Jesus is hungry, 3 Easter (B) – 2015

April 19, 2015

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

So there is Jesus standing among his closest friends, the disciples. That is meant to represent us. He says, “Shalom!” Loosely translated, that comes across as, “Peace be with you.” This is unfortunately an inadequate attempt to put shalom into English.

Shalom means much more than “peace.” Or “peace” means much more than what we think it means. Since shalom means to convey that all is well with the world, all is just, all is fair, all is the way God means it to be, it ultimately means something more like, “What are you doing to make the world look more like God’s world than Caesar’s world?” With “Caesar” standing in for whatever the principalities and powers look like in a given era – empires, rulers, governments, multi-national corporations, markets, organized religion and the like.

Appropriately the disciples are startled – the dead one is on the loose. And terrified – because, holy moly, here he is! And he still has shalom on his mind. Always has, always will, always does.

Jesus then asks the disciples, “Why are you frightened?”

Could it be because the last time we saw you, you were dead, hanging on a Roman cross, soldiers all around, angry people all around, and, well, as far as we knew, dead is dead?

Well, he seems to say, that is true enough. Here, look at the wounds – see my hands, see my feet.

So, upon examining his hands and feet, hands and feet that have had nails – spikes, really – driven through them, the disciples, we, are filled with joy tinged with disbelief. They still think it may be a ghost. But nevertheless, joy.

Then the real Jesus steps forward. “Have you anything to eat?” Didn’t he always say you have to come to God’s Kingdom like a child? And how many times a day do children look at their parents and say, “What’s to eat?”

Apparently, as it is in real life, so it is in the resurrection of the dead: We need something to eat, something to sustain us, something to nourish us. So does Jesus. He wants us to feed him.

So how are we to respond to his simple yet direct request? The disciples offer some broiled fish. There is evidence that in the early church, as it was with the feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000, there likely were bread-and-fish Eucharists. There are even illustrations of such on the walls of early catacombs. There are still places in Europe, I have been told, where the “Eucharist” is still a foot-washing ritual devoid of bread and wine as the fourth evangelist, John, depicts “the Last Supper.” That is, things are not always as they seem.

Jesus is hungry. He wants something to eat. They give him fish. He eats the fish. But perhaps we need to pay attention to what happens next. He “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” – that is what was referred to as The Law and the Prophets: Hebrew Scripture.

This suggests that perhaps his hunger is not for fish, not for bread, not for wine. Jesus is still hungry post-resurrection. He was hungry before the resurrection as well. We would do well to consider the source of his hunger before we are so quick to offer him something to satisfy his hunger. An in-depth understanding of Torah and the Prophets is to be the starting place.

Jesus was vexed with his contemporary religionists. He felt that the application of Torah, application of the Law and the Prophets, had gone off in direction not of God’s liking. Instead of bringing God’s people, all people, together, the administration, the understanding, of God’s 638 rules, beginning with the First Ten, was being used to separate people more than bring them together.

This vexation made Jesus hungry – hungry for freedom, shalom and justice for all people – not some people, not most people, not lots of people. All people.

Had he not made it clear that the hungry were to be fed? The naked clothed? The prisoner visited? The sick made well? The stranger, the resident alien as the Bible calls them, welcomed? The thirsty given something to assuage their thirst? Had he not self-identified with all these people, including lepers, women, orphans, children, servants, gentiles and Jews?

In a church that is increasingly consumed with power struggles within and without; a church looking for the next great Public Relations scheme to attract people; a church consumed with creating dividing lines between correct and incorrect “belief”; a church consumed with parking within the lines, a church consumed with chastising nuns who are devoting “too much time” to issues of social justice; a church that in 1215 under Pope Innocent III decreed that all Jews should wear a yellow patch of cloth sewn to their coats; a church consumed with just about anything but Shalom. Is it too difficult to see that Jesus, who promises to be present in the bread and the wine, Jesus who promises that he is the stranger, he is the prisoner, he is the leper, he is the beggar on the street, he is the prostitute, sinner, the woman who is bleeding to death, the mother or father begging for their child’s life, and a tax collector; a Jesus who endlessly teaches about our relationship to the land, the earth, in countless agricultural stories, parables and analogies; a Jesus who challenges every sovereign temporal and religious power – is it too difficult to see that having been raised from being three days dead and gone and now returned and back with us for all eternity, that this Jesus whom we are to proclaim in all that we do and all that we say wants something more than a piece of broiled fish when he asks, “Have you anything to eat?”

“Repentance,” says Jesus, “and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed…to all nations, all persons, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Are we really witnesses to these things? These things Jesus is hungry for? Jesus, says Luke, is hungry. The Risen Lord, blessed be his Name, is hungry! What in the world are we prepared to offer him? What in the world are we willing to give to him? How shall our witness satisfy his hunger?

