You Are Witnesses to These Things
Easter 3 Common Lectionary Year B
©2018 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones
Sometimes a biblical text that has perplexed,
mystified me for years suddenly becomes clear as day.
How is that?
Usually, not only because I’ve sat long
in the seat of learning,
parsing ancient languages and texts,
or studying commentaries, though that does help.
But almost always it’s when I get up from the desk
and get out into the real world
that something out there suddenly clicks.
This week, as I sat in the airport waiting
for my flight to Minneapolis,
I read this Gospel text,
knowing I’d be preaching it this week.
I wanted to let the text get it ‘in there’
and be working in my soul
while my brain was busy elsewhere.
Now, I like Luke, his stories are good,
there’s always a mist of Spirit presence to them,
but liking isn’t enough for preaching.
I was a bit worried about how to make this text
feel real to us, today….
we have this apparition of a bodily risen Jesus
eating fish with his friends.
It’s lovely, but distant, ancient, back then,
not here and now.
How would it take on flesh, and relevance?
For me, for us?
Meanwhile the week
fills with its particular busyness….
a) Tuesday morning.
The idea, the concept, of defending a thesis
becomes suddenly very real.
Red shoes for courage.
The sharp ridge on the edge of the seat.
The slight clayish taste in Minneapolis tap water.
Looking up and seeing a panel of scholars before me,
inviting me to speak, to witness
to the life of God in the life of this community.
“Come, touch, and see.”
It was real. And it full of life!
b) Tuesday evening.
Taking a moment to stop, and truly notice the African American man who was driving the hotel shuttle bus for us, back and forth from the Seminary.
Taking his hand and shaking it,
reading his name tag, and calling him by name,
looking him in the eye when I said thank you.
Watching my colleagues do the same thing;
white people, noticing, touching, thanking
a black man in a city still reeling from the racially motivated police shooting of Philando Castile.
“Come touch, see, I am real.
I am hungry, just like everyone else.
I am worthy of dignity and respect.”
c) Tuesday evening. Part 2.
In the midst of a celebration supper with colleagues,
a buzz on my silenced phone: a text from Norman.
the arrivals lobby of Trudeau airport.
Sabra, Andrea, Najah, Islam with a Canadian flag,
And me? I burst into tears.
Hot, wet tears of relief.
I couldn’t touch, but I could see.
d)But Ernie could!
Listening to him witnessing,
telling me of that moment when he and Sa’ed
saw each other three-dimensional, real,
in flesh for the first time.
A hand shake.
“Come, touch me, see, I am real.
I am hungry, just like everyone else.
I am worthy of life, after the death we have been living.”
Do you see the pattern here?
“Come, touch, see, I am real.”
This Risen One,
coming back, time and again,
saying “Peace be with you,”
and reminding us in our own flesh,
and our own blood,
our own eyes, our own senses,
that God is with us!
Has been since light was born.
Has been since clouds and fire,
and snakes on poles,
tablets of stone, potter’s wheels,
vineyards growing in the ruins,
since a newborn infant suckled at a human breast,
since a crucified man, wrapped in the linen of grief,
God has shown us, we have touched it,
time and again
that God is with us in this life,
and in these places of grief and death!
Not abstract, but as close as breath,
as real as a handshake between Muslim and Christian,
between black and white,
young and old, gay and straight,
in the oddest, hardest places.
Resurrection, new life, is real,
it’s human and holy,
it’s brave and poignant,
it’s crazy and almost unbelievable.
And it’s now.
But you already know that!
You are amazing resurrection people!
“You are witness to these things.”
Did you know that our tiny little Resrurrection Project
has in two weeks, via Facebook,
reached South Africa, and South Dakota,
Tampa and Thunder Bay,
Vancouver Island, and Newfoundland,
California and Coburg, ON.
It’s reached Centennial park,
where one of our families picked up garbage
as a way of choosing to witness new life.
In your Facebook posts,
and in your Resurrection Project journals,
you have heralded the beauty of a crocus,
the antics of a pileated woodpecker,
you’ve witnessed hatchling turtles and chicks.
From the simple to the profound,
“You are witnesses to these things” –
the flesh and blood, real-time
experiences of resurrection
in your kitchen, your garden,
your place of work, among your friends and neighbours.
You are witnesses to the Dream of God
that we become the flesh and blood bodies
with whom God will shelter the refugee,
and through whom God will feed the hungry,
for food, for belonging, for community,
heal the sick in body and soul.
You are witnesses in worship
to the crazy belief that what we do here
does bring hope,
does proclaim God’s justice, new life!
Because there is no doubt about it,
the broken world needs God’s people,
you and me, more than ever,
to be witnesses to these things.
So our challenge, from Luke this week.
How will we touch, and see, and taste
the resurrection life?
How will we put our own flesh into the world
as witnesses to the life of God?
If you don’t have a booklet, and want one,
the children have been busy making more for you.
If you’re a Fbook person, read, follow,
and add your own witness to new life.
And here’s the critical piece:
when you see, touch,
when you witness these things,
Go and tell!
Be Gospellers of Resurrection!
Fill the world with hope of new life!