Readings for the day (3rd Sunday of Easter, Sunday, April 15, 2018):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The calendar says spring. The church calendar says Easter. But a look outside still stays winter! Things do not always go the way we intend them to go. Babies don’t always come when we expect them to. Planters sometimes need to be unhooked from tractor in order to move snow in April. A president issues a tariff and the markets go haywire. Things do not always go the way we want them to go.
The Easter story is no different. Up to the end, the disciples still thought that Jesus was talking about leading an uprising in Jerusalem. That’s why the ear of the high priest slave was cut off when Jesus was getting arrested. His disciples figured this was the time the uprising was going to begin. But instead, Jesus, their leader, ends up being hung to a tree to die a criminal’s death. So it is no surprise that on that first Easter, the disciples are still pretty bummed. It’s like Monday morning after a Vikings loss – bummed and disappointed that things didn’t end differently.
To their wonder and amazement, Jesus appears to them, standing among them, in the flesh and says, “Peace be with you.” That was certainly not something they were expecting. They saw their leader and friend crucified and laid in a tomb. No wonder they were frightened when Jesus appears before them, in the flesh, and says, “Peace be with you.” And to eliminate their doubts of Him being a ghost or a hologram of some kind, Jesus shows them His hands and His feet. He invites them to physically touch Him to see that He really is alive. And since they were still wondering if He really was alive, standing in their midst, Jesus asks if they have any food for Him to eat?
Our world is hungry. Not just physically hungry for food, but spiritually hungry for something better; something that can overcome the darkness. With tariffs and unstable markets. With the uncertainty of world leaders and countless shootings in schools and businesses. The world does have a lot of darkness. And although I have many complaints about Hollywood with the movie and TV industry, there is something surprising that is coming from Hollywood. Many of the real popular movies have strong Christian themes in them. In some cases you can simply replace Jesus with the main character and you’ve got the Easter story. Especially in the Star Wars franchise and the super hero movies, there is one common theme throughout – hope. Hope that the darkness will not win. Hope that light will conquer darkness. Hope that the light will be victorious. Our world is spiritually hungry for this hope. Yes these movies are popular because they are visually stunning. But they keep making these movies with different storylines but the overall theme is still the same – hope.
With all of the darkness in the world. With all of the bad news and unpleasant forecasts. Everyone is longing and searching for something to hope in. And because people are frightened and terrified of “the church” (meaning organized religion), they are finding their hope in the movies that Hollywood produces. And Hollywood does an excellent job of telling people that the light will conquer the darkness. Evil will not win. Millions of people know this; they know (at least in a movie) light is victorious. Except they miss one very important detail. The light will conquer the darkness, because Jesus is victorious! Jesus is the missing piece to their puzzle. They have it mostly figured out. They are just missing the fact that Jesus is the light. He is the light of the world.
And this is not just something that we see in a movie. Jesus is the light of THIS world! He is our light, shining in the midst of our darkness. He is our hope. He is alive. And we do not need to be like the disciples, disbelieving and wondering where He is or if He is alive. For we can touch Him and see Him, in Communion. Just as Jesus appeared to the disciples in the breaking of the bread, He comes to us in a very real form of bread and wine. So that we can touch and see that He indeed is alive.
We also encounter Jesus in the people we encounter. I saw Jesus as I visited with nine high schoolers on Wednesday night at youth group. We were discussing their most recent fundraisers and what we were going to do with the money raised. Before Lent, we discussed the importance of tithing and not keeping everything for ourselves, but giving a portion of that back to God for the sake of His kingdom. At youth group they were imagining how many tie blankets they could make for the children’s hospital with ALL of the money they raised – not a portion of it.
Our God is gracious. And many times, God’s plan for us happens in ways that we did not intend for them to go. Like seeing your teacher crucified on a tree and three days later standing in front of you talking with you and eating your fish. Or like seeing a group of high schoolers not thinking about themselves, but rather graciously thinking about others and their needs.
Jesus told His disciples that they are witnesses to these things. Meaning, go and tell people that His death did not go the way they thought it was going to go. Today we, too, are witnesses. We weren’t there to see our Lord crucified and then raised. But if we open our eyes, we do encounter Jesus all the time. We see Jesus in our children and grandchildren. We see Jesus in our friends and family. We see Jesus in our classmates, teachers, coaches, employers, employees. And we see and touch Jesus in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. The One who is the Light of the World. Who shines bright to chase out the darkness – removing all fear and doubts. So that we can be witnesses and say confidently and boldly, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
© 2018 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.