My friends, our alleluias continue today as we celebrate the love of our God in Jesus. These six weeks of Easter leading up to Pentecost keep calling us back to the profound mystery of God-With-Us—Emmanuel. Jesus uses this time to sharpen his disciples hearts and minds to the truth of all that has happened—that he has indeed fulfilled the Scriptures—not perhaps in the ways the people had expected—but fulfilled them just the same.
In our gospel today; we see Jesus patiently opening the minds of his followers to the realization that he came so that we all would be saved, perhaps from ourselves, by being brought to new life in him. All that Jesus ultimately suffered was part and parcel of his life of love, justice and mercy given for all.
Simply put, Jesus died because of how he lived—the powers in his world weren’t ready for his message that our God loves everyone, even the least among us, and for that boldness, for being the prophet that Moses and all the prophets before him, as recorded in Acts today, prophesied about, he had to die—as if dying could silence his message! But the joy of this season is that he rose—death could not hold him, as it will not hold us.
And it is this awesome reality that death is not the end that Jesus’ followers are spending a great deal of time struggling with—and we can hardly blame them. Our purely human minds are incredulous along with Thomas—“We saw that you died, but now you are with us!” It is clear that their minds needed to be opened—they forgot so quickly how Jesus was always turning things on their heads.
And, Jesus does open their minds through their humanity— “Have you anything to eat?” If Jesus was not a ghost, but in his body, now resurrected, he would naturally eat. Jesus always spoke and taught in ways that people could understand and therefore get his meaning. That was why he often spoke in parables—stories from their lives with an added twist—a higher meaning.
And if each of us will see the risen Jesus, it will be precisely in this way—in our ordinary lives—seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary—we all know those times when we see family, friends, colleagues doing the patient work of bringing about the kin-dom—going the extra mile—speaking the kind word, giving the gentle touch, sharing the warm smile, the word of support when no one else is stepping up, being the catalyst for others doing the same.
This past Wednesday, we had the privilege of viewing the 1980’s film, Weapons of the Spirit, the story of a small town in France whose inhabitants, along with their pastor, sheltered 2-3 thousand Jewish people from deportation and likely the loss of their lives in Hitler’s death camps. When the townspeople were later interviewed and asked why they had risked their lives in this way; they simply said, “It was no big thing; they were doing the only thing they could—the right thing. I would say, “They were walking the talk!”
Jesus is patient with his incredulous, yet faithful followers as he prepares them for the gift of the Spirit—the one who will bring them the courage to speak truth with love, no matter the personal danger.
The work that Jesus called his first followers to after the resurrection and by extension, calls us to as well, takes strength, and a deep faith that took them and will take us to places we might not always choose to go. We may not always understand, but we will have the knowledge that we don’t have to do it alone—our brother Jesus will be with us.
I have asked this community to consider being a Sanctuary Support Community for those in our midst who are struggling to stay in this country in the face of changing deportation rules and regulations. Being a Sanctuary Support Community means that we would attempt in whatever ways that we can to give support to the church that may eventually become a Sanctuary Church in our community.
The Easter Season calls us to remember that we have the same Spirit of Jesus that gave him and us by extension, caring hearts and minds to see the needs in our midst. When we see evil, sadness, brokenness, lack of love, whether it be in families, among friends, locally, in our churches or within our city, nationally or beyond—we must offer the “bread” to eat that is needed.
Some of us from All Are One a week ago served the simple physical food needed at The Feast, sponsored by Central Lutheran Church weekly. Food and the action of eating are often the catalyst that Jesus uses to teach us profound things. I found myself reflecting with the group of us gathered to serve those who came to partake of the meal, on the gift of food. One gentleman came through the line three times to have his plate filled and I remarked later to those serving, “This is probably all he has had to eat today!” It made me realize that I have never known the feeling of wondering whether I would eat today!
We see in today’s gospel that the disciples on the road to Emmaus knew Jesus, “in the breaking of the bread”—in the action of outreach to others. We recall many other times when food or a meal was center stage in profound teachings—feeding the 5000—“you give them something to eat”—Jesus said to the apostles when they suggested he send the people away so that they could get food. Certainly the instruction was to feed more than their bodies, but the feeding began there. There were meals at the home of Martha and Mary, at the home of a prominent Pharisee—always Jesus used an ordinary event to raise an extraordinary point about how to live life.
Within the meal, celebrated at the home of the Pharisee, a woman comes to Jesus asking for forgiveness, for light—a new vision, a more meaningful existence and he gives it to her, while teaching the Pharisees present how they are to be in life—how they are truly to serve, by of course, being servants.
There is a group of Catholic priests who are taking Pope Francis’ words to heart that the formation of priests be renewed—one of Francis’ points, which this group is pursuing, is that priests are to be “servants.” Imagine that!
So—our task is to offer as Jesus did—the bread that is needed—be it physical or emotional—knowing that the gift is always spiritual. We see Peter then—emboldened by the Spirit in the 1st reading speaking truth with love to all the people, even though some may not want to hear it. His life will ultimately be endangered, but as John in his 1st letter says today, if we say that we know God, then we must act accordingly walking in the footsteps of Jesus, no matter the cost. As Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong is fond of saying, in regard to God’s love for us, “We must love wastefully,” as our God does, and we see this so clearly in the life of Jesus. As Jesus said to the apostles in our gospel today, you are my witnesses that love is stronger than death—stronger than any suffering that can come to us—suffering and death are not the end.
Let us pray then this week for each other that our inner eyes might be opened to see the Risen Jesus in our midst and to respond as he did—offering peace—modeling forgiveness in our personal lives, which is a profound gift in and of itself and one that does bring peace, and heals our fractured world—reaching out to the poor, sharing what we have so generously been given ourselves, and in these actions—proclaiming the Good News to all. Amen? Amen!