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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Easter 3, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 19, 2015

Luke 24:36-48


‘Can I Get a Witness?’

Richard Kearney, in his book The God Who May Be, considers the meaning of resurrection with reference to the many “paschal testimonies” of the gospels. He discerns three striking features:

“We do not recognise the [children] of God when they appear to us as we wander the road of life. So full of great expectations are we that we fail to see the divine in the simplest of beings: we overlook the persona in the person. Second, the embodied God cares for our physical and material being: it is in the sharing of food that the divine becomes visible. And third, rather than glorying in some kind of I-told-you-so posthumous triumph, Jesus takes his leave ... He becomes little or nothing again” (49).

Kearney then offers an encouraging word (an Easter affirmation worth repeating throughout this season of new life and meaning):

“If you are hungry and need bread and fish, ask for it and you shall have your fill. If you see a lost loved one standing on the shore and are filled with joy, throw decorum to the wind, jump into the waves, and swim to them. If someone gives you food, do not ask for identity papers or credentials (‘Who are you?’); just sit and receive. If you are wanting in body or mind crippled, despised, rejected, downcast, disabled, despondent and your nets are still empty after many tries, do not despair; someone will come and tell you where to cast your net so that you may have life and have it more abundantly. Indeed the most transfiguring thing about this God of little things is that he gives with a gratuity that defies the limits of space and time. Now he’s gone, now he’s here, now he’s gone again. Now he’s dead, now he’s alive. Now he’s buried, now risen. Now the net is empty, now it’s full. And more surprising still, the fish is cooked for us even before we get ashore and unload our nets. ‘Come and have breakfast,’ Christ says as the boat touches land” (50-51).

...

Let’s attend to our Gospel for today. Whatever we say about today’s Gospel we must say it in the context of this grieving world a world steeped in violence and confusion. It’s right that we feel the pain of the world we’re part of it. It’s right for us to be careful, respectful, even as we share the hope of the resurrection.God be with you

Two formerly dejected disciples of Jesus crucified, Cleopas and his companion [possibly his wife], have returned to Jerusalem after meeting, on the road to Emmaus, a stranger in whom they recognised that same Jesus! They are filled now with excited emotions, jittery expectations … The story they knew, the world they knew, the God they thought they knew all this has been subjected to critique, and reconfigured, transfigured in the light of Easter …

I feel myself caught up in all of this. This is a mighty Gospel text!

Luke 24 is structured like a traditional liturgy. Gathering, journey, meeting Jesus who interprets the scriptures in relation to himself, then breaks the bread, then sends disciples out into the world.The text, it would seem, emerges in a context of worship prayers, songs, rituals in the Spirit of the Saviour …

We are in a similar setting, then. A gathering of lost and excited souls, talking and wondering, then Jesus making himself known as the One who brings peace, the risen One who is present in, through, and beyond the physical (no Gnostic saviour, but a crucified and risen Saviour)and, again, the food is shared (some scholars think that the early Christians celebrated a bread-and-fish Eucharist)again, Jesus interprets the scriptures in relation to himself, and disciples are sent out with a mission: now clearly a mission that focuses on  repentance and forgiveness for all peoples(nations/cultures/ethnicities).

Believers at worship, in communion with the Saviour, bearing witness to an excitement a new hope and life in the midst of confusion and grief … Disciples, now as then, are called/enabled to be witnesses(literally,martyrs) to “these things”. You and I. Not necessarily expert witnesses, but people who tell the truth about what they have experienced.

We have heard some of the earliest of these testimonies: “I touched him, and he was not a ghost”; “I saw the marks in his hands and feet; he was the crucified one”; “I broke bread with him, and he ate” … More than two thousand years later, we can still give evidence of how the risen Jesus has come into our lives and retold the story of our lives in a way that opens our minds …

We might consider, then, what kind of witnesses we are witnesses to what? To whom? For what? For whom?

We have gathered, talked, wondered, read the papers; we seek to understand the scriptures in relation to the crucified and risen Jesus indeed, without him, without the key that is his passionate love, that is, his suffering and rising to new life, our minds are closed (the meaning of the scriptures in spite of what some fundamentalists would have us think is not self-evident, is not obvious) … It’s worth dwelling on this a while …

On Jesus as the Word of God … on this Jesus who tells the story of God’s plan to restore all of creation, from the covenant with Abraham to the exodus from Egypt, from Ezekiel’s valley of the dry bones to Isaiah’s suffering servant. On this Jesus who makes central that which is marginal: the subversive and counter-intuitive claims in the Bible ethnic minorities chosen; foreigners, younger brothers, youngest sons appointed leaders; sex workers, persecuted prophets, humble peasants, shepherds, lepers, Samaritans lauded as exemplars of faith …

He’s told them all this before, of course, but this time, in the presence of the risen Saviour, the doors in the minds of the disciples are unlocked. The rejection, the suffering, the crucifixion (tragedies)they weren’t a detour from God’s plan after all, but the final steps of God’s long journey down into the plight of broken humanity. Now they are witnesses to the first steps on the other side. Not a dead man, not a ghost, but the victory of God …

Can we affirm this in our world amid (our) grieving and confusion we who will, regularly in this place, share food, break bread, and be sent out into the world with a mission of repentance and forgiveness?

How will you bear witness with words, with singing, with actions, with strength of character …? To what will you bear witness today, this coming week?

– The sharing of his peace? Note that Jesus is not at all interested in retribution not at all interested in appearing to those who persecuted him and/or abandoned him and chastising them or exacting compensation.

– His spiritual presence in, through, and beyond the physical reaching out to embrace the lost allowing the forsaken to reach out to him? Is our faith a mere spiritualism, or might we bear witness to the spirit in, through, and beyond the physical? Is our faith merely an intellectual affair ideas, abstractions or might our very bodies bear witness to the Spirit in the way we move, touch, look, listen, eat, speak, work, play? (The children today are thinking about embodied love in terms of a trusted person’s voice and movement, hands and touch.)

– His encouraging the sharing of food? It’s striking that, for Luke’s community, appearances of the risen Jesus are always related closely to the sharing of food those for whom the risen Christ is real are learning to share that which is most necessary …

– His making possible a joy (even amid grief and confusion by his very patient respect for grief and confusion by his inspiring a wonder that overcomes cruelty and bitterness), and his inspiring a repentance that leads to forgiveness (you might note that there is nothing moralistic about this text … It is imperative that the church offer moral and ethical guidance, yes, but that this not overwhelm or contradict its central task mercy, compassion) the art of translating the good news of repentance that leads to forgiveness translating this from culture to culture, nation to nation…?

Or, you might find this helpful. Says Kristen Bargeron Grant of Cedar United Methodist Church in Ham Lake, Minnesota: “We are witnesses when we can invite someone to look into our homes, our families, our friendships, our work, our checkbook… – and find Jesus there… Look, touch, see, believe! It isn’t a ghost. It’s the living God.”

In silence, we attend to what the Spirit brings … How will you bear witness? …Amen.