April 15, 2018 Easter 3
Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Behind Locked Doors
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen. Psalm 19:14
Alleluia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Again we find the disciples behind locked doors for fear of the Romans, for fear of the Chief Priest and the other religious leaders. The disciples fear arrest and execution; they feel grief and despair upon the death of their friend and leader Jesus; they are confused and apprehensive about stories of sightings of Jesus and claims that Jesus is alive. Suddenly Jesus appears in their midst despite the locked door and invites them to satisfy themselves that he really is Jesus in the flesh and bone. The disciples can see Jesus, can hear Jesus and even touch Jesus and his wounds. Jesus asks for a piece of fish and eats it, something a ghost could never do. Jesus meets them in their fear and uncertainty and offers them his peace. Jesus engages his disciples intellectually opening their minds to understand the scriptures and that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise again on the third day. Finally Jesus commissions the disciples to proclaim the message of repentance and forgiveness in his name to all nations beginning with Jerusalem.
The danger has not decreased and yet I am sure the disciples’ terror has diminished and their stress levels have lowered. They know for themselves that Jesus really is alive. They have witnessed his ministry, arrest, death and resurrection for themselves and can attest to it in full confidence. Jesus is alive! Alleluia!
What doors are we hiding behind in fear? What obstacles stand in our way of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God? What prevents us, you and me, from fully believing and trusting in God?
I may fear that people will make fun of me or despise me or ignore me or think of me as being irrational or even crazy for believing such things. Will this affect my employment opportunities, who my friends are? Rationally, intellectually, people don’t rise from the grave, return to life after dying. People don’t walk through locked doors or solid walls except in science fiction movies. Beam me up Scottie! Or Back to the Future in an HG Wells Time Machine. Jesus wasn’t a hologram since Thomas could actually touch Jesus and Jesus could eat a piece of fish. So who or what was Jesus? The author of Luke is telling us that Jesus was a man who died on a cross and that the Risen Jesus is the Crucified Jesus. He shows us the wounds in his hands and his feet that we can touch. The Risen Jesus is the Divine one who can walk through a locked door, but is also flesh and bone. Is there blood? Jesus is divine and Jesus is human. Jesus the son of Mary is also the son of God, fully human and fully divine.
Can I believe this? Do I believe this? How can I ask others to believe this if I am not certain? Mary Magdalene did not believe until she met Jesus in the garden. The disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene until they saw Jesus for themselves. Thomas did not believe the disciples until he saw Jesus for himself. This is not an easy request, but the authors of the gospels want us to believe and tell us what they think we need to know in order to believe. They know it will be hard since we cannot physically see and touch Jesus or have him sit down and eat a meal with us, but the author of John has Jesus say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Luke tells us that the risen Jesus opened the disciples’ minds and hearts to understand the scripture. The Bible can also help us today to understand and come to know God and Jesus. Like the disciples we need help in interpreting and understanding the Bible. We read scripture on our own. We hear scripture in church. Your preacher, that would be me, provides an interpretation in their sermon. Group Bible study gives us a chance to discuss the scripture with others and hear different meanings and interpretations. We read different books and get different, often conflicting interpretations. Sometimes we even find that the Bible has conflicting stories and ideas within it. Who is right? Who do we believe? What should we believe? Can we trust what the Bible says? Sometimes it just seems easier not to think about it!
My understanding of the Bible, of God and of Jesus is continually growing, changing and developing. It is like Mathematics. Before we learn to solve quadratic equations we learn about numbers, how to add and subtract, how to multiply and divide, about the power of numbers and then we learn how to solve an equation.
I have come to believe that the Bible is the story of a people and their relationship with God, showing their growing and evolving understanding of God culminating in God’s self-revelation through Jesus Christ. The story is not complete. We continue to add to the story as our understanding of God evolves. I no longer read the Bible as a history book although it contains history. I no longer take the Bible literally or believe in the inerrancy of Scriptures, but I do believe it to be true and to contain all we need to know about salvation and growing into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Perhaps we fear that there won’t be enough for everyone, that there won’t be enough for me and my family and for others. How can God realistically expect me to share what I have with the poor and the needy? Even Jesus said that we would always have the poor. It is not a one-time thing. How can I be expected to standup against the injustices I see in our society? I might argue that I don’t have the time or the money or the knowledge to do anything.
I once asked the Bishop of Lexington what the greatest need was and what I should focus on. He wisely replied that I should work on whatever I was interested in, what I was passionate about and that would meet a need. St. James’ is passionate about feeding the hungry. We believe the people of Albion have a right to fresh, healthy food and so we provide a monthly community supper, we host Lenten lunches and salad luncheons, and we donate to AIM. We are also passionate about gardening and the beauty of flowers and so we work to grow the Albion Community Gardens. We believe in feeding the hungry, but also in teaching people how to grow their own fruit and vegetables. We don’t just believe in teaching, but also in providing the tilled land, the seeds and plants, mentoring children and new gardeners and in planting, harvesting, preserving and cooking the food we grow. In sharing our organization skills, grant writing skills, Master Gardener skills; in sharing our experience of gardening, plowing fields, canning we are helping Albion grow into a community of God, building friendships and relationships, restoring unity across gender, race, age and socio-economic divides in our common need and desire for fresh fruits and vegetables and our desire to restore abandoned land to productive and beautiful gardens to feed the minds, hearts and stomachs of the people Albion.
Today’s gospel reading from Luke shares with us the identity of Jesus; shows us the importance of reading Scripture to see God at work in nature and in history, to hear the story of Jesus’ life and teachings and to hear the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God for all people; and finally Luke gives us his version of the Great Commission, that the disciples and we are to share the story of Jesus crucified and resurrected and to proclaim the message of repentance and forgiveness to all nations. So I invite you to unlock the doors shut on your fears and come out into the Kingdom of God as witnesses for Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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