Is it possible that his “Shalom” is not a greeting at all? Is it rather a request? An order? Is he asking for Shalom? Are we prepared to give him this Shalom he speaks of and died for? Or, are we still satisfied to just offer him a piece of broiled fish? Jesus is hungry. He wants us to be hungry too. How we respond will determine if His hunger is satisfied. We know what it will take. We have these Great Fifty days of Easter to begin!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

 

— The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek has served as rector and assistant in a broad variety of parishes over the past 28 years. He is currently chaplain and teaches at St. Timothy’s School for girls, the Diocese of Maryland girls’ boarding school, where he teaches World Religions and American History. His sermons are archived at www.perechief.blogspot.com.

Like the disciples, we are called to experience and value this Earth, 3 Easter (B) – April 22, 2012

By Frederica Helmiere

(Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48)

The Jesuit priest and renowned teacher on prayer Anthony de Mello suggests an interesting spiritual practice based on the questions of Jesus. He urges us to enter a prayerful state and then imagine that Jesus is asking us one of the questions that he poses in the gospels.

Today’s gospel reading presents several questions. The first two that Jesus asks are “Why are you frightened?” and “Why do doubts arise in your heart?”

Most of us would respond to Jesus’ questions with a litany of personal concerns for our families, our health, our jobs. Expanding our realm of concern somewhat, we may tap into anxieties over an uncertain economy or our nation’s involvement in violent conflicts at home and abroad. Taking a step further back, many might express deep fear and doubt over what is arguably the most pressing and far-reaching crisis of our time: ecological degradation so vast that it threatens Earth’s capacity to sustain life as we know it.

Today, April 22, is Earth Day – a worldwide day of awareness and action for the Earth’s natural environment. And since it falls on a Sunday this year, churches across the country and world are called to contemplate the created order around us, repenting of the church’s responsibility in furthering the destruction, accessing our Christian tradition’s rich resources to address the crisis, and sharing together the hope that, as the psalmist writes, “we might see better times.”

There is much “dishonoring of God’s glory” to lament today. We humans are destroying the life-support systems of the planet at an alarming rate. The data keeps pouring in that we are altering the climate and toxifying the air, water, and soil, jeopardizing the health of humans and other species. Global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise due to the increasing use of fossil fuels, with 80% emitted by only 19 countries. Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, most of the world’s mountain glaciers are diminishing rapidly, and forest area has decreased by 750 million acres since 1990. Each year 27,000 species created by the Author of Life go extinct – gone from the face of the earth forever. In short, Creation is groaning as never before.

Today’s gospel reading in Luke describes a reappearance of the resurrected Christ to the disciples. Jesus appears, to the shock and terror of his disciples who initially surmised that surely this was a ghost.

Many Biblical scholars believe that this particular appearance story was included in Luke to refute some problematic beliefs held by an early heretical group known as the Gnostics.

Gnosticism was a sect in early Christianity that believed, amongst other things, that matter was evil and that spirit was good. Gnostics were obsessed with achieving a release from one’s body, and escaping the evil realm of enfleshed earthly existence. Some Gnostic groups even believed that Christ was not a flesh and blood human, but instead was something like an illusion or a hologram, because surely the goodness of God could not become material.

Even though Gnosticism itself was rejected by the early church councils, the Gnostics’ tendency to separate everything into a superior and an inferior camp was very influential. For two millennia, western thinking perceived a dualism between spirit and matter. This dualism aligned spirit and reason with good, and saw matter (including Earth) as either evil, inert, or insignificant. In fact, for many years, Christians considered Earth to be nothing more than the backdrop for the human drama, a place to be endured until one could escape to heaven, far above the corrupt Earth.

The worldview that resulted from this dualism included the perceived right of humans to dominate Earth, the right of master classes to subordinate all others, the dominance of men over women, and the superiority of the white race. All acted as engines of colonialism, shaping the material circumstances of life on Earth. The process was not a pretty picture. Nor are the results.

But Christian thought is replete with messages that affirm the importance of matter, and the Luke passage is a prime example. In response to the disciples’ bewilderment and fear, Jesus tells them to look at his hands and feet. “Touch me and see,” he says, “for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” This passage in Luke is a direct contradiction of the Gnostic idea that spirit was superior to matter. On the contrary, matter is extremely important. Matter is the stuff of this Earth, and here was Jesus, incarnate, in the flesh, emphasizing the importance of the material life on Earth.

Like the disciples, we too are called to experience and value the stuff of this Earth, to see the divine spirit of God infused into the natural world around us, and to prevent its suffering. We too must respond to Peter’s call to repent, even though we may “act in ignorance,” not knowing the consequences of our actions. Peter called the Israelites and their rulers to “turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” What sins against Earth must we repent from? What times of refreshing can we imagine here on Earth?

