Year A, 3rd and 4th Sunday in Easter
Blessed Easter Season to you all! I hope you were able to rest some after Holy Week or you have some time planned to be away. I will be traveling off and on until the middle of June so the blogs will be a bit compressed until then. Will be back to a weekly schedule after Trinity Sunday.
In the resurrection account in Matthew 28 the angel tells the women, “I know you are looking for Jesus….”. This was a particularly poignant phrase for me this year as I experience the drastic changes in leadership and policy here in the US. I have spent my life looking for Jesus….finding him…thinking I have lost him….looking again. It is very important to me during these times to keep looking in all the usual and some unusual places. We need Jesus! We need the Risen Christ! My re-discovery in the Matthew 28 story this year was the instruction by the angel and then by Jesus himself to go back into the places the women lived with Jesus, back to Galilee, to find him. “He will meet you there.” I knew this with the top of my head but it hit home at a deeper heart level as I absorbed Matthew’s text for preaching. The Risen Jesus goes ahead of us back into the very places that we live.
I thought about where my congregation lives and what concerns them on Easter Sunday. Suddenly I could see again. I could see Jesus at the egg hunt and the family dinner; in caves obliterated by bombs and in the hospitals where people suffer needlessly from chemical warfare. I saw Jesus on the playground with all the children at school and Jesus was at work with all the adults. I remembered that Jesus even walks the complicated corridors of our nation’s congress as well as he walks with us here in Northern Colorado in the conversation and the conflict of community building. And walks the streets of your community. Wherever life takes us the Risen One goes before leading the way because of the power of the living God.
This was part of the Easter message I had to hear in order to share a message of resurrection with my congregation. I read the texts for the 3rd and 4th Sundays in Easter this year with eyes and ears and a heart looking for Jesus in new ways. I am struck by the theme of recognizing the Risen Christ that I find in the texts for these two weeks. One of my favorite moments in scripture is the breaking bread scene in Luke’s Emmaus road story. Cleopas and friend have been walking and talking with Jesus all day but do not recognize him until they are in the Eucharistic setting. In Acts 2 Peter speaks to the crowd gathered by the Holy Spirit telling them the story of his recognition of Jesus. Their eyes and ears are opened, “they [are] cut to the heart.” They ask what should they do. Peter tells them how to recognize the Messiah in their own lives.
Consider this story, “Recognition” from 20th century mystic, Anthony de Mello, SJ.
“As the Master grew old and infirm, the disciples begged him not to die.
Said the Master, ‘If I did not go, how would you ever see?’
But the Master would not say.
When the moment of his death was near, they said,
‘What is it we will see when you are gone?’
With a twinkle in his eye, the Master said,
‘All I did was sit on the riverbank handing out river water.
After I’m gone, I trust you will notice the river.’”
What does it tell us about recognizing the Christ? Can it illuminate the theme of recognition in Psalm 116 or 1 Peter 1 as well as in Acts 2 and Luke 24? Where do you discover the theme of recognizing Christ in the texts for the 4th Sunday in Easter? In the community of Acts 2, their worship, service, generosity and ceaseless prayer? In Psalm 23’s beloved examples of where God’s Spirit, born out in Christ, is provided to those who seek faithfully. John 10 holds a mysterious allegory, the closest thing to a parable that Jesus speaks in John, that challenges us to always be on the lookout for where Christ might be revealed and recognized.
In 1 Peter 2:19-25 we are introduced to the reality that Christ is recognized in our pain as well as our joy, in our sufferings as well as our triumphs. I give you two stories from Robert Bela Wilhelm’s Storyfest collection that hold the theme of recognizing the Christ in suffering. The first is “The Road to Perfect Joy” and is an Italian tale of St. Francis and Brother Leo. It holds images that echo the Emmaus story in Luke 24. The second is “Little Friend Coyote”, a story from the Blackfoot people of Montana in the northwest US. In this story the image of Christ is the coyote who guides and feeds a young Blackfoot woman who is betrayed and abandoned until she can find her way back to the safety of her tribe. Even after she is reunited with the people the coyote remains an ever-present and watchful companion.
Blessings on your Eastertide story journeys,
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2017 and beyond. Commentaries and photos may be reprinted by permission only. Please find and tell the stories!