Christ is With Us!

Kenora                  3 Easter

Year B

18 April 2021

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Wounded God, disabled and divine: give us faith to perceive you pierced and embodied, standing hear among us feeding us forgiveness, beautifully broken; through Christ, the suffering servant. Amen.

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We are all familiar with grief, and loss, these days. We know what it’s like to experience loss in general. We know what its like to grieve even if we cannot put a name to what it is we have lost, and we know what it’s like to know what it is we’ve lost.

The sense of loss challenges us.

It changes the way that we see and even interact with the world all around us.

And we recognize that loss is not just losing a loved one, these days. Rather, it’s not being able to have access places that we feel give us a sense of peace.

It’s not being able to be with the family and friends who normally fill our hearts with joy.

And it’s the anxiety and grief of watching the Covid numbers rise, our ICU wards fill, and attempting to navigate the Provincial Covid restrictions that are more meant to give our politicians a good night’s sleep than they are to keep us safe.

So, keeping all of that in mind, we turn to the words from Luke, in today’s gospel.

And today we find that we revisit Easter Sunday, after the women have come back from the empty tomb with the wondrously puzzling news that Christ is risen, that he’s not there.

Rather, he’s right here!

The gospel tells us: “Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Lk 24:26b-38)

Now, on some level, we are able to look at this text and we see it in our minds eye. We see it through our own imaginations.

We see the closed and locked door.

We see the drawn curtains, allowing only a little of the bright spring sunlight to peek around the edges.

We see the disciples around the room, each one attempting to wrap their grief-stricken minds around the news that the women have brought back with them from the tomb, from the garden.

And, in our minds eye, looking around the room, we are able to see that these disciples would be able to identify with our sense of loss, with our losses, as we are able to identify with theirs.

We are able to understand the fear that comes with isolation, and with the losses that we have experienced, and continue to experience because of this pandemic.

So, lets look at this from our reality, today, as we remain in our own homes, the doors shut to all who are outside of our social bubbles.

Our curtains are likewise drawn to not lure us out into those public places that our ‘stay at home orders’ and Covid guidelines encourage us to avoid until the world returns to a sense of normalcy, and the virus brought to heel.

And it’s into each of our midst that Jesus comes, today.

We are startled!

We are terrified!

We think we are seeing a ghost, but Jesus’ words don’t change.

Seeing each of our reaction to his sudden appearance, he says, “Peace be with you.” (Lk 24:36b)

He says: “Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Lk 24:38)

And with one sentence, one greeting, Jesus has named and acknowledge all of the burdens of our hearts.

These days our hearts are filled with fears.

Our lives are filled with anxiety, and with terror at the unknown that lies before us, and at the restrictions that hem us in on all sides.

But then here is Jesus, and his words bring us peace.

Not the peace of private meditation, but rather he gives us the peace that passes all understanding.

Peace that is a gift of God, a grace and a salve on our hearts and minds, when we allow it to be that balm of love.

At the same time Jesus asks us why our hearts are troubled?

He asks us why do doubts assail our lives, and live in our hearts?

We don’t talk about it much, but our faith is governed by what is called “law and gospel,” and in many cases these are the same words.

When we can accept the words, Jesus’ words, as a blessing our lives, then they are gospel.

But when we cannot untangle our lives from the fears and the sins and the negativity that hem us in on all sides, then we hear God’s promises, Jesus’ teachings and the guidance of the prophets as law, and we receive it as restriction, and as burden.

Today Jesus proclaims, freshly risen from the tomb “Peace be with you,” and we desire to receive it as gospel. (Lk 24:36b)

We desire miracles and reassurance.

We desire that the word brought by the women from the tomb be true, but we aren’t sure, are we?

At the same time, we desire to hear of the end of this pandemic and a return to some of the more normal patterns in our lives, and yet on such a score we are still sadly disappointed.

We desire to absorb the love and the grace found in Jesus’ words, yet we stare at him, appearing in our midst, behind locked doors, and we rationally think we’re looking at a ghost.

We want the love and the grace of God, found in the women’s proclamation, in Jesus’ words, and in his sudden appearance in our midst and yet, thinking him a ghost, we look for the feet beneath the sheet, and our hearts sink within us as we all allow the doubts and the fears to dominate our hearts and minds.

We allow rationality to take over what our hearts long to embrace.

We desire the grace, we long for the sense of love and grace that only comes from God, but we invite the law into our lives as we acknowledge that, normally, once someone has died, they’re only able to live on in our memory and in our hearts.

But today, Jesus “said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.” (Lk 24:36b-43)

But Jesus still stands in our midst and he offers the love and the grace of the gospel.

For proof, he offers us his hands and his side; he asks us for something to eat.

At each turn, Jesus urges us away from the rationality of the law, from the law-based aspect of his sudden appearance, at the irrationality of the resurrection, and toward the love and grace of God.

We are encouraged toward the grace of his words, we are urged toward the gospel, the good news of the fact that the power of the grave is broken and that it’s though that broken grave that we are able to receive the love of God, the promise of Christ, and the presence of Jesus in our lives, forevermore.

At each turn we desire to receive the love the grace, the peace of Christ into our lives, into each of our hearts. But we need to choose to believe that our eyes to not deceive, and that Jesus stands before us.

We desire to open our hearts, our minds, and to allow the love of God, the joy of the situation to overcome the fears, the doubts that assail us so that we are able to walk in the warm sunshine with Jesus at our side.

But these losses nag at our hearts, and our minds. They pull us away from long attention spans, and they tell us that it’s all irrational, the measures put in place to, once more attempt to curb the pandemic that still dominates our society, a year later.

Yes, we live in a sense of loss, but the love of God, the promises of Christ and the peace of Jesus stand before us, and are able to give us peace, and we know this because Jesus very first words to us, who love him are “Peace be with you!” (Lk 24:36b)

Because this loss, this pandemic, these restrictions, will not last forever, and when we fill our lives with the peace of Christ, we can lift up those around us, and walk together in the light of God’s love, every day. Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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