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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Easter 3, Year B
Reaffirmations of Baptism
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 15, 2018

Luke 24:36-48

‘A stranger in whom they recognised their crucified Saviour’

Two formerly dejected disciples of Jesus, Cleopas and his companion (perhaps his wife), have returned to Jerusalem after meeting a stranger in whom they recognised their crucified Saviour. They are filled with excited emotions, jittery expectations. The story they knew, the world they knew, the God they thought they knew – all this has been reconfigured, transfigured in the light of Easter. God be with you …

Luke 24 (the “Road to Emmaus” and other stories) 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, the gospel itself, emerges in a context of worship  – communal prayers, songs, rituals.

Believers at worship. People who tell the truth about what they have experienced.

We have heard some of the earliest testimonies: “I touched him, and he was not a ghost”; “I saw the marks in his hands and feet”; “I broke bread with him”. We have read about lives rewritten, life stories retold.

For Jesus calls to mind, makes central, that which was marginal (the story of slaves, a suffering servant, a valley of dry bones) – 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 …

The crucifixion (tragedy, failure, curse) is not a detour from God’s plan but the final step in God’s long journey down into the plight of broken humanity. Ultimately, love’s victory, transcendence – the power of non-violence.

We are in a similar setting. A gathering of lost and excited souls, friends and strangers talking and wondering (How many scholars will Ian encourage to join the Bible study group? How many colours to celebrate Pamela’s being in the world?), then Jesus making himself known as the One who brings peace, the risen One present in and through the physical; and again the food is shared, again Jesus interprets the scriptures, and disciples are sent out: now clearly with a mission of repentance and forgiveness for all people.

How might we bear witness – with words, singing, actions, with strength of character? To what, to whom might we bear witness today?

The sharing of his peace … Note that Jesus is not at all interested in retribution – there is no threat of revenge, not even for those who persecuted and/or abandoned him. His peace has to do with restoring community – with restorative justice. Richard Kearney puts it this way: “[R]ather than glorying in some kind of I-told-you-so posthumous triumph, Jesus takes his leave ... He becomes little or nothing again” (The God Who May Be, 49).

His spiritual presence in and through the physical … reaching out to embrace the lost, allowing the forsaken to reach out to him. Is our faith a mere spiritualism? 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, rest … model life and draw from life?

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 … by his patient respect for grief and confusion. By his inspiring a wonder that overcomes cruelty and bitterness, and inspiring a repentance that leads to forgiveness. There is nothing moralistic about this text … The church offers moral and ethical guidance, yes, but its central task is mercy, compassion – the art of translating the good news of repentance that leads to forgiveness, translating this from culture to culture, from one time and place to another …

We are witnesses, perhaps, when we can invite others – when we invite one another – to examine our reaffirmations and celebrations, and find Jesus there. We are witnesses when we allow ourselves to touch and to be touched – to reaffirm and to celebrate vulnerability. We are witnesses when we live in a way that defies any explanation other than the presence of the risen Christ within/among us.

Our God “gives with a gratuity that defies the limits of space and time” (Richard Kearney). Look, touch, see, believe. It isn’t a ghost, not just an idea. It is the living God. Amen.