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April 14, 2024

The Reverend Kathleen Killian

Easter 3B/24

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7


Resurrection Life


You may or may not have noticed, but during the fifty day season of Easter, there are no Eucharistic readings from the Old Testament, other than a psalm, a practice that began in the earliest days of the church. Rather, we focus our Easter eyes on the New Testament; specifically the Acts of the Apostles and its worldly account of the spread of gospel, and in year B of the lectionary cycle, the letters of 1 John that were written to encourage and teach the early Christian community as it faced uncertainty, persecution, and internal strife. 

Too, the lectionary always has us read about one of Jesus’ resurrection appearances on this third Sunday of the Easter, lest the Resurrection and whole point of Easter has faded from sight in our rear view mirrors. To be sure, life has a way of moving on, and we with it, like the disciples in our gospel passage this morning from Luke. 

It was the very day of the Resurrection. The stone had been rolled away to reveal an empty tomb, and angels had announced to the women that Jesus was not dead but raised. In fear and wonder, they ran to tell the other disciples the astonishing news, but their report was thought to be an “idle tale”. The story of two of these disbelieving disciples is what leads us into our gospel passage.

They were on the road to Emmaus, walking away in defeat from the cross and tomb, shattered hopes in hand. As they were lamenting, questioning, disputing all of what had happened, they encounter but do not recognize the risen Jesus. A conversation ensues with this seeming stranger, whom they invite to stay and sup with them because it was getting dark. During the meal, when Jesus blesses and breaks the bread, their eyes suddenly open and they recognize the risen Christ, who then vanishes as instantly from their sight. They raced back to Jerusalem to tell the others they had seen the Lord, which is where our gospel picks up today. 

When they arrive, Jesus is already there standing among them, his gathered disciples yet still unrecognized. Though he pronounced his peace to them, the disciples were terrified at seeing what they thought was a ghost! As Cynthia Bourgeault so astutely observes, the wisdom walk with Jesus is at every step of the way a recognition drama. To convince the disciples that he is truly alive and present with them, Jesus shows them his hands and feet, and invites them to touch him. But they still doubt, and honestly, who wouldn’t have? So Jesus asks them: have you any food? They give him a piece of fish, which he eats, and then goes on to remind them once again that all that had happened was to fulfill the scriptures, saying: Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

The intensity and high drama of Holy Week and Easter Sunday to which we were witness is over, and here we are, the gathered disciples of Jesus for whom life has also moved on. What might we be walking away from or toward this third week of Easter? Are we yet disbelieving, or afraid, or at peace? What is the state of our hearts? Will we recognize the risen Jesus? 

In the 21st century Christian faith, “resurrection” is a familiar even domesticated word, a staple if you will of our cultivated religious diet. Yesterday I googled “resurrection” and got 442 billion results in .3 seconds! That’s a ton of information but what does it all mean? What does “resurrection mean to you, to me? What does it mean to live in the resurrection? And how do you, do I, recognize the risen Christ in our own lives?

Though our own resurrection is fully realized in the life to come, Jesus shows us, by his wounds, by touch, by eating bread and fish, that risen life is incarnate bodily life. Risen incarnate life doesn’t whitewash our struggles and wounds or refuse to see things as they are. Risen incarnate life isn’t magic. But it is full of power and the promise of possibility. 

I like how Fr. Richard Rohr puts it: that the resurrection is not Jesus’ private miracle—it’s the new shape of reality, and of the world. Everyone, every single person is invited to draw upon its infinite Source and Mystery, and the presence of infinite Love and Possibility (adapted). 

Each time we choose to surrender, each time we trust the dying of our attitudes and circumstances, our relationships and personhood, our faith is led to a deeper level, and we discover a new self. This transformative pattern of shedding and dying to rebirth and new life is intrinsic to the creation, in the life cycles of everything, from babies to butterflies to stars and galaxies, in every atom, in every relationship (adapted from Richard Rohr).

Every time we love someone even though they were not loving to us, resurrection happens. When we forgive, when we decide to trust and begin again, we have been brought to new life. Every time we refuse despair or cynicism, when we refuse to be hopeless, we have experienced the Risen Christ (adapted Richard Rohr). Resurrection life means that we experience renewed hope, assured that all things in Christ are reconciled; and that we see anew with Easter eyes and perceive in death, life; in guilt, forgiveness; in separation, unity; in wounds, glory; in the human, God; in God, the human; and in the I, the You (Bishop Klaus Hemmerle). 

Think of all our spiritual ancestors who have lived the resurrection life: Thomas the questioning realist, Peter the faltering but faithful rock, or Paul the redeemed persecutor; Mary Magdalene, possessed by something other than God, out of whom seven devils were cast, who became the the first person to witness the risen Jesus; or Mary who did something unthinkable and sat down at the feet of Jesus to learn. Or Martha the dutiful hostess who became a devout disciple. Let us remember that Matthew was a reviled taxman turned apostle; Mark, restless and young but who wrote the first gospel of good news; Luke, a successful physician turned missionary or John the beloved disciple who yet ended his life in exile and revelation. All of these people and countless more throughout the generations have been receptive to the risen Christ and the new life offered to each of them in unique, particular, exacting, sometimes less than easy or obvious ways, but which were always loving, liberating, and life-giving. 

At each Eucharist, we have another journey to make, to the table where Jesus is host. At each Eucharist, Jesus blesses, breaks and gives us his body and blood, his risen life in the bread and wine. At each Eucharist, Jesus blesses us, breaks open our hearts, and feeds us with God’s infinite immeasurable love, and the possibility of that love. 

Like the first disciples, we too are witnesses of these things; of God’s final judgement and redeeming Word, that of Life. Wherever we may find ourselves today, let us hold fast to the truth of the Resurrection; that in final and unitive stage of our journeys home, everything that is hurt or shameful, hidden or harsh, even irreparably damaged is transformed in the light of God’s Love (adapted from Symeon the New Theologian, 10th century). 

So let us praise: Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia.