The Third Sunday of Easter (4/22/2012)

Lessons:Acts  3:12-19 Psalm 4 1st John 3:1-7 St. Luke 24:36b-48

Prayer of the Day: Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life, and you adopt us to be your children. Fill us with your words of life, that we may live as witnesses to the resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24:36b Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.”40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While 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, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 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.” 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, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

St. Luke 24:36b-48, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Startled, Terrified, Frightened, Doubting, Joyful, Disbelieving, Wondering…  

Who are these among whom Jesus stands? Cleopas and a friend make what has become a storied journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It is the evening of the day of the resurrection. The women reported the resurrection, but the men considered it an idle tale. Deeply discouraged (“they stood still, looking sad” — St. Luke 24:17), they trudge on to Emmaus, and along the way a stranger falls in with them. They stop to eat an evening meal at their destination with him, and “he is made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (24:35) It is Jesus, alive and well, just as the women reported!

And so these two race back to Jerusalem, where they find some of Jesus’ followers, including the 11 remaining disciples, gathered together. Suddenly, while they are talking about these things, Jesus himself appears, standing among them. And how do they respond to the concrete physical presence of their Lord (wounded hands and feet, hungry for a piece of fish) in their midst? They are startled, terrified, frightened, doubting, joyful, disbelieving and wondering.

One might have anticipated that the presence of the resurrected Christ in their midst would relieve their despair, comfort their discouragement, undergird their hope, and inspire their faithfulness. Not so: they remain a deeply troubled community. And why not? Their entire worldview has been destroyed on the cross. Their hopes that Jesus might be the answer to their longing for security and prosperity: gone. What they have, instead, is a wounded, hungry Lord, standing in their midst, asking for a piece of fish, and announcing that they will be his witnesses. He may have been resurrected, but it will be some time before they become a resurrected people. Their old ways of understanding faith and faithfulness will have to give way — will have to die — before they can experience the new birth of a living faith in the resurrected Lord.

Yet this is exactly what happens. Eventually we find that they have become an open-minded, understanding, proclaiming people, witnessing to the Good News that has been entrusted to them. Out of the ashes of their shattered dreams comes the new life that is only possible after death. They discover a completely new way to live and to be. Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

It is a familiar story. Familiar not just because we have heard it, but familiar because we have lived it. Who among us doesn’t want our faith to usher more security and prosperity into our lives? Who among us doesn’t harbor fantasies about a vital family, a thriving business, a growing congregation? Yet in the midst of our broken dreams, here comes our wounded, hungry Lord, who stands in our midst, and asks us to feed him. We discover that gathering at the table with him is the beginning of our own resurrection. We come with hands extended, hungry for grace, longing for the gift of peace that only he can bring. In bread and wine, he is made present to us — and we become his broken, healed people.

I love the image of these startled, terrified, frightened, doubting, joyful, disbelieving and wondering people. I seem to identify with them more and more each year. And I trust that even as the Spirit was able to work through them to offer a witness to their world, that it will be able to do so through me, and through you, in our world. Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

May it be so among us. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What sort of hopes did Jesus’ followers have for him?
  2. How did his death on the cross lead to a death of that way of thinking?
  3. What new hope did they find in his resurrected presence?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What false hopes and dreams of mine need to die, before Christ can make me new?
  2. What in me resists the new direction that repentance and forgiveness bring?
  3. When have I had glimpses of the new life that is possible through Christ?