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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

He Ate

Luke 24:36-48

Acts 3:12-19

I bet we have some great ghost stories in this congregation.  I have one that has yet to be explained in physical terms.  We had a cat, named Shadow, who was with us for 17 years. He came to us as a stray kitten when Joe was commander of the VFW in Hudson, WI.  He was a good cat, and very people friendly.  One of his favorite things to do was to unroll the toilet paper in the bathroom.  Many times we came home from an outing and found the whole roll unwound on the floor.  The day came when we had to have him put to sleep.  It was a sad undertaking, but we faced it bravely.  A couple of days later after we had him put to sleep, we came home from an outing and guess what, we discovered the toilet paper roll unwound and lying on the floor.  That happened not once, but 4 or 5 times after that.  The last time it happened we were frustrated so Joe just hollered out, “Stop that!”  and it didn’t happen again. 

The disciples could have told the story of Jesus appearance as a ghost story, except for several details.  They could actually touch his hands and his side and Jesus ate with them.  Definitely not a ghost!  Jesus appeared to them in his physical body.  He had substance!  Jesus was not just a soul returned to earth, but the whole man who appeared to his disciples.  And therein lies the wonder of the resurrection.  So the question becomes, “what does the physicality of Jesus’ appearance after his death mean for his disciples?” 

It meant that God had power over death, that Jesus could not be contained by death’s limitations.  Even though Jesus had told them what they could expect before his death, the disciples could not comprehend it until Jesus appeared and opened their minds to the possibility that death had its limits where God was concerned.  Finally the disciples got it!  They knew what Jesus had been talking about.

Once the initial shock of Jesus’ appearance was over however they must have had many questions going through their minds.  Here are a few they might have been thinking: 1) What does this mean?, 2) Do we continue where we left off?, 3) Do we begin anew?, 4) Will Jesus now go to God and leave us here alone?, 5) What will happen to us?, 6) Will anybody believe us?, 7) Will we be resurrected as Jesus was?  These are the more practical questions that the disciples had to wrestle with.  Thinking beyond our linear concept of time is difficult for any of us let alone those disciples, even after they had walked with Jesus, even after they had seen his physical body after his death.  I don’t think those questions belonged just to the disciples, they are our questions as well when we believe Jesus, when we accept him into our lives. 

What does it mean that Jesus is alive?  That death could not hold him in its bounds?  Why doesn’t Jesus appear to us as he did to his disciples?   We do know that Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God.  But how can Jesus have influence over us if that is where he is?  That raises more questions for us about how this God thing works.

When I was in seminary, we were asked to describe the trinity in our own way, any way that made sense to us.  I liked to think of the trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit as acting in a divine dance sort of way.  At times our thoughts and actions and senses direct us toward the One who created us (the Father), at other times we are in tune with Jesus.  Sometimes we pray to God, sometimes we pray to Jesus.  They are interconnected in ways we don’t often understand.  But we are empowered to believe and act in the will of God through the Holy Spirit, God’s action within us that leads us to greater belief and into doing the will of God. 

Well I invite us to get away from theology and back into practicality.  What does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with our lives?  Jesus set a task for his disciples.  They were to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  So why are repentance and forgiveness of sins important to all of us?  Because we are living in a broken world.  Jesus’ act of eating with his disciples is important and tells us that it is God’s will that all creation eat at his table.  It is God’s will that everyone be saved, that right relationship be restored, that everyone dine at his table.  But some choose not to, some do not know that is God’s intention, some may know that intention but utterly reject it.  That’s why it is important to proclaim our faith in the resurrected Jesus.

But for each one of us there is a place in creation, a right place at God’s table.  When we accept Jesus, we take our place at the table.  We choose to dine and live with our creator as we were originally meant to do.  It is at that table that we can truly know the greatest love that can possibly be known.  It is from that table that we can truly live our lives as if they mattered, not just for us but for the transformation of the world. 

Some believe that there will always be wars and violence and destruction, But that is not God’s intention.  Someday the time will be right for the completion of God’s plans for his creation.  Someday there will be light instead of darkness, someday there will be peace instead of discord.  That time may not be now, but then again it may be.  No matter when that happens, our task is to do God’s will in the best way we know how.  We cannot know completely how our efforts are being used by God, but we can know that they are.  It matters how we live our faith.  It matters to those around us.  It matters to those distant from us.  We never know when a story we have told someone travels around the world inspiring others.  We never know when an action we perform transforms another life.  We never know how God will even use our unbelief to change lives.  But one thing we can be assured of is that God is faithful and that God will keep using us and loving us and drawing us into right relationship with Him.

I had the privilege of mentoring a young girl as her mother walked through her bout with cancer and eventually died.  The young girl had a difficult time with all the family stuff that was going on.  But the one thing I could reassure her of was that God was with her and loved her, and grieved with her.  She wondered if her mother really was in heaven and why she had to die, typical questions for any of us let alone a young grieving girl.  But I remember walking and talking with her for some time after that and always telling her that God loved her and her mother.  She was worried about not being very good sometimes and worried about not making it to heaven to be with her mother someday.  Then again I could reassure her that all she needed to do was believe Jesus and tell God she was sorry and he would forgive her.  Recently, after 5 or 6 years of being out of her life, I got an email from her.  She was sad and missing her mother and somewhat uncertain about a lot of things.  She had talked to the pastor that had replaced me and that helped, but what I think she really needed to hear were the words that God loved her and she was forgiven and some day when the time was right she would see her mother again. 

Now how can I be so sure of that?  It is because the disciples experienced the physical presence of Jesus when he was resurrected.  If God can do that, then is anything else impossible?      

 

   

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