2018-04-15/Easter 3-B/Community Lutheran/Rev. Joseph M. Vought
The disciples were having difficulty believing Easter because of Jesus’ death on Good Friday. The disciples think they are seeing a ghost. Many of us who have lost loved ones can relate as we struggle with grief. When I think of my parents, I almost wonder, “Were they ghosts, figments of my imagination?” I talk to my sister, I look at pictures, get sad and wonder. “I believe in the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting and the communion of saints,” and I still grieve. Were they ghosts, was it real or not?
The disciples were hearing reports of Jesus risen from women who went to the tomb. Two disciples walking to Emmaus told them about a stranger they met. As they shared the story of Jesus’ he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. When they asked him to share a meal, they recognized Jesus as he broke bread and he vanished from their sight. Then they ran to tell the others. That is where we are today: The Emmaus Rd disciples are telling their story when Jesus appears and says “Peace be with you….Look at my hands and feet.” Luke says, “They thought they were seeing a ghost and when they couldn’t believe it he said, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of fish and he ate it.” This cracks me up and the Wednesday Bible Study group thought it was funny too. Jesus says, “You got anything to eat?” Shortly after our wedding, we visited my parents in Pennsylvania. Debra struck up a conversation with my mom and I went right to the refrigerator and yelled, “You got anything to eat?” My mom said, “That my son, doesn’t even greet his mom, right to the refrigerator for something to eat.” Jesus says, “You got anything to eat? He makes it real by having a meal. He opens their minds to help them understand, “You are witnesses of these things!” The Easter Gospels tell us Jesus was real. He ate with them and shared scripture. It is what we do. We need holy food, companions on the journey and scripture to help us believe.
Last week I heard a beautiful true story. Roman Coley Davis served as an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “We were in a black zone. If you walk outside the wire there’s a 100% chance someone’s dying or coming back wounded. We were tracking Osama Bin Laden, high value targets for over a year and our tour was extended. I remember being incredibly homesick and just lost in the middle of a war. One day a Black Hawk helicopter flies in to our valley and they kick off U.S. mail bags. The sergeant called my name: ’Peaches’. I’m from Georgia so my call sign was ’Peaches.’ “Hey Peaches, come up here, you got mail.’ It was a box from home. I cut it open and it was a big thing wrapped in aluminum foil. I take off a layer and there’s thirty more layers of foil and wrapping. My Grandma had baked this pound-cake. I’ve seen Grandma bake this for people whose mothers had died. It’s what she takes to those who grieve. And here I am in a foreign country, a hostile environment with that pound cake sitting in front of me. And my twelve-man team is there. So I pulled out a Ka-Bar combat knife and hack into this thing and cut it into twelve chunks. I ate mine first and I cried. And everyone got a chunk. I think if we had dined in her kitchen the moment it cooled it could not have been as fresh as it was on that day. And, for that moment, I felt loved, even though I was lonely. The pound-cake was clean, even though I was so dirty. It was cold and that pound cake warmed me. It was just like Grandma was there.” (“Story Corps” – Roman Coley Davis)
We could spend all day in grief, wondering where those we have lost have gone. For that we must be people of faith. But in this gathering of brothers and sisters, Holy Scripture, and this Holy Sacrament, the Living Lord of Easter is present. Jesus invites us to eat, to believe and be His witnesses. For as heartsick and homesick as Roman was for his loved ones, when he shared Grandma’s pound-cake with his brothers, it was as if he was Jesus and that pound-cake was a holy sacrament. So we keep faith and love the people we are with. We are witnesses. We receive Jesus to be Jesus for others. Wherever we go and however we serve, how will we make Jesus real for others?
In the words of a beloved hymn, “Send us now with faith and courage to the hungry lost bereaved, in our living and our dying we become what we receive, Christ’s own body, blessed and broken, cup of flowing love outpoured. given as a living token of our world redeemed restored.” Amen