Guidance
Rector

The Rev. Mark Andrew Jones, BSG

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My Dear Friends in Christ,

What follows is the sermon I gave on the 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 15th. 

In Christ's Love,

Mark Andrew+

            “Peace be with you. … Have you anything … to eat?” In the Name of the One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

            “Shalom” … loosely translated “Shalom” means “Peace be with you”; but the English phrase does not fully capture or convey the full meaning of the Hebrew. In English, “peace” means – in the main – an absence of conflict. To be sure, “Shalom” means “peace” in this sense as well; but it – “Shalom” … and perhaps even the English word “peace” itself – carry more meaning than we might think.

            “Shalom” is derived from the root word “shalam,” which means to be safe in mind, body, or estate. It conveys a completeness, a fullness, a wholeness that encourages one to generously give back or pay forward. … “Shalom” – may you be full of well-being; may health and prosperity be upon you.

            Given this Gospel blessing of peace and the Epistle’s reference to us as children of God, I can’t help but make a connection to one of the Beatitudes – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called [children] of God” (Matthew 5:9).  Jesus is not referring to political negotiators or mediators. No, He is referring to those who have such an inward sense of wholeness that it overflows from one individual to another and to another, helping others be at peace and inwardly whole as well. That’s what Jesus did and still does as the Son of God. … And we, by sharing God’s uncontainable peace with others, we become Christ-like children of God ourselves.                      …

            Knowing that the phrase “peace be with you” means much more than our cultural ears hear, I find myself wondering about other aspects of today’s Gospel. … Like last week, this morning we’re told of a time when the disciples are secluded away from the world in a private room, and suddenly Jesus stands among them. They are understandably startled and terrified. Even after they examine Jesus’ hands and feet, even as they begin to rejoice, there is a sense of wonder and disbelief – How can this be? And then Jesus asks, “Have you anything … to eat?” … I’ve always thought of this as just Jesus’ way of convincing the disciples (and us) that the Resurrection is a bodily resurrection; that the risen life is unlike our bodily life today and, yet, in ways it’s similar.   …

            Ghosts and apparitions do not eat broiled fish, but a human Jesus – even a Risen Jesus – does. … As the Church has affirmed since some of its earliest days, Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. In His Resurrection, humanity itself (our humanity) has been raised and taken to God, … destined for God. …

            Luke emphasizes Jesus’ humanity in part because some in ancient times believed that the world of flesh and blood is an inferior form of existence when compared to the life of the spirit. This notion has cropped up at various times in the history of Christianity. It gives rise to an over-emphasis on the spiritual afterlife, almost to the point of ignoring the physical pain of our fellow human beings – the hunger, the sickness, the slavery: … after all, as some of the more tight-fisted might say – the poor you’ll always have with you. … White masters told their American slaves – when they let them go to church – pay no mind to the earthly; focus on the spiritual instead to gain a place in a heavenly home. …

            This history, this sad history, is often what I think about when people say to me, as a recent Twitter follower said, “Pastor, someone in your position with the Church should not be so political.” Too often people think the Church should not speak about politics, economics, issues of war and peace, or about any number of social issues, like gun violence or LGBTQ equality. Some say: Those issues have no place in church. Pastors and religious leaders should stick to spiritual issues. But today’s Gospel speaks of a Risen Christ who steps right back into the world. … “Have you anything … to eat?”

            Luke wants us to know that our spiritual life, even the spiritual home to which we aspire, is not wholly separate from this earthly life. Even at the very beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, The kingdom of heaven has come near. The Spirit of Almighty God and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ through His body in the world, the Church – through you and me and millions upon millions like us – through us Almighty God is active and alive in the flesh and blood of this material world. And it is well, oh so well, that God is with us.           …

            “Have you anything … to eat?” The disciples respond by feeding Jesus some fish. Now consider what happens next: “He opened their minds to understand the scriptures”; … to understand that God wants His story of leading people to freedom from the slavery of Egypt, of granting liberation and justice for the oppressed, of feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, of healing and restoring to wholeness (and holiness) the sick and the weak, of redeeming the lost, and offering salvation for the sinful; … “He opened their minds to understand that God wants this story – God’s Story – to be our story, everyone’s story.       …

            This morning we are left to ask if our Gospel is a random collection of story elements strung together out of memory to keep the narrative going or is it more? Is the feeding of Jesus linked, … perhaps causally linked, to the opening of our minds? Might it all culminate in Shalom – that sense of inward wholeness which prompts one to give back or pay forward, spreading that precious sense of holy and complete peace, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven itself near?             … Based on our experience at St. Nicholas – where we have discovered the blessing of being a blessing for others – we must conclude that there is an essential link between all of these elements. … Of course, Jesus does not appear before us as He did before the disciples … or does He? Remember the famous verse from Matthew 25? – Lord, when were you hungry and I fed you? … When you do it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me. … “Peace be with you. … Have you anything … to eat?”                …

            The Risen Christ does not abandon this material world upon entry into the afterlife. The Risen Christ does not abandon those who are politically or economically oppressed or the victims of injustice – just as He did not when He walked this earth. The Risen Christ steps back into the world precisely to make God’s story our story in the here and now. And we, as we hear toward the end of today’s Gospel, we are commissioned as witnesses to proclaim the good news – not only in word but also by our deeds, that heaven might come near for everyone. We are to advocate for – and assist – the oppressed and victims of injustice; … we are to feed the hungry, assist the poor and the homeless; and stand with the powerless; for in doing so we serve Christ and advance God’s mission of bringing heaven near by making God’s story humanity’s story.   …

            Feed, shelter, protect, and care for people; for we do it for Christ. … Know the blessing and the holiness of being a blessing for others.

“Peace be with you. … Have you anything … to eat?”

 

 

 

 

 

DMS 4/13/18

 

 





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