SATURDAY OF EASTER III

May 11, 2019

LUKE 24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Laughing Jesus barry moser
Jesus Rabboni – Barry Moser KJV Bible 1999

For several days we have mediated on the four ritual movements of the Eucharist. Today, let’s look at the fifth.  He took, blessed, broke and gave bread to them. They ate and they went.  The last words of a Eucharist is the dismissal by the waiter (deacon), “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” “Thanks be to God,” we say as we head for the exits.  As I often say, “We are to be for others what we have received at the table.  In other words,

“If you have been fed, be bread!”

 

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John Sewell

MONDAY OF EASTER III

May 5, 2019

Emmaus Debbie Salt

LUKE 24:17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him..

Jesus said, “That was quite a debate you just having.  What were you discussing?” With grief, most anything is a trigger and sadness leapt to their faces. Cleopas looking up over his glasses asked, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem not to know what happened this week? You don’t get out much?”  “What things?”  Seeing Cleopas’ exasperation,   Symeon interjected, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was prophet in deed and word before God and all the people…”

The consequence of a drought of prophets in Israel from Malachi to John the Baptizer was spiritual hunger.  There is never any lack of people wanting to order people around, while telling them exactly what the Holy One would do or say, if only God had all the facts. John, the Baptizer was cut from a different bolt, actually a bolt of lightening not camel-skin.

Acabas Emmaus

Of course God has all the facts.  The important thing to know about Jesus is not that he is like God.  The important thing to know is that God is like Jesus.  “If you have seen me,” said Jesus, “You have seen the Father.”  The Incarnation revels the identity and face of the Creator. That turned out to be good news.  Good News in deed.  Not only that, we are invited to call God, “father.” That’s amazing when you think on it.

There are many amazing things yet to come!  I have it on good authority.

In hope, in spite of the facts.  John

 

J

EASTER III

May 5, 209

Janet Brooks Gerlof Emmaus

LUKE 24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

A story has characters. Characters have stories and relationships that are the story. So who are the people and why do they matter.  Cleopas is the husband of Mary, the sister of Mary, mother of Jesus.  I know, “what were they thinking?”  The Holy Family’s family, though not prominent in the Gospels become central in Acts and beyond. Cleo (his friends called him Cleo) is accompanied by an unnamed companion.  Who? Pick one.  For the sake of our conversation, let’s say he is Symeon, Cleo’s son.  Symeon figures large in the early Christian fortunes.*

Cleo said, “I’m done! Let’s go home.” He headed out the Damascus Gate, the sun just past overhead, as they trudged West toward home.  Symeon fell into pace with his father and they walked steadily through the hot afternoon the twenty or so miles to Emmaus.  They were debating, the sense is, very vigorously, rehashing everything that occurred since the first day of a week ago.

Focused on the matter at hand, the men didn’t see Jesus simply step from nothing onto the shoulder of the road.  Falling into step with them, he joined their party but they did not realize who walked with them.

Acabas Emmaus

Why?  It says, ‘their eyes were fixed from recognition.” One tool for Bible study is the question, “Why is this here?”  The church in the first twenty years had a growing sense of Christ’s presence seen or unseen.  They did see him and were blessed to be so.  Jesus remarked that those of us who have not seen but have believed are blessed as well.

Today, Jesus will show up sometime, somewhere, somehow.  Notice your inner quickened sense of awareness, it’s one of the signs.

In hope, in spite of the facts. j

*Chapter 11:1. After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem which immediately followed, it is said that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh (for the majority of them also were still alive) to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. 2. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention; to be worthy of the episcopal throne of that parish. He was a cousin, as they say, of the Saviour. For Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph. Eusebius (2011-09-15). The History of the Church

FRIDAY OF EASTER II

May 3, 2019

St_Thomas_icon

Thomas, Apostle of India

JOHN 20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Following John’s chronology, this reading falls a week after Easter.

He wants to experience this for himself. A week later, things are a bit calmer, when Jesus appeared the second time.  He materialized right in front of Thomas inviting just the scrutiny that Thomas claimed he needed.  In fact, it turned he didn’t need it at all.  He was clearly Jesus, Thomas knew at almost a cellular level.

“My Lord and my God” is pretty clear where Thomas came down on the issue. Between Easter Day and Pentecost, there must have been some mighty long conversations, lectures and holy power point presentations as Jesus got the disciples ready to carry resurrection everywhere.  Having done that, he ascended, instructing them to stay together and in one place (I like to think he smiled at Thomas when he said it) until the Spirit comes.  They did and The Holy Spirit did.  More about that later.

