Sermon, April 19th, 2015
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, 46and 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.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
Today’s gospel reading we hear a story that grew out of the experience of the
disciples a few days after the crucifixion. It was handed down orally to
generations, then written down by one of those followers, and finally included in
the gospel we know as Luke. You are witnesses of these things……
At times, when each of us as individuals and as a congregation worship together
God has a way of meeting us.
- there comes a courage that we didn’t know we had,
- a sense of guidance for decisions we have to make,
- an encouragement for the way we are going.
All of this happens, not every time we worship, but it happens often enough. We
hardly know how to describe it. In post-resurrection stories there is a description
of a presence—mysterious but nevertheless real. It also becomes evident that this
mysterious presence comes to people in such ordinary times.
- Mary thinks he is the gardener.
- He chit-chats with two people walking on the road to Emmaus, and agrees to join them for a bite to eat at suppertime.
- When he appears to the disciples in the upper room, there is no trumpet fanfare announcing his appearance. He just shows up with the most normal, ordinary greeting: Shalom…peace be with you.
When we look at the Gospel of John, he comes to the fishermen in a very regular
way…. He calls out, “Hey fellows, caught anything yet? Why don’t you come in and
have some breakfast!”
Lorne and I were watching a series on the Easter Story and after the Crucifixion
that we recorded from CNN? It was well done but one thing that struck me was
how ordinary the characters were in the story. The disciples were not set apart in
a visible way, they just blended in with the rest of the folks in Jerusalem, but they
were from Galilee so probably had an accent in their speech, dressed a bit
different, some cultural differences. The series caught how the disciples felt. I
remember one of the lines was, “Has our last three years been for nothing?”
They were frightened and confused. Life seemed to be closing in on them and it
was not possible for them to continue their three-year-old ministry. Here were
the facts: They were betrayed by one of their own. The crowds had turned against
them. Their leader had been executed. Many of them chose to deny their
relationship to him and they were ashamed of that. Further development of their
leaders ideas would almost certainly mean their own deaths. Into this hopeless
scene walks a man they never expected to see: their leader.
A Theologian, Rev. Dr. Getty said in one of his sermons, that Christ challenges us
when we need challenging, warns us when we need warning, affirms us when we
need affirming, loves us when we need loving, corrects us when we need
correcting, and directs us when we need directing. So…. If you believe this, Jesus
offered PEACE right when the disciples needed it… in the midst of chaos, Jesus
came to them offering PEACE.
PEACE in the midst of chaos….. Jesus then asks the disciples, “Why are you
frightened?” Could it be because the last time we saw you, you were dead,
hanging on a Roman cross, soldiers all around, angry people all around, and, well,
as far as we knew, dead is dead? That would be my thoughts exactly. Then he says
to them Here, look at the wounds – see my hands, see my feet, they had nails –
spikes, driven through them. The disciples were filled with joy tinged with
disbelief. They still think this person may be a ghost. Can’t totally understand it or
explain it but nevertheless, joy…..
PEACE – SHALOM that is exactly what they needed. I find that there is something
about the pattern of life that is centering to me, and brings me peace. In other
words, there is a religious value in routine. It’s Sunday; I go to church. We are
here together; we talk about important things; we volunteer to help where we
can together; we sing familiar hymns together; we greet familiar people and
welcome new people who come to St. Philip’s on any given Sunday morning.
On a routine Sunday, Christ has the opportunity to speak peace to you and me. I
know that I leave this place a stronger person – it may be a subtle thing but a
wonderful gift. I hope you have experienced that too. I count this as pure grace.
Christ renews our strength, courage, and reveals himself to us - his modern-day
disciples. I think it is important to remember that that the great work of this
church has also been done by everyday, ordinary folk. God seems to use what is
ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.
Christ’s presence comes as a gift, part of Christ’s promise to come to us, not to
leave us alone, to give us what we need to be faithful followers. He does it still.