The Risen Christ

Pastor Jay’s Sermon from the Third Sunday of Easter.

Readings: Acts 9:1-20, Psalm 30, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19.

Okay. So, am I the only one wondering that Jesus looked like after the resurrection? No one seems to know what he looks like. It’s like after they stuck him in the tomb they forgot what he looked like! Mary thinks he is the gardener. The eleven are shocked when he walks through the door. Mr and Mrs Clopas don’t recognize him on the Road to Emmaus. Thomas only gets it when he sees the scars and wounds. And now here they are in broad daylight—it’s morning on the Lake. And still they don’t know it’s Jesus.

But maybe that’s part of the point. From the moment he emerges from the tomb, Jesus seems be pushing everyone away. Well…not…you know what I mean. He’s not pushing them away but he is shoving them out into the world. He tells Mary, the First of the Apostles, not to hold onto him because he had not yet ascended and instead to tell the twelve. He tells Thomas that those who have not seen but who have come to believe are blessed. He disappears the second that Mr and Mrs Clopas recognize him. And now here he is turning Peter out into the world to care for others. Maybe it isn’t really about what the resurrected Christ looks like but what he calls us to be in the world.

At all of these encounters, Jesus seems to fill his beloved with what they need for the task at hand and then shoving them out of the nest. He’s like a loving mama bird. Love, support, warmth, safety…until it’s time to live in the world and then she loving shoves her baby birds out of the nest to fly and live in the world. That seems to be more what Jesus is all about here. He has dwelt with his beloved for years now, he has taught them, shown then, empowered them to live God’s love in the world. And now, now that all has been accomplished on the cross and God’s power in this world proved through the empty tomb, he is reminding them that it is life in the world that he calls them to.

Us too. That’s what this whole season of Easter is about. This season is about remembering all that has come before and trusting on the Risen Christ in our midst here. It is about being strengthened together here as the beloved of God and allowing the Spirit to blow us out those doors to live into the abundant life Christ gives us. Because the life Christ calls us to, life in the Resurrection Dawn, is not about what goes on here. It isn’t about hiding behind locked doors, or even going about our lives as if nothing happened as the disciples seem to have done by returning to their fishing nets. Rather, the life Christ calls us to, the life Christ gives us and empowers us to live into is about living out there. It is about being full of the abundance of God and sharing it with others. It is about trusting more than anything else on the promises of God with us in Christ who proves power over all the powers of this world, even death and living into that truth and life in our lives.

You know, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. That is a lot to trust. The world is full of evidence to the contrary. We daily experience ourselves the burdens and worry and death all around us. It gets discouraging. It is far easier to believe that Jesus is still in the empty tomb and attempt to go about our business behind locked doors, getting back to the tasks at hand, traveling home in sorrow. But just remember: Jesus never leaves his beloved abandoned. It is precisely into those moments and those places where it was easier for his beloved to be discouraged that Jesus appears after the resurrection. It is precisely when they needed a boost to trust in the promises, the abundance, the life and love of God that Jesus shows up to give it to them.

And isn’t that what we gather here for? Certainly it is why we share these stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances for seven weeks, but it is why we gather here week after week: to share in the promises of God, to remind ourselves and each other that Christ is alive and we are called to tell the world, to experience Christ here in ordinary and unexpected things and be sustained. It may not be bread and fish, our morsel of bread and taste of wine may not be as filling as a picnic on the beach. But when the Risen Christ comes to us here, he feeds us with his very self, and it is more than we need for life in him.

It may be far easier to live in the discouragement and despair of the world, but what we are reminded here, what we tell each other, what we hear and share here is that discouragement and despair are not what the risen Christ calls us to. Rather, we are called to dance on the beach with Christ, we are called to feast at the table with Christ, we are called to receive the Holy Spirit, the life-breath of God, from Christ. We are called to encounter the discouragement and despair of the world and shout all the louder: Alleluia! Christ is Risen!