The Third Sunday of Easter: April 15, 2018
Preacher: Michael Taylor, Ministry Intern
O God in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Give us the grace to cast away all fear, so that we might recognize you among us. So that we might hear the word you have to say to us. So that we might be transformed, transformed to be more of you in this world. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts together glorify You, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.
Well, Holy Week is over. Jesus has died, and risen. Yet, he continues to make himself known among his disciples. Today’s gospel is one of a series of passages that make up the ‘post-resurrection(al)’ appearances of Jesus:
-Jesus appearing to Thomas who doubted, and then believed
-Jesus appearing to Luke and Cleopas as they journeyed on the road to Emmaus,
and today’s reading from Luke picks up where the Emmaus story left off. Luke and Cleopas have returned to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples that Jesus has risen, only to find the other disciples had already received the news through Simon Peter.
In the midst of, what must have been some amount of joy (what Luke calls in another section of this passage ‘disbelieving for joy’), Jesus also recognizes fear as he says; ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts.’ This is certainly an insightful question to ask and in the text which follows, we don’t hear much of an answer (at least from the disciples); Jesus just continues on. While this isn’t good manners for guest, this one-sided dialogue gives us, by its shape and flow, a pattern for what I want us to focus on today: repentance (or confession) and the forgiveness of sins (the work of peace).
However, in order to identify this pattern, we need to let the words of the passage go, and focus on a few points of the outline:
- First of all, Jesus’s presence among the disciples. Luke is very clear in specifying that Jesus didn’t appear as a spirit or a ghost, but as flesh and bone; even showing them the wounds in his hands and feet. In this Jesus demonstrates that he is the same person they have known and loved, and the same person who has loved and known them.
- Second, Jesus reminds the disciples that he is the embodiment of everything which has been written about him, in the law and in the prophets. I can only imagine that for some, this may have been the first time they made a connection between the God they believed in and the Jesus they knew; ‘opening their minds to understand the scriptures.’
- Then Jesus goes in for, what I’m used to calling as a fundraiser, the ‘ask’. It’s subtle, it’s an invitation, but it’s there: by the way, ‘repentance, for the forgiveness, of sins, should be proclaimed to all of the world, beginning from this place, from Jerusalem.’
So, what does this pattern:
-Jesus ‘making himself known’ to the disciples, and
-Jesus ‘opening their minds to understand the scriptures’
Have to do with proclaiming ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’?
The ancient word the church has always used for repentance (or confession) is μετάνοια, which is often translated as a ‘change of mind’, However, in its most basic sense it means to turn and is innately connected with memory or a sense of remembering. Turning, looking back, remembering. But for what purpose? Thomas Merton writes, ‘At the center of our being is a place beyond, a place beyond our fears, a place beyond illusion, a place beyond sin. It is a place of truth, a place where we are truly who God has created us to be, a place which belongs entirely to God.’
Perhaps then, in its truest sense, the work of repentance, (or confession), is just this; taking time in our daily lives to (in the midst of fear, and pain, and loss) remember who we are and who’s we are in God; beyond illusion and beyond a false sense of self; and to let everything else, which is not that, go.
However, this is work that can’t be done without allowing Jesus, wherever we are on our journey of faith, to be present to us as Jesus was present to the disciples, so that our minds and our hearts might be opened. This is the only way to know our true selves, to let leave behind what needs to be left behind, to bless what needs to be blessed, and to be a source of peace and reconciliation in this world.
And again, wherever we are on our journey of faith. As my friend Rabbi David Ingber at Romemu often says, ‘God doesn’t care whether we believe in God or not’; just show up.
There are several ways we can do this:
In the church, we ‘practice’ this important work every Sunday at the Eucharist. Following the Liturgy of the Word we confess our sins (through not in Eastertide as we live into God’s sense of peace for the world). We pray together that those things ‘which we have done, and left undone’ might be forgiven (having some inner acknowledgement of our true selves in this practice) and exchange a sign of peace before sharing in the bread and wine. This practice of confession and peace is one of the earliest components of the Liturgy, and everything else, and all of our life together, follows after it.
As a community, we can continue to be present to others, and allowing God to be present to us through others, and so that, in reading the law and the prophets we might have a foundation for being a voice for justice and a prophetic voice in a world where missiles are used instead of diplomacy, an era of the New Jim Crow, an era where the rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters have come up for debate.
We can begin by thinking of those areas in our own lives which need healing and wholeness (something at work, in our families, in the lives of those we care about); to allow ourselves to be truly present to those situations and to allow God to be present to us in those situations, allowing God to speak a ‘word’ we need to hear so that our minds and hearts might be opened.
Sometimes in life the need for repentance and peace is great, as it is now, in our world, and perhaps in our own lives too. So inn my own prayer life, I’ve been working with a phrase, which I use to introduce a time of silence and follow a time of silence. Holding whatever needs repentance and peace in our lives and communities let’s use this phrase for a brief moment of prayer now.
Lord as you are, Lord as you know, have mercy.
O God in whom we live, and move, and have our being. Give us the grace to cast away all fear, so that we might recognize you among us. So that we might hear what you have to say to us. So that we might be more of you in this world.