May 4, 2014: Resurrection Sneaking Up from Behind


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Third Sunday after Easter

Each week since Easter we keep hearing how that first one was anything but a roaring success. Not so where I came from. Easter in my hometown church was huge, triumphant, people dressed to the 9’s, trumpets, palms and lilies. Easter was so big that many who came that day could cruise until Christmas before needing to come back. To me, Easter wasn’t so great. I mean, after all – a bunny leaves chocolates and peeps in a bed of crappy-looking, fake grass. Christmas, on the other hand, has Santa who drops in, leaves good presents by a nicely appointed tree. That’s better. In pre-marital counseling people tell me their favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas. No one so far says Easter, but I’ve only done this for 40 years.

The Lectionary offers a wide range of Easter stories over the seven weeks of the season. Stories of how the crucified Lord sneaks up on his friends are pretty comical. I think it would be funny if Jesus called on some others, too. Think about it – a knock at a palace door, “And whom should I tell Pontius Pilate is calling on him this fine day?” Or what if Jesus had gone to the High Priest? “Surprise! I’m back. You messed up.” No – he goes to his friends, good people, but slow to catch on. If that’s how friends treat him, and he still loves them, maybe I’ve got a chance.

Slow to get it? I just re-read a book I read a few years back. “Woe,” I think, “how’d I miss that?” Ever had that happen? Maybe I wasn’t ready. Sometimes we can be distracted – by grief, despair, a wandering mind, or moaning over what we once had and now have lost, clinging so tightly to the past, we are blind to a larger world before us – reminds me of the Emmaus Road guys.

Maybe we don’t get Easter until Jesus gets us. You’ll know he’s gotten you when everything changes – your heart is warmed, the world, values, what you treasure, your generosity shifts. You start seeing resurrection happening all around. We get a spiritual make-over – inside our hearts. “I have gone completely through the Torah. What must I do now?” asks a student. The teacher: “Oh, my friend, the question is not, ‘Have you gone through the Torah?’ The question is, “Has the Torah gone through you?’”[1] Is Easter reshaping your life? Would others notice? When they do, that’s Easter.

As they walk down the road, the stranger holds a Bible study. I am glad he says, “You foolish – slow of heart to believe. What all did you miss at your Bible class?” This stranger doesn’t berate anyone for being slow. He recasts the story they tell, and they hear scripture as if for the first time. Notice how attitudes shift when heaven and earth join together in Jesus. The two turn off to go to dinner. Now they invite the stranger, “Stay with us. It’s evening. Come in.” He does. The stranger becomes the host of this meal. He takes bread, blesses, breaks and hands them bread, and they know. Their eyes open, and then he vanishes. “Remember how our hearts burned when he was talking about God?” Now they know why. Our hearts warm when Jesus recasts our stories.

Sometimes people tell me, “I don’t know enough about scripture.” “Me either,” which I learn is not the response they hope for. “Well, you know more. Got a book to explain it to me?” “I’m sure you’re smart enough to understand if I suggest a title. There’s something better. Ask Jesus to be present before you read. We have this little prayer, “O God whose blessed Son made himself known in the breaking of bread, open the eyes of my faith to behold him.” I’ve finally learned to do that. I’ve been taught better. Before reading scripture, humbly invite Jesus to be present. Quiet your mind to welcome him. He’s always there. Then I read, and listen for what bubbles up within. It’s simple, and so obvious. It’s the Emmaus Road again. He will come and restore our vision. That’s good news that cannot be contained. The sharing completes Easter – in our words and lives. Go tell this good news – how you meet him in the breaking of bread. He’s here with us – and all who gather in his name when we break bread each Sunday, and other times. Do you ever prepare yourselves to see and receive him? You do, and you’ll see him everywhere – not just at church. I love these stories – because we’re in them – how when we don’t get it – Jesus isn’t bothered. He still gets us, in spite of ourselves. He comes as a stranger sometimes, always with compassion and love, forgiveness to heal what isn’t quite right, and raises up new life in each of us – in our church life – and that’s Easter.

“Be known to us in the breaking of the bread.” Frederick Buechner says what convinced people back then that Jesus had risen is they experienced a living presence that destroyed fear and death. Be alert – be present, so you don’t miss him.

From an ancient tradition, a disciple asks, “Where shall I look for Enlightenment?” “Here,” says the teacher. “When will it happen?” “Right now.” “Why don’t I experience it?” “Because you do not look,” says the teacher. “What should I look for?” he asks. “Nothing – just look.” “At what?” The teacher says, “Anything your eyes alight upon.” “Must I look in a special way?” “No – the ordinary way will do.” “But,” asks the student, “don’t I always look in the ordinary way?” “No, you don’t.” He asks, “Why ever not?” and the teacher says, “Because to look you must be here, and you’re mostly somewhere else.”[2] So you’ll soon receive bread – what will you see? Will you invite his life to go through you?



[1] From Joan Chittister, The Rule of St. Benedict. Crossroad Publishing Company, 2010 (second edition), pg. 297.

[2] Ibid.,  Pg. 299.


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