Presence.

Luke 24:36-48

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

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

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Sermon:

A few years ago, I was walking through Over the Rhine here in Cincy with a friend of min, Adam Phillips.  This was about the time when Over the Rhine was going through a huge transformation.

As we were walking, there was a man that was in front of us.  He suddenly collapsed on the sidewalk.  We rushed up to him along with another pedestrian.  He was passed out and his breathing had stopped, or seemed like it.  I called 911 immediately and within minutes there were fire personnel and a police officer there.  And, so Cincinnati, I knew one of the firefighters.  He was the dad of one of my cross country runners at the time.  

The firefighters quickly gave him something as soon as they arrived as they quickly recognized what had happened.  It was Narcan.  The man had overdosed on heroin.  Narcan, when administered quickly, can reverse the life threatening impact of a heroin overdose, I quickly found out.

The man jumped back to life.  The police officer looked at him and told him he was lucky to be alive and that he should thank my friend and I.  He looked at us, gave a weary smile to us.  And, we were all on our way.  

As a pastor, I have seen folks die, I have been with them.  I have also been around folks in near death experiences.  I’ve never seen someone, up until then, be that far gone and then come back that fast.  I’m glad for him (and for us), but it was so surreal.

The disciples in our gospel passage this morning were in a place of disarray, disillusionment, disorientation, and distress.  This is another gospel rendering of the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection.  Similar to last week’s gospel reading in John, we find the disciples afraid and filled with doubt.

They had heard about Jesus’ resurrection, but didn’t know what to believe, or to dare to believe.

Jesus appears to them.  Again, in Luke’s gospel as well as John’s, he great’s them with peace.  Not just peace, as in the absence of conflict or dissonance, but a deeper peace that brings reconciliation, justice, and a blessing to have life as it was meant to be lived where there is a deeper power at work that enables one to engage the dissonance, the doubts, and to trust in a deeper Presence at work.

They thought they were seeing a ghost at first.  It was a surreal experience that they were trying to find something to understand…it was sudden.  Like the man and the experience that Adam and I came into contact with in OTR.  

Jesus says in effect, you aren’t seeing a ghost, I’m no cadaver, I’m not a zombie.  I’m real, I’m resurrected, I’m material that is tangible.  Touch the scars, see them.  They are still there, but I am healed.  I am an embodied, resurrected human being.  And, I’m hungry!

Jesus, went through the hell of the violence and humiliation of the cross, went through his own doubts and fears before the cross and on the cross, even crying out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, in effect, the worst doubt, doubting his very being!  

Friends, I don’t know how this works, but Jesus is saying to the disciples, and to us, I am alive!  There is a resurrected, embodied Jesus somewhere, and through the universal presence of Christ and the power of God’s Spirit, we are connected to this embodied, healed, and resurrected Jesus…and so is everyone else in this world!  

This connection, as we recognize it, live in presence with God and others, will continue to open our hearts and minds to an expansive God and to a deeper understanding of God’s story!  

And, God is up to something more expansive than we could have ever imagined.  Our Elemental Leadership team meetings have been amazing.  They have been listening, and hearing. 

Well, since they don’t know, we have an opportunity to write a new story that is wrapped up into the expansive story of God.  We have the opportunity to deliver to this neighborhood a church, a collection of folks called together, a community that is here for everyone and that is connected deeply to our neighborhood, as well as the larger context of the world.

Our gospel lesson and story in Acts give witness to a Jesus who has been preparing his disciples to be witnesses to the world of a new way of living, a way of radical love and inclusion, of meaning and purpose, of overcoming everything with him.  Jesus is saying that he will deliver on his end, but he’s calling us to participate in what he’s doing and deliver with him.  To be co-participants in building God’s kingdom now, not some promise of  a distant future, but a promise of living in deep love for ourselves, others, and God now.  That does take a change of heart, it calls for repentance as it says in Acts.  As we’ve said before, repent in Greek is Metanoia, a changing of one’s mind.  

As we grow and change, we have great conversation partners like ECI/Oasis, the schools, Tikkun Farm, Valley Interfaith, and other churches.  Not only are they conversation partners, but they have been encouraging and building up communities for years.  They are friends and want to be a part of this journey with us.  I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather work towards something knowing that there are others with me.  Friends, let’s do this!  Let’s be this!  Persons living in faithful presence with God and live in God’s peace, God’s shalom, with one another, and with our neighbors!

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