Sermon delivered on Sunday, Easter 3C, April 14, 2013, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.
Lectionary texts: Acts 9.1-20; Psalm 30.1-12; Revelation 5.11-15; John 21.1-19.
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Most of us are very much like the first disciples of Jesus, which is to say that not only do we share their virtues, we also share their limitations. Most of us are like them in an area that for professed Christians, one would think we ought not to be in, we like them, have difficulty in recognizing the risen Lord.
It seems that we – like Peter and James and all the rest are all too often caught flat footed by the presence of Christ in our midst, we have a hard time catching on to the fact that he is among us, and then once we do get it figured out, we like they, have a hard time convincing our brothers and sisters in the faith that he is really here with us, that he has appeared and spoken to us.
Think of some of the resurrection appearances for a minute. Think about how the followers of Jesus failed to recognize him for the longest time and about how when they did finally grasped, how difficult it was for them to get others to believe that they had met him and at long last recognized him.
For example, the disciples refused to believe Mary Magdalene when she told them that Jesus had appeared to her in the garden outside the tomb he was buried in, in fact she herself for a period of time thought she had only met the gardener;
Then again there was the two disciples who took the road to Emmaeus and during that long walk from Jerusalem spent the better part of the day talking with Jesus without recognizing him, by the way it wasn’t till the supper hour, when he blessed and broke the bread, that they finally realized who they were with.
And then of course there is the story from today’s gospel reading about how, after Jesus had already been with his disciples on two separate occasions in the upper room, they end up failing to recognize him, at least right away, when they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberius and he comes to the shore and calls at them to let their nets down on the other side of the boat.
Why is it that the disciples do not seem to recognize Jesus right away? And why is it that they refuse to believe other people when they claim to have met the risen Christ? I don’t think it is good enough to say that the disciples were thick headed, although the evidence might tempt us to say so, nor do I suggest that disciples were dumb because, as I suggested at the beginning, we are like them.
I think that the answer lies elsewhere. I think that the reason that the disciples don’t recognize Jesus in their midst and the reason that we ourselves don’t recognize Jesus in our lives is that we don’t expect to see him, or if we do expect to see him, we expect to see him only in certain kinds of places, and not in others.
I have met many people who feel that God is to be found and that Christ is to be found, only in special places; in places like this where there are people worshiping or prayer mountains, still quiet places. As an individual where do you find the risen Christ? Where do you sense that God is? Where do you go to hear his voice speaking inside you and to feel his presence comforting you and giving you renewed strength for the mission that he calls you to?
We all need special places to go, places of quiet and of peace, where we can meditate and pray and think about what it is that God is asking of us, places where we find, without too much difficulty, our God present with us. We need this – but if we settle only for this, or think that we can only meet God in these places, we will end up missing the presence of Christ in all those other places where he is.
And that is sad – it is sad – because if we miss Christ in the ordinary places of our lives then we also miss all that he can teach us there and all that he can do in us and through us there. Where do you find God? Where do you encounter Christ? Let’s think of where Jesus was found after the resurrection,
- He was found in a cemetery garden
- He was found in a room that was locked and shuttered up a room, in which a group of men and women hid in fear for their lives…
- He was discovered on a dusty road outside the city
- And by the seashore cooking and serving a meal of bread and fish.
Some of these locations were special places we might think, but it is really only our thinking that makes them so, or rather it is the presence of Christ there in those places that makes them special.
Consider too where Jesus was to be found before the resurrection. At a wedding, out in a fishing boat , in the village market place, at the temple teaching, at a well talking with a Samaritan woman , and in many other places and with many types of people. Just to mention a few.
Jesus went everywhere and avoided no one. Because of this fact some people said, before he was crucified that he could not be the Messiah, he could not be the Holy One of God because he was to be found in places where holy people would not go.
They missed recognizing Jesus and they missed the salvation that he offered them because they did not expect the Savior to be found in any places other than the special places they had identified in their own minds as the right kind of places.
How strange it would be if we, who now believe in him as the risen Lord, end up missing his presence because we too think that he is only to be found in special places – in places like church, or our “favorite spots”.
God is everywhere, and our risen Lord is everywhere, his spirit is all around us, and if we pay special attention, we can see him and talk with him and serve him and be served by him in all those places. The ordinary becomes sacred, it becomes sacramental when we are willing and able to see God dwelling in it when we are willing and able to allow God to transform it.
When you think about it for a moment, that is what a church building is all about, to those without faith it is nothing but bricks and a building, built in a strange way, an ordinary building.
But for us here today this ordinary building is a sacred place, a sacramental place, not only do we meet and serve God here, but in it, as well, God meets us and serves us, making us stronger and more at peace than the world that is around us. The ordinary becomes sacred because we meet Christ in it.
The disciples you know were only slow in recognizing Jesus. Ultimately they identified him in and through all the things he did in their presence. He showed them where to catch fish, he helped them to get their living, and they recognized him and thanked him. He broke bread with them and they recognized him and were strengthened by him. He healed the sick and gave sight to the blind, and they identified him and confessed him as Lord. He taught with authority and commanded evil to depart and they perceived that God was working among them. He loved the unlovable and forgave those who sinned and they saw that God was working salvation in their midst.
Christ is here today in this place, and Christ will be with you when you leave, and Christ will appear before you as you go about and talk and work with the people around you. The test of our faith is this, will you see him wherever you go? Will you hear him calling to you in the words of the hungry and the lonely and see him working in the actions of the healers and teachers? Will you be in touch with him as you make your living each day and break your bread at each evening meal? Or will most of Christ’s ministering and loving presence be lost to you just because to you those people are ordinary people, those events are ordinary events, and those activities are ordinary activities?
The disciples were slow in recognizing the risen Christ. They did not think he would appear to them, and we are like them, in our limitations, but we are also like them in our virtues, and our virtues can, like those of the disciples increase day by day, if we, like they, remember to seek the risen Christ and to serve him in all the things we do, and all the places we go, in both those things we regard as ordinary and in those we regard as special.
We have been changed by God to make a difference for Him in this world. In the name of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy spirit. Amen