Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sermon Sunday April 19

Luke 24:36b-43

24:36b While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."

24:37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

24:38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

24:39 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."

24:40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

24:41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?"

24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,

24:43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

Easter 3 year B 041915
Luke 24:36b-43
Resurrection Brunch

On Easter we looked at the Easter story in the Gospel of Mark. We saw how Mark leaves the question of the resurrection of Jesus open for interpretation. We don’t see the resurrected Jesus in Mark’s original ending. Jesus’ resurrection is a story told to the women by some guy who isn’t even given a name.

We talked about how other gospel writers found this open ended ending unappealing and so they added the resurrected Jesus to the ending of their gospels. Today we have one of those post Easter Jesus sightings in the Gospel of Luke.

Today’s reading happens in Luke’s gospel just after two of the disciples run in and report that they were on the road to Emmaus and they met a stranger who when they broke bread together was recognized as the resurrected Jesus. And no sooner did they tell the story the Jesus was standing right there with all the disciples.

Luke wants to make sure that we know that this Jesus is no ghost. He has flesh and scars and if that isn’t enough he eats some fish. Ghosts apparently may be able to look like a person but they won’t be able to eat anything or maybe ghosts don’t like fish.

Our problem is that we don’t know Luke. We are not even sure that he is the guy who traveled with Paul, we are not even sure that he was a guy. Luke telling us that Jesus appeared and ate fish is to us no different than that unnamed stranger telling the women that Jesus was raised. It’s a story told to us by someone we don’t know.

I was brought up to believe that if Jesus didn’t actually, physically, literally rise from the dead then our faith is in vain. Christianity, I was taught must absolutely hold firm to the actual physical resurrection of the Jesus…. Without Jesus actually standing there eating Thomas’ fish stick, Christianity is pointless.

That is what I was told and I believed it. But it has been many years since Sunday School and I’m not so sure that the difference between Mark’s open ended ending and Luke’s brunch with Jesus is all that big a difference.

They are both stories of faith. In the end, it is about what the story means in our lives not whether we believe in scientific accuracy of a story that was never intended to be a document of science. Gospels are stories of faith and not faith in the exact details of things that happened two thousand years ago, but faith in what is ultimately important today.

Stories of resurrection are, for me at least, not stories that require that I believe that Jesus had brunch with the disciples after he was resurrected. They are stories about how the power of death in all of its forms is not the last word. Life in all its complexity and messiness trumps death. Love is the first and last word.

Resurrection is about choosing not to be defined by death and domination but instead to choose life and liberation.

It’s not believing in the literal resurrection of Jesus that sits at the heart of our faith, some people believe, some don’t. At the heart of our faith is whether or not we choose resurrection for ourselves. Do we choose to live in a reality not governed by those who deal in death? Do we choose to live outside of the power of the heartless and greedy, the haters and killers, the exploiters and despoilers and instead create a better world?

Those are questions about what we do today and not what we believe Jesus did that post Easter morning two thousand years ago.

Whether you believe the resurrection of Jesus was an event in history or a metaphor is not what is important. Some people are like Thomas, they won’t believe until they see; but remember, the first community of the followers of Jesus didn’t kick Thomas out because he didn’t believe. He was there, among them, one of them, when Jesus came again. 

Sometimes people will come up to me and confess that they don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They usually offer this information to show why they cannot participate in the life of the Christian Church. I would disagree with them. The question is whether they want to work for the vision of a world resurrected from the powers of death.

A religion that requires the supernatural springs from a world view that says that the transformative power of love can only conquer through the supernatural. It cedes that world as we know it to the Powers of hate, greed and death. It says that only through supernatural intervention can something as flimsy as love in the forms of justice and compassion triumph. I don’t concede the world to the purveyors of violence. The natural world is wondrous enough to hold the triumph of love.

There mystery enough in the world. There is wonder enough in the world. There is power enough in love to transform lives and nations. Resurrection is a choice for the living.

There was this woman, born into slavery. She was beaten by her masters many times. One time as a child, she was hit in the head by a two pound weight, a blow that nearly killed her and caused her to suffer a form of epilepsy for the rest of her life. She became a woman of faith, preferring the stories of liberation in the Bible over the instructions for slaves to serve their masters.

She broke the laws of the day and escaped her slavery and then went back time and again to lead other escaped slaves to freedom through a network of nonviolent civil disobedience practitioners known as the Underground Railroad. Many of those non-violent protesters were members of Congregationalist Churches part of our history here at Keystone Congregational.

When the Civil War broke out she became a scout for the Union Army and helped recruit former slaves into the military. On her way home after the war, a white man told her to give up her seat and move back to the smoking car. She refused. Nearly a hundred years before Rosa Parks it took three men to remove her from her seat, leaving her with a broken arm.

After the war she became a champion of the struggle to gain the vote for women and advocated for subsidized housing for the poor in her home town. Harriet Tubman was a woman who believed in her power to change the world around her. Though the world told her that she had no power and little value, she showed the world the resurrection power of a faithful, stubborn, hopeful woman.

Resurrection it is a choice for our lives and communities. It is present choice which forms the future.

Personally I don’t care whether Jesus ate fish or pop tarts. I don’t care whether we have post resurrection sightings in the Gospel or whether they end as Mark’s Gospel did. I do care whether people believe that individuals and communities can arise from the tombs of hopelessness. I do care whether people believe in the transformational power of loving engagement with unjust systems. I do care whether or not people believe in their own power to choose a path of purpose for themselves and like Harriet Tubman, lead others to that freedom.

If your experience is like mine then I believe that while you move your life towards the service of justice and compassion, you will experience the mystical. You will feel that there is more… that there is a Spirit, there is a mystical connection between all things and beyond all things. But that feeling is just a bonus. It won’t give you super powers, it will just help you realize that in all the work, there is a spiritual presence; it is good to feel that you are not alone.

We do the work of justice and compassion because we believe in it. We don’t do it to get to heaven or to experience the mystical. It is about what we give and not what we get. But in the work of justice and compassion we get purpose for our lives and often hope for the future.

For those who need to see the resurrected one. We who turn our lives over to the work of love are that presence, nothing supernatural, but something powerful enough to change lives and nations. Resurrection for us is not about believing in a past incident, it is about being the very living presence of the transforming power of love. Resurrection is something we are, something we do, a seed we plant, a dream we live. And that is good news.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

An Invitation

By the time an average child in America reaches the age of 18 they will have seen 200,000 violent acts on television. Every year the average child sees around 20,000 television commercials.

Every time you turn on a television, play a video game, hear the news, read a book, or look at an advertisement you open yourself to a message. Every day messages are being planted in you and your children. Messages that say things like:
  • The more you own the happier you are.
  • The solution to the violence of bad people is the violence of good people.
  • Be afraid of strangers, foreigners, people of other races, people of other religions, people who are homeless etc…..
  • Everything can and should be competitive.
  • People get what they deserve.
  • Everyday people are powerless to make real change.

The more we allow these lies to flow into us unquestioningly the more they become part of us.

Take time to invest in a different message:
  • Resources are to be shared so that all may have enough.
  • Violence is never the right choice.
  • Treat others as you would want to be treated.
  • Cooperation over competition.
  • Standing up against injustice is a sacred duty.
  • There is hope for the world and anyone can contribute to that hope.

It is time to join in communities of resistance to the violence laced, greed driven culture of domination. We offer one such community: Keystone United Church of Christ. Bring your talent, bring your hope, bring your children, and work with us to build a better world.