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.
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.