A Sermon on Snacking and the Stupid Things People Say

sermon on Snacking <——-Click here to listen along. Sermons are a spoken art form!

36b“Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look 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.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

-Luke 24

Easter lasts for 50 days for Christians.  Most of the culture thinks it’s over when we’ve managed the vacuum up the last of the long thin ribbons of green plastic Easter grass off the carpets and the children have come down from their sugar highs.  But long after the White Sales at Macy’s have ended, the church is still celebrating Easter.

And you’ll notice that for a holiday that is supposed to be about new life and resurrection and the Glory of God and for some reason bunnies, we really get very little of that in the resurrection accounts.  But what we do get in the stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples after the resurrection is a great deal of fear and doubt and wounds and bread.  There aren’t a whole lot of answers in these texts, but for some reason there is a lot of broiled fish.

Our reading for today finds the disciples gathered together 3 days after Jesus died. All they knew was that their friend and teacher and Lord was dead and in the face of loss and everything they knew changing they were scared and they were doubting. And this is understandable. And it was here that Jesus suddenly stood among them.  And in their fear and disbelief he doesn’t judge them, he doesn’t rebuke them, he doesn’t try and convince them of the truth…he just offers himself.  See my hands…touch my feet. I am here. Don’t be afraid. Let’s eat some broiled fish.

The truth is that Jesus is scary, because, as he makes clear to the disciples, you can’t know him at a distance, on your own private terms. You cannot think your way to knowing Jesus through the answers you find in your own private Bible study, or through spiritualizing him as an otherworldly symbol.

You can’t know Jesus by spiritualizing him.  Not the guy we read about today who turns to his completely freaked out friends who have no idea what this all can mean and asks them the really crucial and deeply spiritual question of; “so do you have any snacks?” I wonder if what this text is saying to us is that if you get all transcendent and spiritual floating above the disappointingly broken physical world, you may just miss Jesus all together because that’s him over there at the snack table. Which is an embarrassing place to have the Lord hanging out.  But despite all our attempts to spiritualize, cleanse and middle-class up Jesus he just stands there eating broiled fish with his bare hands, holes and all.

Reading this story this week and about how the disciples were scared and doubting and really wanting some answers and getting nothing but broiled fish I was taken back to when I was a student chaplain at a hospital.

And how terrifying it was to think that I would be the person people expected to come up with a satisfying answer to why their husband is in a coma.

I’ll never forget my first experience in the trauma room.

A motionless man in his 50s was on a table and they started doing things to him not meant for my eyes and sorely misrepresented on TV shows.

One nurse was cutting his clothes off, and another was hooking up things while a Doctor was putting on gloves and I lean over to the nurse closest to me and was like,  – everyone seems to know what their job is but what am I doing here? She looks at my badge and says You’re job is to be aware of God’s presence in the room while we do our jobs.

It just didn’t seem like enough.

Then later in the little white room with just enough space for four love seats and as many boxes of tissue I’d sit with people in their loss. I would stand by and witness the disfiguring emotional process we politely call grief and I had no answers.  I’d bring them water, make some calls for them, keep bugging the doctors to give us more information, but words of wisdom I had none.

People wanted answers, or maybe it was just me who wanted answers, but I soon learned that and all I had to offer was my presence, a glass of water and cliff bar.  Only later did I realize: that’s just what Christianity is.

As many of you know, Travis, a young man in this congregation was baptized at the Easter Vigil and then the very next day he ended up on a plane home to see his father who had mysteriously ended up in the ICU.  Many of us have been praying for Travis and his family for 2 weeks and were saddened to find out that his father died on Thursday. His father’s death was sudden, and unexpected. Travis and his family have simply been robbed.

While talking to Travis on the phone Thursday I found I just didn’t have much to say.  And honestly I had to fight the urge to say something even if it was stupid just so I could feel like I had said something at all. But that never helps.  You hear a lot of nonsense in hospitals and funeral homes.  God had a plan, we just don’t know what it is. Maybe God took your daughter because he needs another angel in heaven. But when I’ve experienced loss and am feeling so much pain that it’s like nothing else ever existed the last thing I need is a well-meaning but vapid person to say when God closes a door he opens a window because that then makes me want to ask where exactly that window is so I can push them the Hell out of it.

This is the nonsense spawned from bad religion.  And usually when you are grieving and someone says something so vapidly optimistic to you, it’s about them.  It’s about the fact that they simply cannot allow themselves to entertain the finality and pain of death so instead they turn it into a Precious Moments greeting card.

This isn’t exactly uncommon.  In moments of grief and loss we are afraid and doubting and we want answers just like the disciples did 3 days after Jesus died.  But all anyone can really do is be with us and make some casseroles. And when that’s all we have to offer it can feel like not enough but the truth is that is Christianity. Presence and stories and meals and defiantly believing that death is simply not the last word. An episcopal priest once said that Christianity isn’t spiritual, is material.  You can’t even get started without a loaf of bread some wine and a river.

