There is no video this week due to some technical difficulties. We thank Pastor Evans, Diane Curry, and Ed Kapsha for a wonderful service.
Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48
Jesus himself stood among [the disciples] and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 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.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
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.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 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, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Remember Casper the friendly Ghost? There was a remake of the old show – a movie that came out when I was a kid. It wasn’t a cartoon but had real people, with computer animated ghosts. I loved it, but that’s a different story. One of my favorite scenes was Casper making breakfast – he cooks up all this food, pancakes, eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice. For his 3 vulgar and scheming and disruptive uncles – who are also ghosts. They come down to breakfast and rudely start shoveling food into their mouths and then the camera pans out till you see underneath the table and all the chewed up pancakes and orange juice just piles up, cause well, they’re ghosts.
In this Resurrection story – The disciples think they’re seeing a ghost. Which for most people in the movies, would be a very frightening experience, Casper the friendly ghost aside. His greeting of peace be with you – anticipates their fear and anxiety, and he asks them Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look and touch me – I’m real. And then he asks for something to eat.
This is either as final proof of his living body, or as in the comfortable way you show up to your best friend’s house and open the fridge and say, “got anything to eat here?”
In her beautiful memoir, Take This Bread, Sara Miles, a self-described “secular intellectual,” relates what happened to her when she wandered into a church one day and “ate Jesus.” She was hungering and thirsting for righteousness, she writes; and she “found it at the eternal and material core of Christianity: body, blood, bread, wine, poured out freely, shared by all. I discovered a religion rooted in the most ordinary yet subversive practice: a dinner table where everyone is welcome, where the despised and outcasts are honored.” For Miles, this conversion at the communion table eventually led her to start a ministry centered on real food, real hunger, and real bodies. She opened food pantries all over San Francisco, feeding hundreds of people each week — people from all walks of life.
Jesus also gathers us to eat and drink in his Real Presence – and be a part of this new community. This community where bodies and physical needs matter, feeding and hunger are forever linked to Jesus appearance among his disciples. My first week at work here in this new community, I was able to witness first-hand the feeding ministry of this congregation.
The many volunteers and the willing hands that make it possible for people not only to receive some food, but receive compassion as well, to receive conversation and care for who they are. The volunteers know the regulars and care for those who have health restrictions or special food needs. What they like, and don’t like. They aren’t just a number or a needy person, they are an individual who’s whole life matters. And each person who walks through the door is treated like it might just be Jesus showing up that Tuesday morning.
I like how Jesus shows up in the middle of the disciples. Doesn’t appear in the distance, doesn’t shine down from heaven upon them or call to them out of some bright light but stands in their midst. On earth. In the thick of it. Their reaction is justified, though we might like to think if Jesus was standing visibly in the flesh, in our midst, we’d be a little more worshipful and serene, as opposed to startled and terrified. But instead of condemning them for their fear and their doubt, he comforts them. And the best line of the story. 1While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering. The disciples are showing us what it means to be in the presence of the risen Christ. Joy. And yet disbelief. Doubt and yet still wondering. Could this really be him? But how? How exactly did all of this just happen. It feels real. He feels real – but still….
And he goes a step further, he shares their meal, he eats their fish. He becomes truly present in the midst of their humanity, their need to eat and be fed. And over a meal of broiled fish – a basic staple and ordinary thing – he shares with them again his words that they are to remember and repeat. And here’s what I think is particularly gorgeous about Luke’s description of this scene: even though the disciples don’t believe — or at least experience faith as this mixture of joy and doubt and wonder — they are still called to be witnesses. And if that’s true for them, well, then, we’re certainly not exempt. Part of being “resurrection people,” that is, is being witnesses.
This new community that is being formed, where we eat and drink together and remember Jesus is among us, where we welcome strangers and feed them and remember Jesus is among us. Where we don’t have to be sure about how or when or why, but we look at our community and others with the eyes of faith. Recognizing that Jesus might just show up, whether or not we recognize him. Looking at each other with the perspective of all things being made new – when we see love joy and peace, knowing God is there. When we see gentleness, kindness and self-control, knowing God’s spirit is at work. Keeping our ears and eyes and hearts open, with joy doubt and wonder, trusting the promise that if Jesus is raised from the dead, then He just might be here with us, and that changes everything.