April 15, 2018 – Easter 3

Update By: Norm Barr
Date: April 15, 2018

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2018
Preacher: The Rev. Bret B. Hays
When St. Luke tells us Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” we tend to close ours. That’s a shame, because Luke tells his story in a way that portrays this interaction as the summary of what his Gospel is all about. We tend to keep reading or listening, expecting to find out what the answer is, perhaps because the very idea of Jesus opening our minds is uncomfortable, perhaps a little scary.
In part because the phrase pretty strongly implies that our minds were closed — so closed they needed divine power to open them — that’s a little offensive. In part because the idea of anyone messing with our minds is scary. And in part because it doesn’t feel like it’s going to work like in The Matrix, where someone can plug your brain into a computer, push a few buttons, and, boom! You know kung fu, or how to fly a helicopter. But The Matrix owes its themes and ideas to John’s Gospel, and we’re reading Luke today, and to get back to my point, it doesn’t feel like Jesus is just giving the disciples new information or skills.
He’s doing much more than that. He’s showing them a new way of understanding everything they’ve ever known and reality itself, and inevitably, this will change their lives in ways they could never foresee. That new way of understanding begins and ends with Jesus himself. This is important because from the very beginning, Christians have understood that Jesus’s body is essential for understanding who God is. Today’s Gospel passage comes immediately after the Emmaus Road story, where Jesus is revealed to two disciples in the breaking of bread, and then vanishes. At the beginning of this story, those two disciples had just rejoined the main disciples in Jerusalem.
The Emmaus story suggested some connection between food, or perhaps hospitality, and Jesus, but by itself leaves us wondering just how risen Jesus was. It almost sounds like a ghost story. And so we need this story to make sense of that one, and all the ones before. We could easily settle on the idea that plain old common sense should be enough for us to understand, until we realize that God is far beyond our powers of reason, and the one who created nature is far greater than that great creation. In order for us to have any knowledge of God, let alone a relationship with God, God must act. God must reveal a reality that lies outside of knowledge, reason, and nature. God must tell us a story that reveals the greater truth beyond all stories.
So every text, every lesson, every fact, even Jesus’s own teachings, everything takes on new and expanded meaning in the light of the Resurrection. For instance, the very last things Jesus did before “opening their minds” were to show them his hands and feet, and to eat a piece of fish. If anyone else had done this, let’s be honest, no one would care. Even if it had been Jesus, but during his natural life, no big whoop. To use a theological term.
But in his gloriously unnatural risen life, Jesus’s hands and feet show us that God bears suffering so intimately that woundedness is part of who God is. The distinctive wounds of the Crucifixion are so much a part of Jesus that we can use them to identify him. And by eating the fish, Jesus shows us that our bodies are sacred, that God will redeem and restore them no less than our minds and our spirits. This simple act harkens back to the image of a wedding banquet which may be more than a metaphor for the relationship God will make with us. In this simple meal, Jesus also recalls, and perhaps fulfills, the beautiful image in Isaiah’s prophecy that we so often read at funerals,

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.”

But of course understanding these simple acts is only the beginning of the new understanding we have in light of the Resurrection. Saint Luke talks about understanding the Scriptures, the story of the relationship between humanity and God. And “So,” as Mark Davis puts it, “let’s mark out in broad strokes what the Scriptures can mean when interpreted through the lens of resurrection. The creation stories, as resurrection stories, show death to be part of a larger story of the fertility of life. Hence, the seed must fall to the ground and die to produce abundance. The story of flood shows how, out of sheer devastation, there is a renewal of life from the remnant. The stories of the covenant that God made with Abram and Sarai show how two persons, whose own capacities for fertility were dead, bring life through which all nations will be blessed. The law is a dying and rising reality, not a dead letter etched in stone. The rise and fall of kingdoms, the suffering and return of exiles, the despair of the suffering servant, the hope of the one ‘coming in clouds,’ the expectation of Elijah’s return—all are stories of how inasmuch as God lives, so do God’s promises. Resurrection makes all the difference between seeing the Scriptures as accounts of things that happened but are not happening any more, and accounts of things that happened and marvelously continue to be happening because God lives.”
And of course his point is that the fact and the life and the understanding of the Resurrection are critically important to how we live our lives. By our baptism, [as Braiden will soon be baptized,] we are baptized into the same death and Resurrection that God has used to transform history and nature, so we’d better understand what that’s all about! And what a wonderful transformation it is to be baptized into the gloriously transformational nature of God. Just as God has shown in the record of Scripture, so too in our own lives, when life is attacked, we have every reason to respond with courage, determination, and hope from our belief that God is a God of life, not of death. We have confidence that God will get the last word, and not just in some ephemeral hereafter, but in this physical world, which God has shown to be holy. Resurrection is not so much about enduring suffering and injustice until we die and go to heaven, but rather, the making of life from death, righteousness from sin, justice from oppression, grace from judgment, and making them right now, in this life, this living world.
That is the life we share with the giver of life, the love we share with the one who so loved the world, the grace we not only enjoy, but strive to practice. The life of Resurrection is an active life, as Jesus modeled, a life of standing up and speaking grace and truth.
 
*The Politics of Resurrection Hermeneutics—Luke 24:36-48

 

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