In the Name…
A pastor asked his elders what sort of things they would like people to say about them at their funerals. One replied, “I’d like them to say, He was a great family man.” Another offered, “I’d like them to say, He helped many people.” The third said, “I’d like them to say, Hey, look! I think he’s moving.”
We are now a couple of weeks past Easter, and getting back to normal as far as our church life goes. What with all the planning for special liturgies and special music, Holy Week and Easter is always the year’s big emotional high. So, now we can start to wind down and settle into our usual routine. Or, can we? Our Scriptures, today, seem to indicate that God may have other ideas, because, when we want to get about our own business, the risen Christ just doesn’t want to leave us alone.
In the Gospel, the disciples were not looking for Jesus or for some deeper religious meaning in their lives when he appeared on the shore. They were looking for fish. And, in Acts, Paul wasn’t looking for inspiration; he was looking for Christians to persecute.
The point is that none of them were looking for Jesus. They were just getting on with their lives. But, Jesus found them. And, he approached them in ways he knew would get their attention. In the case of Peter and his friends, it was with 153 fish. In the case of Paul, it was by hitting him with a bolt of lightning. Whatever it takes.
But, what these tell us is that we don’t find God. God finds us, and often when we’re least expecting it. So, and here’s a thought, do we believe it happens when it happens?
Think about the post-Resurrection appearances. Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener. Two disciples on the road to Emmaus spent the better part of the day talking with him without figuring out who he was. And, of course, today's Gospel reading takes place after Jesus has already appeared to them at least two times before.
Why is it that they don’t get it, at least right away?
I think it’s because that they don't really expect to see him, or they expect to see him only in certain places and not in others. And, I think most of us, myself very much included, are like those first disciples. Namely, that we, like them, have difficulty in recognizing the risen Lord when we see him. So, maybe the root question is: Where do we think God is?
I think, though, that most of us would agree that God does not live in a particular building. But, I have met people who did have a profound experience of God in a particular building, or at a particular place in the woods or by a river, or even when engaging in a particular ministry, and they have stayed there, spiritually. Their experience of God in that context was so profound that they have not been able to move on and believe that God can be anywhere else for them.
In one sense, this isn’t a new phenomenon. In ancient times, people believed that gods were local. That is, the gods of Rock Hall didn’t have any power in Chestertown and vice versa. And, even in the Bible, after Naaman the Syrian is healed of his leprosy, he brings some bags of dirt home from Israel so he can worship Israel’s God in Syria.
So, the idea of a God who can interact with us all over the world was a uniquely Christian teaching, two thousand years ago. And, yet, even though people may accept that in their minds, their hearts can say different. We still feel, deep down, that God is to be found in special places, sacred places.
But, let’s think of where Jesus was found after the Resurrection - in a garden; in a room; on a road; by the shore. Consider too where Jesus was to be found before the Resurrection - at a wedding; in a boat; at the neighbour’s house; in the market place.
Today, people travel thousands of miles to see these places and walk where Jesus walked and, today, we consider those places sacred. But, in Jesus’ time, they were just ordinary places. The point is that the ordinary becomes sacred when we meet Christ in it. It’s not the place that’s special – it’s the encounter.
Yes. Christ is here today in this place and that is why we call this a sacred space. But, Christ will be outside when you leave this place and Christ will appear before you as you go every place. Our Scripture this morning makes it clear that the risen Christ is the seeking Christ and Easter means, among other things, that he is on the loose and that he is looking for places for you to recognize him.
The test of our faith is this. Will you see him? He’s moving.
In the Name…