Third Sunday of Easter
©2021 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones
The trouble with taking the Sunday after Easter off,
as I’ve done more often than not,
is that I often feel like I’m playing catch up
when I step back to the lectern, or in this year,
hop back on the kitchen stool.
What did I miss? Where are we up to in the story,
or simply put,
now that he’s risen, where is Jesus now?
Well it depends on which Gospel you read, doesn’t it?
Mark left us by the side of an empty tomb,
hearing a young man say,
“He’s gone to Galilee,”
and watching women flee silently away,
fearful that Jesus was nowhere. Just gone.
Matthew’s brevity on the topic of Jesus risen,
is more confident than Mark’s
but it’s short on detail,
and Jesus doesn’t hang around long enough for
the slow of soul to get the hang of resurrection
before he’s beamed up to heaven from a mountain top.
So right on cue, after the chocolate eggs are all eaten,
the sidewalk chalk bunnies washed away by spring rain,
the Lectionary turns to Luke the Gospeller
to convince us not only of Jesus’ Resurrection,
but more importantly, to show us how
that Resurrection implicates us too.
Our passage ends with Jesus telling the disciples
-and that includes us-
that we are “witnesses of these things”
but what does that mean?
That we simply read or saw something?
Like a road accident, or a royalty or celebrity sighting?
No, it’s much more than that.
Luke will go on to write a whole second volume
to his orderly account of the life and legacy of Jesus,
child of God, son of Mary of Nazareth.
That volume fleshes out what it means to be witness
but it begins here, with this pivotal passage.
Luke slows things right down, and shows us that
witnessing to the Resurrection life is embodied, sensate, tangible.
It’s almost laughably simple, like a kindergarten class on the five senses!
First the startling sight of the once dead Jesus,
suddenly among them, cutting off all conversation.
The sixth-sense leap in the gut, fright and hope jostling one another in that instant,
written all over their wide-eyed, open-mouthed faces.
To theirs and our incredulous disbelief,
we hear him say,
“Look, see, touch! ”
Hands now scarred, that when whole, broke bread,
made mud paste to salve blind eyes,
hands that raised Jairus’ daughter from her deathbed
those hands. Hands they knew like their own.
And feet too!
Feet now pierced,
that when whole, had walked the roads of Galilee,
step by step alongside theirs, as he lived the Dream among them.
Feet they’d follow anywhere, given the chance, again.
Luke is on a roll, in his eagerness to draw us in body as well as soul,
his Jesus asks for food… now we have taste! And smell.
Is there anything more pungent, salivating than the smell, the taste
of grilled fish? That’s what they give him.
Not until he’s drawn their bodies in to his risen reality
does he begin to enlighten their minds.
Jesus Risen becomes the rabbi again,
turning the tales of Moses the songs of David
the poetry of the prophets this way and that until
their whole beings are caught up, body, soul,
mind and heart into the Dream of God
that death, they now know with
hands, feet, eyes, ears, tongue, gut, can’t kill,
this Dream of God that tombs can’t imprison,
that grief cannot quell!
Oh that we would learn from this Jesus,
that the life of living trust in this unquenchable Dream of God
for humanity’s and earth’s healing
is embodied, not embalmed?!
Because good friends,
if we keep it neat and tidy,
if we keep it hidden behind theological loquaciousness,
if we restrict it to a Sunday sanctuary, and an hour a week,
it is embalmed, entombed, quelled.
The chocolate eggs are gone
this third week of Easter,
but resurrection is now on us, up to us,
to we who are witnesses
to this story lived out time and again,
by others, and now by us.
It’s a twist of history that we read this story
which happened in a locked-down hiding place
while we ourselves are locked down!
It gives us no place to hide;
for if resurrection life burst out of that lockdown,
and spread like a virus across the earth then,
lasting two millennia,
then it can do again now,
and it needs to!
For surely in these apocalyptic moments
that are unveiling the wounds of earth herself,
the wounds of systemic racism, militarism, economic inequity,
belittling cruelty on the body of humanity,
it’s going to take a resurrection revolution embodied in each of us,
to rebirth a world to enflesh a Dream of God
where this sickness is healed.
Now that’s so daunting, isn’t it?
What can my two hands do?
Will it ever be enough?
A room full of scared people managed it.
So will we.
Watch! See! Touch! Imagine!
The ring of the doorbell, and a masked friend standing 2 metres back
from the box she’s left on your doorstep (slide. screen)
filled to the brim with frozen meals, and topped off with a prayer shawl,
for you, in a moment of need.
That’s how Resurrection spreads, farther, faster, longer lasting
than this or the next pandemic.
When it’s our hands that reach out to the work of healing,
or caring for earth’s creatures.
When it’s our white bodies, on our feet, walking alongside those
bodies told they don’t matter as much.
It’s about the smell of good food, shared from our abundance,
It’s our tears shed with the grieving.
Resurrection is visible peering out above our masks,
It’s our feet, following step by step the path of our Risen Lord,
our feet marching, our pens writing, our songs singing,
our silence witnessing to God’s Dream of Loving Justice
or all our human siblings and for all creatures with whom we share
this planet home.
When we embody,
God’s Love and Life,
then we can indeed say,
we are witnesses to Resurrection.