Jesus comes to his followers, then and now, in our grief and loss and doesn’t give answers.  In our fear and disbelief he doesn’t judge, he doesn’t rebuke, he doesn’t try and convince us of the truth…he just offers himself.  See my hands…touch my feet. I am here. Don’t be afraid. Let’s eat.  And as the Body of Christ this is what you do for each other as well and for the world God loves so madly. Your tweets and Facebook messages and texts and emails to Travis while he is grieving in Iowa are a witness.  It is a witness to a God who promises to be with us and in those prayers for our grieving brother we don’t offer any answers, we just claim the promise as our own. What’s been so hard is not being able to also bring him food.  But we can get to that when he gets back here.

We might think that knowing Jesus means not being fearful and not having doubt but you can’t know Jesus by spiritualizing him.  He is made known when we gather and tell the story and share food at his table.  It’s common.  It’s simple.  and it really, really is enough.


About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org

  • http://brainatthedoor.blogspot.com Hugh

    That reminded me of the surprise people expressed that Lily Allen married her boyfriend in the local village church. She had had a miscarriage not long after they moved to the village and the vicar, who had experienced something similar in his family, just came and sat with her whenever she needed him. That was enough for her to want to be married by him in church.

  • Sarah

    That reminded me of a family that were praying for healing for their son who had cancer. Friends came to them saying that God spoke to them and promised their son healing. When their son passed away the parents were so hurt because those promises were just people who spoke for their own personal gain of speaking good news. Those parents when they spoke about the loss of their son, never forgot about those false promises too…..a double hurt.

  • Cheri

    only one word came to mind the entire time I was reading this – Amen

  • http://wordofblessing.wordpress.com dkzody

    This is a powerful sermon. Thank you for sharing these wise words with those who do not get to sit in the pews of your congregation, but rather are a part of the bigger congregation of God-followers. You are a blessing.

  • http://emm-in-sem.tumblr.com Emmy

    Pastor Nadia, you consistently knock it out of the park every week. Spiritual-wise, that is. Thank you.

  • John

    Your sermon struck a deep chord in me – and reminded me of the chaplain who simply showed up and did not much else (not much else was needed) when my mother died. Her presence was more than enough for my family. Sometimes words aren’t needed.

  • terri c

    Thank you.

  • Jon Spangler

    I love reading your posts and hearing your voice and the timing of your humor. Terrific theological and life lessons in this one, as usual…

  • Sandra Orrick

    Your words carry wisdom and deep comfort for those times when words are never enough. Thank you and amen.

  • http://www.steveeulberg.com Steve Eulberg

    Yep! The smartest thing Job’s friends did was SIT WITH him in silence….

  • Kathi Worthington

    Thank you. I am also reminded of a wise chaplain. My mother was in hospice dying of inflammatory breast cancer. As I sat with her, I thought I was beginning to see some inward healing and talked with the chaplain who was roaming the halls. It was, at that time (about 24 years ago), a thing that I couldn’t quite sync up. I hadn’t yet found the holy place in which my heart beats, and I was desperate for someone to validate my experience of healing NOT of the body (I knew that her physical self was just not mendable). When I spoke with her, I said that it seemed to me her soul was healing while her body was dying. She said something, quite gently, that affirmed the possibility, even the likelihood that such a thing could happen. Really and truly, God shows up in skin and talks to us in the halls of a hospice. Jesus speaks through the agency of a caring heart, and it is real, earthly, earthy sometimes, and not filled with platitudes that are uttered so that the speaker can be distanced from the grief of the other, distanced from doubt, distanced from the fear that not knowing generates.
    Sitting and shutting up. Yup. That’s the best way.

  • Marcie

    Our 19 y/o son was killed in a drunk driving acciden in 1994. He was the drunk driver. Since then I have been required by God to go to parents who have lost a child. The two things I always say (although not usually to the same person) is “This is a bitch.” and “This sucks.” Every parent has said thank you for telling me the truth. And then I sit and listen and touch. Jesus always touched, we, in our modern society and our fear of sexual misconduct are afraid to touch but Jesus wasn’t.

    On another note, my husband’s first wife died of Lupus at 37 leaving 9 and 12 y/o children behind. There was a “good Christian” woman who prayed for her healing and her faith was devestated when my husband’s wife died. While my husband and children grieved and still grieve 26 years later, they knew that their wife and mother had been healed, she was in no pain. THEY hurt but were as glad as they could be that their loved one was not in pain anymore.

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  • Lynnette

    Thanks–this was the perfect message to hear as I remember my dad on his birthday. The grace of the people who surrounded us with their presence was such a gift as we stayed with my dad at his bedside in his final days with us–Heaven on earth truly.

  • Dee

    Daily bread. That is what we pray for. It comes in many forms, a common table and a well preached word that touches us, heals and gives hope. And one more thing, encourages a way to live. Thank you.

  • Theresa Henry

    I remember so many “comforting” things that people said to me after my daughter died. They caused so much pain – though years and experiences later I realize they meant none. But one man came up to me and told me the he didn’t know what to say and just hugged me – in the middle of the parking lot – in front of the post office. I remember that hug to this day almost 25 years later.
    Thank you for your words!

  • Tim

    Great sermon… thanks for reminding me once again about who we are as Christ followers…

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  • Dixie

    A word to the wise – those who wish to help by saying something wonderful, comforting, or satisfying. Don’t even try. Your presence first…your wise words at a much later stage when you know what you’re talking about. Be there when the cards and casseroles are long gone. And the other thought; if Jesus can broil and eat a fish, He’s got to be real!