After Pentecost, Thomas went on down to Alexandria, sailed across the Indian Ocean never to return.  The story is that he preached resurrection, lived resurrection and dispensed resurrection to the point a local priest (isn’t it always) brained him with a dye bat.  You can think what you like about such tales and doubt much about them.  However, in this case when the Portuguese arrived in Indian there were Christians there to meet them. In Goa, the church was a little odd by Western practice, but clearly they preached the same resurrection. They heard the Good News from our favorite doubter very soon after the resurrection.  They called themselves Mar Thoma or Saint Thomas Christians.  Though, I doubt he much cares any more about that doubting moniker, shouldn’t we at least give the guy a break.  For crying out loud.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

j

THURSDAY OF EASTER II

May 2, 2019

Tissot Thomas

Thomas sees Jesus – Tissot

JOHN 20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Thomas was called the twin back then. Aside, nobody has a clue about the twin thing so beware of scholar’s theories. Aside over. He got past being called twin (almost nobody calls him that anymore), only receive, “doubting” in its place. Doubting Thomas is much worse than Thomas the Twin. Don’t you think?

In addition, he gets a bum rap as well, to this day. He went out Easter night. Why? Nobody knows. So supply your own notion, I do. Maybe he got sick of disciple’s paranoia, jumping at a log cracking in the fireplace. Perhaps, he got the short straw when they ran out of beer and was out getting a few cases to tide them over. He could have needed fresh air. We know he was out, period.

I ask you, why should he accept the word of this crowd given their state of mind? Add terror to grief and you get hallucinations, maybe? Thomas wanted to experience God directly, not hearsay. There’s a reason the courts are unimpressed by such. Who could blame him? I’ve noticed in the years of my ordained life, soon 37 years, a growing, progressive hunger of people to experience God for themselves.

I will tell you that for the thirty-seven years of this gig, one trend is that people want to experience God themselves.  Don’t settle for any secondhand edition it will not fix the slow leak in our souls.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John Sewell

 

 

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EASTER II

APRIL 28, 2019

JOHN 20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

It’s interesting, the “water-cooler”* definition of fear is anxiety/ reaction to danger, while peace is essentially, NOT fear.  If fear is reaction to danger, then the “fear-scale” for reactivity varies from the edge of pleasure to nuclear winter.  My therapist once said, “Your problem, John, is you don’t know the difference between scared and excited.” Definition by absence is rarely helpful.

The reaction of the disciples is surely understandable. Lackluster with Jesus, without Jesus, they had no luster at all.  Their leader had offended every power broker in the country.  If they murdered Jesus what would they do to them?  Lock-down mode was prudent.  Leaving the guys huddled by the fire with the curtains drawn, let us consider fear. 

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain. – Paul Atreides

From Dune by Frank Herbert

george herbert

Frank Herbert

I recall no need to exegete science fiction before, but then Frank Herbert was specialized in comparative religions.  Actually the litany of fear is pretty good advice.

First:  I must not fear.  Not very realistic. What if we said, “I must not become my fear.”   (Suspect that is his intent).

Fear is a mind-killer, tolerated long enough will destroy.  I knew a woman that as soon as her family departed each morning began running horror movies in her head of what awful things were befalling them all day.  This continued until they returned.

We face our fear, name it and allow it to pass over and through. Avoid psychic stickiness.  When it is gone past, in the rear-view mirror I see there is nothing. Dreams are not corporeal, there is no trace. Only I remain.  This is the discipline of the mind, taught by the Spirit.

It interesting where we find spiritual resources, even speculative fiction.

*unsubstantiated opinion

In hope, in spite of the facts

John

SATURDAY OF EASTER WEEK

April 26, 2019

MARK 16:9 Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 12 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 20 And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Mark gives us the spare details, the shorthand version, of the readings of Easter Week. We know that Mark took down the remembrances of Peter.  Luke must have known Mary and the family of Jesus, so he gives us the detailed version of Cleopas and friend. 

Jesus-breaking-bread-and-giving-his-disciples-the-cup

Verse 14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

Why is it that nothing is ever simple?   We see in our minds the way forward.  It lies clear before us, even what to do in what order.  Reality, the 11 had relapsed to pre-resurrection mode.  One of the hardest parts of leading is the vision must be cast as high as possible, knowing it cannot be reached.  You’d like to think that if you see the risen Jesus you could persuade people you know well.  Not if they prefer not to believe.

This is the crowd that does finally get moving with the simple task of saving the whole world. It didn’t nor is it still going easily.  The West needs re-evangelizing for the third time in some cases. But, the Lord is working with us. The Holy Spirit, God penetrating history and existence, continues Jesus’ work.  Let’s get with it.

