Saturday, April 13, 2024

Feeding Jesus and Being Fed

You’ve got to love it! The Crucified, Dead, Buried, and now Risen-from-the-Dead Jesus shows up in front of his friends and followers and what does he do? 

Some great miracle? Nope!

Some great act of power? Nah!

He asks for something to eat. 

It’s as if he came in the door after a long day, plops himself in the recliner and says, “Whew! That crucifixion and resurrection is hard work! What’s for dinner?”

Today’s passage from the Gospel of Luke highlights the physicality of Jesus’ risen self. Jesus shows up in person. He shows the disciples the wounds in his hands, feet, and side. And—I love this—he asks them for something to eat. The Risen Jesus chides the disciples' disbelief. I am not a ghost, he tells them. This is Jesus…not a vision, nor a hallucination, but a real person with a real body. 

Today’s story parallels another story in this same chapter of Luke’s Gospel… Jesus’ encounter with Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus. In both instances, the disciples recognize Jesus as the risen Lord when he ate with them. 

To some of us, maybe, the risen Jesus may be an idea, a story, a symbol, or a memory. But to Jesus’ friends and followers, it was a reunion, a face-to-face encounter, with the same Jesus whom they saw arrested, beaten, executed on the cross… and was demonstrably deader than a doornail! 

But no more!

In these two encounters, Jesus shows that what they are seeing is true by eating with them. Which makes sense, because before his arrest, torture, and execution, this is what Jesus did with them all the time as they went around Palestine teaching and healing. He ate with them. 

And even today, we see him in this most ordinary, tangible way. At the Last Supper and in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus gave us a way of recalling him to our presence and, by eating from his body, to become his body. 

Every day the Risen Jesus shows us that God redeems and makes holy every sphere of our existence: the physical, the rational, and the social elements of our existence are all addressed in Jesus’ resurrection.

The first thing that God redeems and makes holy is the physical world. Our baptism into the church and the promise of resurrection means that we are to value the physical world that God has placed us in and made us part of.

We are to care for the creation and care for our bodies and care for each other, even strangers and people we’ll never meet in person. We are to have environmental concerns and health concerns; the biological and physical sciences are part and parcel of our participation in God’s redemption. We are not to abandon the world we live in, but we are to improve it in whatever small ways we can. 

Another thing that God redeems in the resurrection is the way we know and see the world. Because we encounter the risen Jesus in sacramental living, in prayer, and in the changed lives we both encounter in others and experience ourselves, we discover that God works on every part of our knowing. Rational thinking and faithful being are not polar opposites, always at war, but different ways of knowing the fullness of the creation we live in and care for.

Finally, the physical, risen Jesus redeems our relationships. Christians do not abandon the social world we live in, but we are called to improve it whenever we can, working against evil and promoting justice. The fact that our bodies will be redeemed and raised emphasizes our need to be involved in the world in a positive way. We are not escapists, merely biding time until time ends, but we are involved, letting Christ live in us and grow in us until we are raised with him in glory and we see him as he is and we share in his eternal joy.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus eating another meal with his disciples. He made eating and drinking together the primary way of experiencing the Resurrection. He uses eating and drinking to teach us and draw us to him. He uses this most universal way people affirm and experience relationships in community. We eat with Jesus. We eat of Jesus. We eat his body, and we become his body. 

Maybe you remember my definition of what a disciple is? A disciple is “a friend and apprentice of Jesus, who learns and does the work of Jesus every day.” So you are all friends and apprentices of Jesus. And you are all learning and doing the work of Jesus.

But lots of people call themselves followers of Jesus... how do you know an actual disciple when you see one?

Well, as the old proverb (that most people get wrong, by the way!) reminds us: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating!"

Clergy and Eucharistic Ministers are the ones who distribute communion, giving bread and saying, “The Body of Christ.” And, if you think about it, we all distribute the Body of Christ in all kinds of ways. 

Imagine when you give a check to the church or a worthwhile charity, placing it in the treasurer’s hand and saying, “The Body of Christ, given for you.” 

Imagine delivering Meals on Wheels or giving a meal to a needy stranger in downtown Clearwater, saying “The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven” when you place the meal in the hands of that homebound senior. 

Imagine visiting a person in prison, extending an encouraging word of love and adding, “The Body of Christ.” 

Imagine teaching the truths of God to a Church school class or in a Bible Study, or prayer group, and concluding by saying, “This is the Body of Christ, given for you.”

Imagine sharing the Word of God in Bible Study, in prayer, daily devotions, or as part of the Daughters of the King, as an act of sharing the Body of Christ.  

Imagine spreading the Good News to those who do not know the Lord, telling others about the joy you find in your faith, and declaring, “Share with me the Body of Christ.”

Imagine being the quiet listening presence to someone who is lonely or in pain, and as you pray with them, recall that we are, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “Now we are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.”

Jesus rose from the dead, not a ghost, but flesh and blood, in person– his personality, memory, relationships, compassion, and humor intact. Everything he knew is risen and made whole and new and holy. Saint Paul reminds us that when we were baptized, we were all baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. So as baptized people, we all share in his resurrection, and every day we show off the risen Jesus to everyone we meet. And God uses everything we are, and everything we have, and all our skills and talents and memory–all of us!-- for God’s purpose: to restore all people to unity with God, creation, and each other. 

So, people of St. John’s, Clearwater, my companion friends and apprentices of Jesus, as we gather around this Eucharistic table, as we dash over to the parish hall for delicious nums-nums, and before I turn in my keys and as you get ready for your next era of ministry in service, remember this: in everything you do as a community and as individuals, feed others in Jesus’ name. 

In so many great and simple ways, we reflect the words of St. Augustine, who wrote: 

You are the Body of Christ. In you and through you the work of the incarnation must go forward. You are to be taken. You are to be blessed, broken, and distributed, that you may be the means of grace and the vehicles of eternal love.

And may God go with you in all you do!

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Here are the Scripture Lessons for Easter 3-B, April 14, 2024

Here is a video of the Sermon at St. John's, Clearwater, Florida for April 14, 2024

Here is a video of the Liturgy at St. John's, Clearwater, Florida on April 14, 2024

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