As Christians we know that conversion and resurrection are possible. Picture the scene during the first Earth Day in 1970, as described by the Earth Day Network: “Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns: [in fact] ‘Environment’ was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.”

Today, many locales experience a different picture: awareness of climate change and ecosystem degradation is increasing, recycling is becoming more mainstream, children are learning about the environment in schools, energy efficiency is on the rise, and we see a growing market for organic products. In addition, more and more people of faith and congregations understand that their faith calls them to care for all God’s creation. The Episcopal Church has taken strong stands against environmental injustice, called congregations to reduce their energy use, passed policy endorsing strong federal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and called for “responsible lifestyles” that seek to live more simply in light of the constant push to overconsume. The Episcopal House of Bishops issued a powerful Pastoral Teaching on the Environment in September of 2011 in which they write: “This is the appointed time for all God’s children to work for the common goal of renewing the earth as a hospitable abode for the flourishing of all life. We are called to speak and act on behalf of God’s good creation.”

We return to the questions that Jesus asked his disciples: “Why are you frightened?” To be frightened for the environmental consequences of unchanged behaviors makes sense. But Jesus also asks, “Why is there doubt in your mind?” As believers, we resist the doubt and hopelessness that we might associate with environmental realities of our time. Our tradition is a wellspring of hope, vision, and courage. Christianity’s vital role in addressing the environmental crisis is offering a moral horizon, hope and courage for facing reality. This enables us, empowered through Christ, to counter hopelessness, denial, powerlessness and to live toward more just and sustainable alternatives.

On this Earth Day, may we recall the words of 1 John: “What we will be has not yet been revealed.” What we are capable of as a human community and as the body of Christ, is, perhaps still untapped.

 

— Frederica Helmiere teaches environmental writing at the University of Washington in Seattle and serves on the board of Earth Ministry. She holds an MAR from Yale Divinity School and an MESc from Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Freddie and her husband John serve a new church start in South Seattle called Valley & Mountain – a spiritual community rooted in deep listening, radical hospitality, and creative liberation.

 

 

May each of us meet the risen Lord and know him, 3 Easter (B) – 2009

April 26, 2009

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Have you noticed that many of the post-Easter stories about the resurrected Jesus are centered on meals? The disciples knew the Lord in the breaking of the bread at Emmaus, as we recall in today’s collect; and Jesus comes among the disciples and shows his risen humanity by eating a piece of broiled fish in the gospel reading today.

Meals are a very central part of the ministry of Jesus. Some meals get him into trouble, as when he chooses to eat with “sinners” and those outside the faith. Other meals are acts of abundance, as when Jesus feeds the five thousand by taking what is available and blesses, breaks, and distributes it until and all are fed. His last evening of fellowship with his disciples is focused on a meal, during which he institutes the Lord’s Supper.

Eating together is a sign of celebration of relationships being lived out. Most congregations like having meals together because they like being with each other, eating good food. So do families.

There are sacred and holy things that underlie the common meal. We know they are signs of Christ’s risen presence among us. Jesus’ use of the Passover meal to institute the Lord’s Supper ties the ritual meal, a meal recalling God’s deliverance, with a new relationship with Christ and one another. It becomes the spiritual meal that brings us all to a common table, in right relationship with God and each other. That is why it has become central to our common life as Christians.

Healing is part of the experience of eating with the risen Lord. Several years ago, a woman moved back to a small town, followed shortly by her son, who was dying of AIDS. The community accepted them both, but after his death, she had a difficult time with church and God. She was often angry and short-tempered. However, she continued to stay involved with the community, and then one weekend she attended a workshop about Bible study, followed by a fellowship meal. The next day she came to her pastor in tears and said, “You know, after the study yesterday, the meal last night, and Eucharist this morning, I’m not angry anymore.” The power of the communal and spiritual meals was a significant element in her inner healing.

Righteousness is also part of the meal experience, “righteousness” meaning right relationships based on the just treatment of all people. Scholars tell us that one fundamental difference between our world and that of the early church is that the early church existed in a world with a clearly defined ruling class and a subjugated class. So, there were people with whom you ate, and people with whom you did not eat. Slaves, the poor, Samaritans, and gentiles were kept separate from those of wealth and privilege. Jesus re-wrote the rules by associating with and eating with people of all categories; they were all God’s people to him.

Recently a small church, after many conversations, decided to host a meal for people in the neighborhood, most of who were of a different ethnic and social background. With the assistance of the local mayor, they invited people to come – and they came! The evening was centered on a meal prepared by the church members. The children played with a soccer ball while the adults sat at the table and talked. The mayor awarded door prizes to everyone, and afterward, people remarked how much fun it had been. They are considering doing it again. This is the kind of meal the risen Jesus calls us to, a table for others as well as ourselves, a righteous meal to which all are welcome.

