We quickly discovered that although we knew this section of trail intimately because we were seeing it from a new perspective it was as if we were in a foreign country. All the landmarks were still there but they had become unfamiliar and seemed entirely new. We had to pay close attention. When the trail diverged we had to decide which was the right path, once or twice we were convinced we had gone the wrong way and would have to retrace our steps.
As I reflected on this I began to see it as a metaphor of the way the disciples experienced the Easter resurrection. They too were still in very familiar territory…two of them, certain that all was lost were walking back to their homes in the village of Emmaus. Others, equally despondent and afraid were huddled together behind locked doors in a room in Jerusalem. In John’s gospel the disciples have accepted the death of their dreams and hopes, and so have returned home to Galilee and resumed their former lives as fishermen. Suddenly all that is familiar blows up, explodes, and they experience Jesus there with them. Everything that they had known to be true, irreversible, inevitable is called into question and they are forced to see their reality from an entirely new, unprecedented perspective.
So, how did they react to this? On the road to Emmaus they didn’t even recognize who this stranger was, even though they had a long conversation with him, and even invited him into their home. The disciples who were huddled behind locked doors when they became aware of Jesus there with them, were terrified, certain this was a ghost. Thomas simply refused to believe what the others were telling him. And Peter, good old impetuous Peter, was out in his boat fishing when he realized that the man cooking fish on the beach was actually Jesus, so he jumped over board fully clothed and began to swim to shore. So, confronted with this radically new possibility, they were disoriented until they could begin to see the old from an entirely new perspective. They had to believe the impossible was in fact the new reality. They had to restructure their lives in order to be citizens of this new reality.
We, generations later, know their story, how they did in fact just that. We know how they became a small, courageous, energetic community filled with the same spirit that informed every moment of Jesus’ life. How the same passion to do God’s will that guided Jesus now guided them. How they became known as People of the Way.
So what about us as the glory and energy of our Easter celebrations begins to become just a memory? If it was hard for the disciples to reconcile their understanding of reality with the living presence of Jesus, how much more so it is for us…thousands of years removed from the event, living in a world of science, reason and common sense? How can we begin to see our familiar reality in radically new ways, how can we experience Jesus living among us?
Three themes that weave through the various resurrection accounts help us to be the community of The Way. First, Jesus’ words to the disciples, “Peace be with you.” We know that peace is with us when we become active advocates of it, finding ways to live in peace with the creation, protecting the environment from the ravages of excess consumption. We know that peace is with us when we become advocates for peaceful solutions to replace the violence, destruction and death that currently infect our human community. We know that peace when we live up to our baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.
A second theme: the disciples finally recognize who Jesus is by his wounds. We live in a wounded world, a very wounded world. The wounds of poverty, hunger, homelessness, racial and religious hatred, disease, suspicion and fear and war. Many of you know first hand the living presence of Jesus when you have put aside your own comforts and concerns to bind up, soothe, heal some of those wounds. You’ve experienced it at the Salvation Army shelter, on the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, hammering nails in a Habitat house, reading to school kids, visiting a lonely resident of a nursing home, or an anxious patient in the hospital.
And finally, food…feeding and being fed recurs in so many of the resurrection stories. We know the presence of Christ when we gather here to be fed in the bread and wine of our Eucharist. We know the presence of Christ when we leave here to feed a hungry world. The psalm appointed for this third Sunday of Easter, Psalm 98, begins this way - “Sing to the Lord a new song for he has done marvelous things.” May our lives be part of that new song. Amen.
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 13:59