1st Scripture Reading: Acts 2: 14a, 22-32 and Psalm 16 (VU p.738)
Let’s face it: the events of Easter would have been astounding to the people of Israel. Right after Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit with fire and great wind), Peter was talking to the huge crowd who had gathered having heard the strange sounds of wind, saw the flames descending, and heard people babbling about God in every language represented in that cosmopolitan city of Jerusalem. Peter was suddenly very articulate about what had just happened, and what it all meant to these bewildered and probably terrified people.
Peter’s speech demanded that the Israelites take responsibility (as we all must) for their own actions which resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus, but gave all credit and glory to God for raising him from death. He quotes the Psalm of David (16) where David sings: “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.”
Peter wastes not a second of this “teachable moment” to call people to greater faith in the power of God to raise the faithful from death and corruption. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.” And we, the community of all believers are witnesses also, as we continue as faithful guardians of the story of Jesus, and how the events of Easter transformed the consciousness of a people, and changed the course of human history.
Hymn #376 VU “Spirit of the Living God”
2nd Scripture Reading: John 20: 19-31
This reading is about actually the second and third resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples. The first was to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. At first, Mary did not recognize him, but when she did her great love for him caused her to try to hold on to him. But Jesus told her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Don’t cling to me now. I am different. He sent her to tell the other disciples that she had seen him, and that he was ascending to God.
The next day, it seems, Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked room where they were hiding. He just appeared. He didn’t knock. They didn’t let him in. He just appeared among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” I don’t imagine they had been feeling very peaceful! And at first it appears they did not know who he was! Once he showed them the wounds of the crucifixion: the nail holes and the slash in his side -then they recognized him and rejoiced.
But Thomas was not with them. The next week, Jesus appeared to them again, just appeared, again in a locked room. This time Thomas was there and he needed actual physical evidence of the crucifixion before he was prepared to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Jesus said: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Described in Luke, the appearance of Jesus to two disciples on the road to Emmaus is the fourth appearance, and again they do not recognize him at first, until , first having opened the scriptures to them so that they might better understand what has happened, he breaks bread with them and then vanishes. “Did not our hearts burn within us?” they said to each other.
The fifth resurrection appearance was to seven of the disciples on the lakeshore as they were fishing. With Jesus gone, they did not know what to do, and so they returned to their boats and went looking for fish. When he appeared, they once again did not recognize him, until he advised them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat from where they were, and they pulled in such abundance of fish that the boat was nearly capsized!
We see that Jesus can come and go at will thru locked doors and instantaneously, he does not appear exactly as he did before the crucifixion, but he makes very sure the disciples know that it is him.
Perhaps they do not recognize him because they just don’t expect to see him alive ? Traditionally he is described as having assumed a “resurrection body”. Cynthia Bourgault postulates that this body might be “timeless” and thus not so dense as a human body. But he could be touched and he did eat...
The disciples, and we not so very different, are operating on the information they can glean thru their five physical senses. Jesus knows this and makes sure that they can see, hear, touch him, and see him taste and smell food. He is calling them, and us, to open our minds and hearts to the possibility that there is more going on than we can actually sense in this way. He challenges them to believe that God can and has raised him from death, and that because God loves us, this is available to us also. But there is something about believing... the power of what we hold in consciousness is so very important to the outcome. Do we believe that God will not abandon our souls to Hades? Do we believe that God raised Jesus from the grave? Do we believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb in God’s holy name, and that the disciples did also perform such acts after Jesus was gone?
I do not believe that this lifetime is all there is for me. I believe that I live in Christ now as part of his true “Resurrection Body”, and that I am beloved of God, and that there will be a place for my eternal soul in God’s house of many mansions. I don’t pretend to know what that looks like, but I believe my earthly eyes are not actually capable of seeing it clearly – and I believe that later I will see clearly – when that time comes. And I believe the very same is true for you – to the extent that you believe, or at least that you keep an open heart and an open mind to what is possible, and an intention to be open to the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. God loves each of us and waits patiently to welcome each of us home. Praise be to the God of Love.
Hymn #563 VU “Jesus, You have come to the Lakeshore”