Finally, the meal becomes a source of our hope. In today’s psalm, which is also included as part of the service of Compline in the Book of Common Prayer, the psalmist says: “Many are saying, ‘O, that we might see better times!’” All of us live with some fear and concern over our current economic situation. As more and more of us feel the stress of the times, our prayers for stability, for jobs for all, for honesty and fairness in our economic system, bring us to utter the psalmist’s words as our own – that we might see better times.

The psalmist continues with the great words of praise, even in the midst of these troubling times of war and economic distress: “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when grain and wine and oil increase.” And so the Eucharistic meal becomes the source of our comfort and hope that we might see better times and lie down in peace.

At the center of the Resurrection is the meal of celebration: the bread and the cup. Christians understand other meals in relationship to the Eucharist, and when they include all who are hungry or thirsty, they are a foretaste of that heavenly banquet where we will one day feast with him in paradise.

The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread. May each of us meet the risen Lord and know him.

 

— Ben Helmer is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of West Missouri.

Taste and See, 3 Easter (B) – 2006

April 30, 2006

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

The mystery and miracle of Jesus’ resurrection is as fresh in our minds as it was for the apostles. Together we have witnessed the events that were both necessary and inevitable for the fulfillment of God’s redeeming love. As children of God our Creator, made in the image of God our Creator, we are filled with wonder and blessing at the awesome reality of our being. We know this to be true in our deepest parts, at the core of our being. And yet, we are challenged to live as children of God. We struggle with living up to the seemingly awesome task. Is it as complicated as we make it? What I mean is that everything we need to live like children of God is knit into our very fabric, even though it is not always evident to us or by our actions.

Peter, who once denied knowing Jesus, is witness to the healing power of the resurrection. His witness prevents those who had rejected Jesus from being able to imagine anything other than Christ’s life-giving, healing power in the resurrection. The evidence of his own transformation is clearly understood by his compassionate response to those who may have persecuted Jesus; Peter tells them that it could have only been done in ignorance. Who could know this better than he?

What we know about Peter is as incredibly convicting today as it must have been for the early Christians who knew Peter, especially the disciples. He walked with Jesus, one of his “chosen” apostles, and yet he was able to deny even knowing Jesus for fear that he might lose his own life. Yet, it was the fulfillment in Jesus resurrected that Peter truly believed.

Through the different accounts of the disciples realizing Jesus’ presence in the upper room – without Thomas, then with Thomas present, and then again on the road to Emmaus – we understand how they came to believe. Their witness to these events was written down so that we might believe in and witness to the incredible gift in Jesus – and in our own lives as God’s children – without the need to see for ourselves. The Gospel is the only evidence that we need. It provides a foundation for our faith. It holds the mystery of faith and prompts us to search out our understanding of God’s great creation.

What does it mean for us to live as children of God, knowing that we have been made in God’s image? The gift of our being does not always match up to the way we live, and we are not always willing to bear witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection. What keeps us from sharing what we believe with everyone we meet? After all, aren’t they made from the same fabric in God’s image? Maybe we fit into the lukewarm category and are not convinced, let alone passionate enough to share what we believe. Maybe it is hard for us to look at our neighbor and allow ourselves to imagine that they are made from the same fabric, in the same image as our Creator.

We are living at a time when it is critical to live according to the two greatest commandments: to love our Creator God and to love one another. The Episcopal Church is entering a time of transition, which always includes some fear and anxiety. This transition will affect us all in our corporate relationships within the church and in the world. Make no mistake: treating each person as a brother and sister in Christ now will create the sacred space where the Holy Spirit’s presence can be seen and felt. In this way, we have an opportunity to experience the risen Christ standing among us and live as children of God.

The communion hymn “Taste and See” reminds us that coming to the table nourishes our bodies, minds, and spirits so we might be ready to live as children of God. We are drawn into close relationship with Jesus and each other when we share the bread and wine at the table. Engaging in the words of Scripture draws our attention to God our Creator and the incredible gift of Creation. Let us find passion for our faith so that we might share it with everyone we encounter in words and actions. And when we are uncertain, let us pray that we will recognize Jesus there at our side.

The Collect for today sums this up: “O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. AMEN.”

 

 — The Rev. Debbie Royals, Pascua Yaqui from Arizona, is a student at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in a concurrent M.Div/MA program. She leads the Four Winds congregation in Sacramento, California, and is active in Native American Ministry in the Episcopal Church, including involvement in the work of the Episcopal Council for Indigenous Ministry (ECIM).