22 April 2012

Scriptures:            Acts:  3:12-19                                    Luke 24:36b-48

Holy and gracious God ~ You come to us in so many surprising ways.  Open our eyes to see You standing in our midst; open our heart to proclaim our witness to Your presence.  Amen.

“You know: the disciples didn’t believe it, either!”  And, truth be told, sometimes we don’t either!

Our gospel reading from Luke tells us about the events that happened on Easter evening … but it starts out rather ambiguously …

“While they were talking …”

Let’s go back and put this reading into context.

Earlier in the day … the day that we identify as Easter … Cleopas and another disciple were on the road to Emmaus …

When suddenly a stranger approaches and wants to know why they are so depressed.

As they explain their problem … this STRANGER suddenly6 “opens” the scriptures to them … that is, He tells the Scripture story in such a way that it comes to life and they can embrace the story in their own lives.

These clueless disciples finally recognize their companion … who is JESUS … when they break bread together … and it is THEN that they rush back to tell the others:  WE have seen the risen Lord!!!

Now … these other disciples are all together in a place where they feel safe … IOW: they are gathered in community.

And, suddenly: Jesus appears:

  • He greets them with His most calming words:  “PEACE BE WITH YOU!”
  • What an awesome greeting!  My calmness and serenity be in your heart, spirits and minds.
  • This was an incredible moment … a moment that defied explanation … a moment that Jesus had tried to prepare His disciples for …

And yet … this community of faithful follower were startled and terrified and did not believe!!!

SO … as we hear … Jesus engaged their senses to prove that He was real!

  • (sight) LOOKat my hands and feet ~ see … it is REALLY me who you last saw crucified on a cross …
  • (touch) TOUCH me … I can’t be a ghost if I have warm flesh and you can feel my bones through my skin

AND, while the disciples are still trying to comprehend what is happening … Jesus asks them for something to eat …

  • Tasting and eating the broiled fish that someone places in front of Him.

And, then, He talked to them about everything that He had taught them … what they knew from the Scriptures … and what He was sending them out to do … AS A COMMUNITY … that is, to share the good news of His lifeANDHis resurrection in order to build up new communities.

EXERCISE … what is it REALLY like to be community together?

~ Throw yarn from person to person until everyone has a hold of part of the yarn.

We areALLwitnesses now of what it means to be an integral part of the web of community.  SO … What words best describe what it mean s to be community together???

TOGETHER                  DIVERSITY                  VISION

UNITY                        GOALS                          BELIEFS

COMMUNICATION     ETHICS

Today’s text brings the work and ministry of Jesus full circle.  Luke tells us at the beginning of his Gospel that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for all of creation. AND, just when we thought that the story is over, God had something else to say.  And it reminds us that it always was … and always will be … about God.

Jesus came and taught and commissioned.  His entire life, death, and rising were about what God is doing in the world … that is, reconciling the world to God’s self.  From the beginning of time, it has always been about God and God’s purposes, aims and agenda for creation … which is: repentance that leads to forgiveness of sins and the wholeness of creation.

The risen Christ appeared to groups and individuals to assure them that He lives; to teach them to put their fear and doubt in the context of God’s grand plan; to open their understanding of the Scriptures; and to commission them as witnesses of all that God has done and is doing in the world.

And, just as Jesus commissioned His disciples, Jesus also commissions us to be witnesses to what God is doing in our world.  And God’s plan is SO needed right now.  We live in a world that is filled with war and poverty, injustices and hatred, suffering and pain.  We desperately need God to show up in the risen Christ, to offer comfort and reassurance.  And, it is our risen Lord who now invites us to be witnesses that it is all about God’s intention to bring peace, unity, harmony, love, compassion, grace, justice and mercy to a world that is broken and sinful.

Today’s text challenges us to, first of all, acknowledge who we truly are as members of this community of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ.  We are a rich and diverse group of people.  We come from many backgrounds and have been gifted with a wide variety of talents and abilities that can be combined together in an almost endless variety of ways in order to accomplish great things withANDfor God.

Then, this text also challenges us to ask ourselves:  What in our communities needs the presence of the risen Christ?  And, what is our response, as a community of faith, to God’s presence and work in the world?  And, even more importantly: How do we participate together in God’s work on earth?

And, there is so much that we COULD be doing, isn’t there.  Especially since there are no ‘qualifying’ limits to sharing in this work together … like age, physical fitness, financial or educational status.  We simply just have to show up!  … with a willing spirit and an open heart.

Whether we are rebuilding homes for flood victims in Haiti OR erecting Habitat homes in Trumbauersville … whether we are drilling wells to provide safe drinking water for people in African communities OR organizing food donations on the pantry shelves at Pennridge FISH … whether we join the members of the wider church across the United States OR encourage our pew neighbor to join us in a mission project to help the needy … whether we are working on grand projects to benefit the many OR work one-on-one to help a neighbor … my friends, May the risen Christ renew our desire to live and work together in community.  And, mayALLof our actions bear faithful witness to the risen Christ and God’s redeeming grace at work among us.

Amen!

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