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April 14, 2024

3rd Sunday of Easter

Acts 3:12-19

Psalm 4

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,

 grace and peace to you

from the one who shares our humanity. Amen


The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost.

gathered together on that first Easter Sunday,

 they’ve heard that Jesus is risen and appeared to Simon,

 and the two disciples who had left town for Emmaus

 have returned and told them all

how Jesus traveled with them on the way

 and appeared to them in the breaking of the bread.


But even these reports

 don’t prepare them for Jesus’ appearance

 in the middle of their gathering


“Peace be with you” he says

 and “They were startled and terrified,

and thought they were seeing a ghost.

He said to them ‘Why are you frightened,

 and why do doubts arise in your hearts?’”


Really Jesus?

You appear out of nowhere

risen from the dead

and you wonder why they are frightened?


 It seems like Jesus has more faith

 in the disciples’ ability to believe

 than the disciples have belief.


But his questioning is brief

and he shows the disciples his hands and feet,

 still bearing the marks of the nails that fixed him to the cross

but also healed and whole again

 and this proof they cannot deny

and they start to react with joy,

but “while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering”


While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering


Have you ever noticed that faith, life

 is never as clear cut as we’d like it to be?

How as humans

we have this capacity, inclination even,

to experience conflicting emotions and beliefs

when it would be so much easier

if we could just stick with one?


 The disciples,

unequivocally faced with the truth of the resurrected Jesus among them

 react with joy,

 and facing the resurrected Jesus

who is defying the laws of nature

that they have known their whole lives,

mostly that dead is dead,

 still wonder at his presence.


So what does Jesus do?

 he said to them, ‘have you anything here to eat?’

They gave him a piece of broiled fish,

 and he took it and ate in their presence.”


As author Debbie Thomas notes this is:


“A simple act, but an act that shifts the story.  As Jesus chews and swallows, something becomes possible that was impossible before.  The disciples lose enough of their fear to draw close and actually listen to what he’s saying, and their receptivity allows Jesus to “open their minds to understand.”  By the end of the encounter, they are no longer frightened human beings; they are “witnesses of these things,” emboldened for life and ministry.  Simply by expressing physical hunger and accepting bodily nourishment, Jesus turns trauma into communion.”


This act of shared humanity,

the act of eating,

 is able to bridge the gulf between joy and disbelief,

it creates a connection and a way forward


 and then Jesus tells the disciples

 that they are witnesses of these things,

 and implied in that is that they are to share this experience with others

 so that others may believe.


 We humans often need physical proof to believe

and when we can’t have that

we like to hear from someone else

who has had proof or a moment of clarity,


and sometimes we need a piece of fish,

 a bit of shared humanity

before our minds are open enough

to hear the truth being shared with us.


Have you ever had one of these experiences?

Where meeting someone

Hearing their story

Has helped to change your perspective,

Even just a little bit?


Shared humanity is powerful

more so than trying to convince

or be convinced with words or theories.


 This is why in the ELCA mission work

 is done using the model of accompaniment,

which means that relationships are built on mutual understanding,

 meals are shared, and relationships built

before there is any teaching or service,

and when there is teaching and service it is done

 based on shared humanity and respect

even when there are conflicts of emotion and disbelief.


This practice of sharing humanity

Shows us what may be done during the other times in life

where like the disciples

the truth we encounter before us

 conflicts with what we’ve known our whole lives

and confuses or frightens us.


 It might be something big

like our experience of race or poverty

or lack thereof


or trying to understand

 the many divides between peoples in the world

 like between the Israelis and Palestinians,

situations that from an outside surface level seem simple,

but as soon as humanity is shared and stories told,

take on a whole complexity we didn’t see before.


Understanding that shared humanity is key to opening closed minds

points us to the problems and conflict in our own nation and society,

the political and social polarization is marked by a lack of shared humanity,

 a lack of interaction.


It’s easy to vilify the other, those people,

to keep minds closed

 when you haven’t sat down with them

and shared a piece of fish,

shared a piece of humanity with one another.


Sharing humanity might also be the key to something smaller, though no less significant

understanding the disconnect between a neighbor’s words and actions

or even the sharing of an experience of faith

and our own doubts.


The sharing of humanity

 opens our minds to understand the truth before us.


Jesus’ resurrection appearances

 call us, in these moments

 to embrace all of the emotions,

and to seek a simple connection,


as simple as sharing a meal,

to create a way forward

 for hearts and minds to be opened,

 witnesses, shared and created.


And while this can be very difficult,

it helps to remember

 that the world is not yet perfect

and therefore neither are we

 but we do have the hope of perfection in the risen Christ,       


 as the author of 1 John puts it

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. “ 


what we will be has not yet been revealed,

we don’t know exactly what the future will bring,

what we do know is that we are God’s children,

and nothing can change that.


So while we’re not perfect,

we try,

we gather with one another

in the midst of joy and of fright and disbelief,

we share food and what we have seen,

 we listening to the witness of others

and we have hope because we are God’s children. amen

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