Sermon at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio, Texas
During Holy Week and Easter, Dick and I visited the Episcopal churches in
The Maundy Thursday liturgy was followed by a wonderful and simple meal â and then we began to read the psalm, and went back into church to strip the altar. On Good Friday I went to
On Holy Saturday the congregation in
When we walked into the dining room of our hotel on Easter morning, there were brightly wrapped packages on each table â two feet high, covered in iridescent cellophane. We were invited to take one with us. One package had been opened and placed on the buffet â it contained a hollow chocolate egg, almost a foot high. The funny part was that the cellophane was decorated with pictures of
The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesusâ response is to invite them to touch him, and then he asks for something to eat. There are at least some among us who would prefer chocolate to broiled fish â for me, itâs a tossup, depending on what kind of fish and what kind of chocolate. Always, however, when communities of resurrection gather, it is for food and fellowship,
But we continue to be haunted by the question of how to understand the presence of the risen one. Ghost? Eating with us? The whole state of
How do we find the risen Jesus, the presence of God in the flesh, who will announce peace and then sit down and eat with us? This isnât just an issue for professional theologians â itâs the bedrock of our faith. Do we understand Jesus as just a ghostly presence, only available to those few disciples in the days or weeks after the first Easter? Or are we willing to look for him today, among the dead and wounded, among those who will share stories and sit and eat together? Will we find the resurrected one in our midst when we sit with a friend whoâs just received a terminal diagnosis, or a child whoâs struggling in school?
Jesus goes on to teach those disciples â so that they apparently begin to understand more of scripture, rather than just the familiar parts or those theyâre most fond of. He says, âyes, the savior is to suffer and rise on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins it to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, starting right here. You are witnesses to this.â
The consequence of the resurrection is repentance â which means a turning around or getting a new mind, a metanoia (more than just being sorry) â and the consequence of the resurrection is forgiveness of anything that separates us from God. Resurrection implies renewed and healed relationship. And Jesus says, âyou are witnesses.â Being a witness isnât a passive act; it doesnât just mean youâve watched whatâs happened. Itâs far stronger â it implies telling about what youâve seen, in ways that will challenge and change your hearers. It is not the act of a bystander. That word for witness is martyr. Jesus is telling his companions that they are to go and tell the world of the possibility of the kind of peace he proclaimed, and that it is the result of what theyâve seen and experienced.
Peace of the deeply biblical kind, the kind the angel always proclaims, comes from healed and restored relationships. It comes from getting that new mind, and forgiveness. Jesusâ resurrection has made it possible in a radically new way.
How are we to share that work of being witnesses? Do we give evidence of the faith that is within us? Can others see a new mind in us, or the fruit of forgiveness?
In Italy, a piece of that fruit might look like a restored community that insists that buildings be constructed according to legal standards, where the whole community works to ensure that everyone has equal dignity, not just those who pay bribes. And it might look like a community that seeks to heal those who have taken those bribes and restore relationships with them. I do believe we would find the presence of the risen one in a redirected and restored community like that.
Where do you meet the risen one?
At dinner, over fish? In the presence of a newly baptized Nigerian-Italian toddler? Eating chocolate eggs with children filled with the joy of celebration?
Will you tell the story of your meeting? Will you be a witness?
I met the risen one just a few days ago. I sat in a hotel restaurant alone, waiting for my dinner. Suddenly someone came up behind me to say hello â a leader in this church, with whom I have not recently had a very fruitful relationship. I invited this person to join me, and the invitation was accepted. We had a very good time â as we shared stories of sorrow and hope in our own families, old suspicions began to fade away, perceived slights were forgiven, and together we delighted in signs of new life in a number of places around this church. I know the risen one was in our midst â and the fish was very tasty.
Will you be a witness?