3 Easter B—4/19/15
Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Pr. Scott Kramer
Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have!
Jesus is impatient. Easter is a season of holy impatience.
Earlier in Luke, the first ones at Jesus’ tomb were some women. When they arrived at the tomb, they saw “two men in dazzling clothes.” The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Holy impatience. Later, in the book of Acts, Jesus disappears before his disciples’ very eyes, and two men again appear, saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” Holy impatience!
What might this holy impatience be about? In a book I’m reading about Christian discipleship the author says, The worst thing that can happen to a leader and a teacher is to be worshiped. As long we worship someone they can be admired from a safe distance, without us risking anything. The impatience that we sense in those men at the tomb, the impatience of Peter, and of Jesus himself, is in response to our tendency to become stuck in awe or fear, never experiencing the kind of transformation that Peter and the other disciples experienced after the resurrection.
Jesus never said, “Worship me.” He said, “Follow me.” Better to worship God, and to follow Jesus! Following their experience of his resurrection Jesus’ disciples did follow. They became something very different from the people they had been, much closer to what Jesus himself was. One example is the story that leads up to our first reading in Acts, chapter 3:
One day as they were walking to the temple, a disabled man called out to Peter and his friends, asking for a handout. But instead of giving him a few coins Peter says, “Stand up and walk.” And he does! This time it’s not Jesus but Peter who sounds impatient: You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?
Rarely do the scriptures accuse us of asking for too much. From Genesis to Revelation the message consistently is this: Like the disabled man in the story asking for a handout we ask for too little. You are children of God, the Scriptures say–so act like it!
Have you noticed in the natural world that young animals resemble their parents? Wolves don’t give birth to Chihuahuas. Sharks don’t give birth to goldfish. Lions don’t give birth to house cats. What they each give birth to is a creature that with time and training will grow into the image and power of the parent. The book of Genesis teaches that we were created in the image of God. John writes that we are children of God. What kind of potential do you think such a creature might be capable of?
Jesus our brother—also child of God, son of God—gives us through his teachings and the stories of his life a glimpse of the possibilities and potential in each one of us. To be children of God means to have hopes and expectations and dreams and goals worthy of God’s power.
How do your dreams stack up? How do your visions for yourself and for the world measure up to standards for the children of God? Or, to what extent are we like that disabled man, asking for coins when we could be asking to walk? The account of the man’s healing is breathtaking. Luke writes: Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. But that was just the beginning. Seeing what had happened, others nearby responded the same way. Being witnesses to Easter power can be infectious!
I had lunch with a pastor colleague of mine this past week. He serves a congregation not too different from our own. They own a huge building, much bigger than they need for the 50 or so people who worship on Sunday. They have five other congregations and around 20 community groups using the facility during the week. You’d think they’d be satisfied with that. Instead, they’ve been trying to discern God’s will for their future. Money is tight. Should they close? Should they merge with another congregation? Keep on as they are? What should they do?
Last week one of the patriarchs of that congregation who’s invested his life in the church over the years stood up at a congregational meeting and said, “I believe we need to sell this property and move to another location better suited to our size and our times, and use the money to start fresh.”
Their pastor says he didn’t see that coming. He expected them to make an easier, safer choice; just ask for a few coins, just get by, limp along, day to day. But then holy impatience showed up. The congregation heard a voice that said, “Stand up and walk.” The vote of the congregation to sell and to move was unanimous.
Dear friends in Christ, Jesus is not a ghost. Easter still happens every day, sometimes in our back yards and right under our noses.
What does it mean to be children of God? Our human response to change and the challenges we face are the predictable emotions we find in today’s gospel reading: Confronted with proof of the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples were “startled,” “terrified,” and “thought they were seeing a ghost.” They were, Luke writes, at the same time “joyful,” “disbelieving” and “still wondering.”
In the middle of all this confusion and commotion, Jesus speaks up: Do you have anything to eat here? He sits down with them to eat a piece of broiled fish and then connects the dots between his teaching, the scriptures, and their own experience. The way Luke puts it, he opened their minds to understand.
Where Easter is real, where Christ is present, the Holy Spirit opens minds and hearts to think and to see and to imagine new ways of being Christ’s body in the world.
Notice what happens: At the beginning of today’s gospel reading Jesus’ disciples are preoccupied with their own fears. By the end of the story Jesus has turned their attention to big visions and impossible dreams: your mission, he says, is to all nations—and here they’d thought it was all about them! These frightened people who had always played it safe were suddenly well on their way to nothing less than saving the world!
Do you believe that Easter is more than just a story from a long time ago? Do you believe that Jesus is more than just a ghost, that he continues to walk among us in the flesh? To what extent do you experience a holy impatience, hungry with dreams and visions worthy of children of God?