Sermon for Sunday, April 19, 2015
Third Sunday of Easter
Celebration of Ministries Sunday
When I was a child, one of my favorite cartoons which was based upon a comic book was Casper, the Friendly Ghost. There were many things I liked about Casper, especially since I was afraid of ghosts and it was nice to know that there was one that did NOT desire to frighten little children.
One trait of Casper is that he was ALWAYS hungry. He wanted to eat so badly and would eat almost anything, but, since he was a ghost, food went right through him – thus he remained hungry all the time.
I always think of this cartoon when I read this gospel lesson from Luke. The disciples are frightened of the Risen Jesus, thinking him to be a ghost and so he asks for something to eat to show that he is NOT a ghost.
Thanks to Lauren Craig who watched a TED video and shared with me about a lecture from philosopher Dan Dennett who talks about consciousness. He shares that our consciousness is not always what we think it is – our memories often inflate what we THINK we saw or experienced.
Dr. Dennett states that change often occurs in ways we are not aware. The high resolution part of our eye is only the size of our thumbnail. Our brain focuses on the immediate, the detail, and then our consciousness puts together a reality that we THINK we see. He says: “Where our eye is not looking causes us to be remarkably impoverished in our vision.”
Our gospel lesson for today is about vision: what the disciples saw, what they experienced, and what the vision for the future is to be.
Unfortunately, our appointed lesson for today leaves out very important verses to help us understand the context.
The Risen Jesus has appeared to two disciples who are mourning his loss on the Road to Emmaus. (This is one of my favorite resurrection appearances!) They do not recognize him. As they walk, he opens their minds to understand the scriptures concerning himself. When they invite him in for a meal, he blesses and breaks the bread just as he did at the Last Supper! – and their eyes are opened and the see who he is. They are so excited that they rush all the way back to Jerusalem – in the evening after dinner – to let the others know they have “seen the Lord!” The other disciples report that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter.
The verse missing in the lesson today is: “As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them.” He gives them his peace. And they are frightened.
The disciples were looking, but did not expect what they saw. Once again we hear of fear (just like last Sunday with the story of Thomas.) As I said on Easter Sunday, loss, grief, sense of abandonment, disappointment – these are emotions that we understand. Our rabbi risen from the dead and standing here in our midst? This is frightening.
Even though Jesus had told them several times that he would have to suffer and die and would rise again this is just – beyond belief.
So Jesus does what he must have done so many times with them – he eats with them. In the midst of the unfamiliar – someone who was dead now alive and standing there in the middle of them – it is a familiar action. Something they would understand. Something to place the UNBELIEVEABLE into a believable experience.
When we encounter something that pulls us up short, that is disconcerting, that is FRIGHTENING, we try to make sense of it by relating it to life experience.
We HAVE TO MAKE SENSE OF IT.
We pull something from our past, something from our memory to help explain the present situation.
This is true even in counseling. As one who provides a lot of pastoral counseling, when someone comes to me in a crisis, I often ask, “When did you feel like this before? Is this present crisis similar to something you experienced before? What do you remember from your past that helps you to make sense of this?” And especially, “What resources did you use in the past to help you deal with this situation? What coping mechanisms, friends, personal beliefs that you have developed over your life can help you now?”
Jesus, in helping the disciples to make sense of his RISEN PRESENCE before them, does the same. “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you . . .”
Now they can understand. Now they can remember that, yes, he DID talk about this before his death. Now they can recall the words from the prophets and the psalmists about all that is to happen to Messiah.
And now, making sense of it, being reassured by a REALLY ALIVE Jesus – they can receive their marching orders. Because he is risen and TRULY ALIVE, because the scriptures are fulfilled in the person of the Crucified and Risen Jesus – they can trust him. Having followed him for so long, now they can trust that he will not lead them astray- that he will be with them in their new task:
No longer disciples/students but now apostles/sent ones!
They are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the world. They are to be witnesses of the power of the Resurrection.
Today, we too are experience the Real Presence of the Risen Jesus. He comes to us, and eats with us. And the food that he gives us in not fish, but his very Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. This calms us in the midst of our fears, gives us something familiar that we can wrap our heads around.
And we go forth from here to be witnesses – to proclaim him Crucified and Risen for the sake of the world.
How do we do this? Are each of us called to preach? No, not exactly. But we are called, nonetheless to proclaim in the way we live our lives and in the way we minister to a hurting, troubled, frightened world.
It is not enough to simply focus on the Jesus we experience in the Holy Communion and say, “Oh good. He is here. He has comforted me. He lives. I love him.” And then that is the end of it.
Hear again the words of Dr. Dennett: Where our eye is not looking causes us to be remarkably impoverished in our vision. We can’t just look for the presence of the Risen Jesus for ourselves. We are called to look WITH THE EYES OF JESUS to a world that needs him. We are called to care for the poor, the lost, the lonely, the hungry, the spiritually bankrupt. We are called to give of ourselves, of our time, of our abilities, of our financial resources.
“You are my witnesses” Jesus says. How will you bear witness today? This month? This year?