Pray for all who witness to Isis, mostly as martyrs for proclaiming Jesus, Son of God.    The work continues.  Thanksgiving for all believers in Sri Lanka who met our Lord face to face on Easter.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John+

 

 

FRIDAY OF EASTER WEEK

April 26, 2019

1886_Jesus Appears on the Shore_Brooklyn_1886-94

Jesus appears by the sea – James Tissot

JOHN After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples

 

Janet Brooks Gerloff

The Last Breakfast – Janet Brooks Gerloff

Here we join the last breakfast.  Jesus is cooking by the time the guys came in from fishing without anything to show for being wet and cold.  He must have walked down to the water, shouting the question all fishers hear as the boat nears the dock, “Boys, didn’t catch anything, did you?” “Nothing,” the glum reply.   Chuckling, Jesus said, “Throw the net on the right side, there’s fish to be caught.”   To which, John thought, “haven’t we been here before? It’s the Lord!” Peter not to be outdone dives into the sea getting to the beach first.

 

 

tissot-meal-of-our-lord-and-the-apostles-747x481

The Last Breakfast – James Tissot

The grill was hot. Jesus called for fresh fish and they ate right there.  It’s like a group of buddies had serve as pall bearers for the best among them, only suddenly there he is alive but changed and all for the better.  If death can’t stop him, what can stop any of them?  Sated with food, they lay around like a pile of puppies.  The scene is irresistibly attractive, the kind rising from a genuine religious experience.  Oh, there were issues to tend and a whole world to save, but on that clear cool morning they were at peace, together again.

By the time John writes this text, only he remains.  His brother, James was the first to fall.  Now he will be the last.  Sons of Thunder, bookends of the Apostles.  In the high altar mural in the church here at Saint John’s is the old John.  He’s not crazed exactly, but clearly he has seen something.

And he did.  I’m grateful for his Gospel.  Wish there was Volume 2.

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John

THURSDAY OF EASTER WEEK

April 25, 2019

Jesus appears to the disciples

LUKE 24:36b   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.

While Cleopas and friend were hoofing it back to Jerusalem to tell their story, Jesus appeared to the disciples.  Putting it mildly, he scared them silly.  Notice, in Scripture that angels always say, “Peace, don’t be afraid,” because fear is always people’s first response.  The resurrected Jesus now does the same.  What did he look like?  Clearly there is a genuine continuity between before death and resurrected Jesus.

Is it because they don’t expect to see the dead, although ghosts are one explanation.  Jesus put that to rest by asking for something to eat.  He ate the offered fish, thus proving he was not a ghost.  His wounded hands and feet are enough to convince them.  Then he opened his second lecture of the day.

Again, through the whole of the Hebrew Bible he shows them where he is prefigured.  He also points out the suffering servant in the writings of the Prophet Isaiah, which was largely overlooked when Messiah was discussed.  They are spellbound as he reminds them of things he said before his passion.  “You are witnesses of these things.”  This good news must go out from Jerusalem to all the world.  And so it did.

In hope, in spite of the facts.  John

WEDNESDAY OF EASTER WEEK

April 24, 2019

Emmaus Debbie Salt

Walk to Emmaus – Debbie Salt

LUKE 24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The account of the walk to Emmaus is reserved for services on Easter afternoon or evening. It is one of the most beautiful of the post-resurrection accounts. Cleopas married Mary, sister of the mother of Jesus. Family gatherings must have been very confusing. So, Jesus’ uncle by marriage walks the few miles to Emmaus village. Perhaps, he and Mary lived there. He is accompanied by an unnamed companion. I like to think it was his son, Simeon, who figures largely in the earliest church. Jesus’ family is largely on the margins in the Gospel accounts. Humans just love dynasties, so James, his brother, is the first Bishop of Jerusalem. The second bishop is Simeon, Jesus’ first cousin.

The risen Jesus joined them and seeing their mood, asked what was wrong? Cleopas exploded, “How could you not know about the ruckus in town about Jesus. A great young man, murdered by the priests because they felt threatened. What a shame, he was so young.” His voice trailed off into the silence save for the sound of a stone dislodged by a foot rolling away from the path.

Jesus then began to explain how Messiah must suffer and die and rise throughout all the Old Testament. This must be the first time that prefiguring types in the Hebrew Bible are restated as antitype in the life of Jesus with greater clarity and power. As they neared the village, dusk was falling quickly into the true dark (electricity changed that). They invited him to stay and he did. Having refreshed themselves with cool water and washed their feet, they sat down to table.

Acabas Emmaus

Jesus took bread, blessed, broke and gave it to them. Before the bread reached their mouths, he disappeared. Ever since that night in Emmaus, when Christians gather for Eucharist they know, that seen or unseen Jesus is there. It’s so, I’ve felt him often. You?

In hope, in spite of the facts.

John+