A Sermon Offered to Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA
April 22, 2012
36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look 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.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.44Then 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.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 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, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.48You are witnesses of these things.
Before I begin this meditation I’d like to ask you to take a journey with me back in time. Back to that Sunday night, with scared Disciples and experience with them the presence of the risen Christ.
So, get comfortable and close your eyes, . . . take a deep, slow, breath. Now . . . imagine you are one of the Disciples the evening of the resurrection. . . . The room is small and close, . . . the smell of smoke from the cooking fire and broiled fish fill the room. . . . Everyone in the room is excited, . . . fearful, . . . and joyful . . . but also bewildered at the day’s events. Everyone is talking at once, . . . each voice getting louder than the next in an attempt to be heard. . . . When suddenly a voice they know so well says . . . “Peace be with you” and there . . . stands Jesus. . . . Silence
How do feel?
What is going through you mind right now?
After all you all saw Jesus’ body laid in the tomb and on Friday and Saturday you thought your movement was at an end with Jesus’ death. Then this morning Mary and the other women have come and said Jesus is risen from the dead, and Cleopas and his friend have returned from Emmaus saying Jesus broke bread with them. Now, here in this locked, small, smoky, room Jesus stands in front of you.
And Jesus isn’t just standing there he is walking among you, he’s showing his hands and feet and now he’s sitting down and asking for food to eat. Jesus, the risen Christ, is eating with you!
Tell me you aren’t amazed, . . . that your eyes aren’t as big as saucers,
That your mouth isn’t on the floor,
That, you aren’t a little afraid of what is to come,
tell me that! . . .
OK it is time to return and reflect, Slowly open your eyes and take a deep breath, your home now in the 21st century.
You know even 2000 years later this story has the power to shake me up, what about you? I mean if I were one of the Disciples that Friday would have been the worst day of my life. Terrified, of what has happened I would have been in shock and grief. Saturday morning reality would have begun to set in, I would be beginning to have some fear for my own skin and start asking the questions of “what do we do now, go home and pick up our lives where they left off, preferably before the Romans and temple authorities come after us?” I’m mean they aren’t in this small locked room because of a crowd of loyal followers outside, they’re in this room hiding in fear of their lives.
So much has changed for this small band of faithful women and men. One day they are shouting Hosanna and 6 days later they are grieving for the death of a friend, leader and hoped for Messiah. That’s a lot to comprehend in such short time. It had barely sunk in that Jesus wasn’t there for them anymore and what kind of danger they were in, only to have this miracle happen! Jesus is alive and Jesus is telling them they are to be the witnesses that spread the Good News, the Gospel!
Have any of you ever been on this crazy kind of merry-go-round life where everything is going just fine, even extraordinarily fine? Then the world crashes around you and you have to get your life back on track somehow. So you begin to dig your way out only to have God give you another spin on your wild ride. Has that ever happened to you? It has to me, that’s for sure. When I read this scripture last week I was reading through the glasses of what I thought my life would be, only to have it turned upside down.
Last October I was so excited about graduating this June and being finished with graduate school. Looking forward to moving on to new things, spending some down time with my family and working with Laurie and Sandy on some great ideas for education and spiritual formation for Queen Anne and our region. Wow I thought maybe all this will have some meaning after all.
What was I thinking? I had forgotten that none of what I do in this life is about me, it’s about God! In November God let me know that I wasn’t in control of this show and to stop thinking I was.
My mother used to have this cute little picture over her bed of a little chipmunk holding a daisy with the caption “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet,” and now I know what that means. God is not finished with me yet, I still have work to do and things to learn so God told me, “don’t think you can rest on your laurels, . . . ain’t gonna happen.”
That’s what happened to the Disciple (not that I’m putting myself in the same class as those in the upper room), But they, too, thought everything was going just fine and they would rule the world. Then their world is turned upside down and they thought the end of their ride had come. But God comes along and gives them another spin. Jesus has risen from the dead to offer new life to old ways of thinking and God says “don’t think you can rest on your laurels, ain’t gonna happen.”
In the three days before the resurrection, days of terror and grief the Disciples had given up, and understandably so. Now just when they are barely getting their wits back Jesus returns and says “you have more work to do, more things to learn.” He opens their minds to a new reality and finally they understand what Jesus had been trying telling them for all those years. Now they understood what the women had been talking about … ah … wait a minute . . .what did you say Jesus? We’re to be witnesses for all of this, your teaching, resurrection, everything! We’re to spread the Good News of the Kingdom, that’s a big job.
And Jesus tells them that yes it’s a big job but He and Abba Father would not give it to them if they couldn’t handle it. And that is the good news for us, God doesn’t give anyone more than they can do, But, God does push us to our limits in order for us to reach our potential as spiritual beings. All of us are being pushed to look at new ways of worship, thinking, being church, at being faithful to the teaching of Jesus.
Each of us (me included) are being pushed to rethink what it means to be follower, companion, and co-creator with God, and not of God. If there is anything I’ve learned in seminary it is we aren’t to be passive followers just doing what we are told. Nor are we to put God on shelf and only bring God out on Sunday morning. We are to work alongside God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, just as the Disciples did so long ago, in order to spread the Good News that Jesus taught.
It is not about us; it is about God, Jesus and Holy Spirit and we are to be witnesses, just like the 12, to all we have experienced as partners and friends of God, not servants.
I do not know where I am headed, I dare say you don’t either, nor do we as Faith Communities know, all we can do is go with Gods flow, which is all God is asking,
We can say no, we won’t go, we won’t work with you, but trust me God is incredibly persistent. You most likely will come around one way or the other. God cares too much for us, and for what we have to do, to give up on us.
So don’t be surprised on the day you think you have your life all wrapped up in a nice little bow that God shows up and returns you to the merry-go-round and gives it a mighty spin.
All I can say is just enjoy the ride.
Ruth Jewell, ©April 22, 2012