with this Jesus - before we get even close to experiencing just what this resurrection might mean for us.
Yesterday, I was at Koinonia, the Lutheran Camp in New York, for it’s annual meeting. The meeting is attended every year by congregations throughout the metro New York area who are, effectively, owners of the camp. It’s run as a corporation and we, Christ Lutheran Church, are shareholders. And, so like a corporate shareholder, I was there to ask questions, to vote on the budget, and listen to what’s going to happen at the camp next. Now, the camp has struggled for a number of years. Finances are poor. The buildings are in need of repair. There’s been a shift in leadership multiple times in only a few years and there’s a sense this the place - has lost it’s identity. Camp Koinonia has lost its way - and it’s trying to find out exactly what God is calling them to be.
Now the brand new camp director, Gary, gave his report and admitted to all of this. He knows the camp is losing money and that attendance is down. He knows that folks aren’t attracted to the place like they use to be and that congregations have stopped supporting the place like they use to. But he said something that gave me a lot of hope for the place. He admitted that it’s going to take time for Koinonia to find exactly what God is calling them to be. His brand new staff is going to need time - time to experiment, to try new things, to restore old traditions and develop new ones. They’re going to do a bunch of different things - and end up with a bunch of failures along the way. But it’s that willingness to try - to experiment - to prayerfully discern just what God is telling them to be - all that time, all those failures, and all that success - that’s what it takes to live through a resurrection.
The resurrection isn’t something that’s suppose to be accepted or rejected and then we move on. The resurrection is something that we live into - something that we struggle with, over and over again. We might not get it - and that’s okay. We might question it - and that’s okay. We might, like the disciples, experience joy - but doubt and wonder about it all at the same time creeps in. And that’s okay. The gift of this piece of scripture is that our reactions - they don’t define Jesus’ relationship with us. He doesn’t walk out of the room when the disciples think he’s a ghost. When Peter and the two from the road to Emmaus don’t recognize him, he doesn’t throw in the towel and find new, better, ones. No, Jesus sticks with them. He sticks with those who are scared. He sticks with those who think he’s just a ghost. And Jesus even sticks with those who knew him, then faded away, and are now back with him again. Jesus sticks with his imperfect disciples and he sticks with us - not because we’ll always get it - or because our reactions to his story and his presence in our lives will always be right. No, Jesus sticks with us because that’s just what Jesus does. And we’re invited to give ourselves the time to stick with Jesus - to live into his resurrection - and let our doubts and struggles, our wonder and our joy, - let these be our honest reactions to just who Jesus is. Because Jesus isn’t calling only the perfectly faithful to be his disciples. He’s calling us. And that means we’re here to bring all of who we are to the table - letting our imperfect faith show and shine - because Jesus is, in the end, all about letting our imperfect faith do a very unexpected thing: showing the world that even the imperfect can be, and share, God’s love everywhere.
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