18th APR 2021
[We are grateful to our Guest Preacher, Churchwarden Alice Kapka, for her fine sermon this day.]
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering he said to them: ‘Have you anything to eat?’ They Gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it in their presence.
We’ve heard the Resurrection story so often that we sometimes find it hard to put ourselves in the place of Jesus’ followers. They had left their jobs—their very lives to be with Jesus. They believed him, trusted him, loved him. Then after the poignant Passover celebrations at which Jesus speaks cryptically of his body and blood at the meal; of betrayal and death, Jesus is, indeed, arrested and put to death—the ugliest of deaths. The trajectory of a life with this charismatic, loving prophet of God is over. It is over in the meanest, most shameful heart-wrenching way.
Then…What? He’s alive? Resurrected? No! How can that be? Can you imagine the mixed feelings these disciples must have had? Utter joy—but also—pinch me! I must be dreaming!
Jesus, so completely aware of of the state of mind of his friends meets their bafflement in the simplest most direct way: “Have you anything to eat?” Guys! I’m hungry! What is more human and more normal than to ask your friends for a bite to eat when you are hungry. Here the disciples were too startled to practice Middle Eastern hospitality by which they would have offered food before being asked. But the disciples were completely perplexed.
Jesus, by asking for food at once shows that he is not an apparition, but human, and he is changing roles. The last time they were together, he had fed them; now it is their turn to feed him, And Jesus is showing them the love that they have shared in him—in the Son of God—needs to be expressed in the real world with real people.
In turn, the disciples’ work is our work.
Of course we can help with places such as the Menedékház, and other charities that help the poor and homeless, but I think Jesus is asking us to show up in smaller ways, too.
When starting a new loaf of bread, my daughter-in-law takes the knife, turns the bread over, and makes the sign of the cross on the bottom of the loaf. Jesus, the bread of life, who died for us so that we may have eternal life is messaged in this simple act and reminds us of Jesus’ love for us.
Recently, while I was out shopping I stopped to use the restroom. A tired-looking older woman came in to clean. I was appreciative of her work—especially in our present time of Covid. I thanked her for keeping the restroom nice and clean. I thought she would collapse from the shock of being thanked. She was not a ghost with a cleaning cart, but a real person. I could see her eyes smile above the mask. She wished me well. It was a little thing to do, but it matters. A little piece of fish, it matters.
Years ago, Father Marvin, the parish priest in Anacortes, Washington invited us to picture a conversation with Jesus. Think of being next to Jesus sitting on a lawn chair in the backyard, wearing a white polyester suit, drinking lemonade on a warm afternoon.
I don’t know if I was more upset about the image of Jesus wearing a polyester suit—wouldn’t Jesus have worn linen or cotton, something more organic? Or Jesus in the backyard—he’s supposed to be sitting above the clouds at the right hand of God in a beautiful Cerulean blue sky with angels flitting to and fro in case there was a message to be delivered.
And yet, I can picture the backyard scene: Jesus and Father Marvin, who had been an organ builder before becoming a priest, are discussing the merits of several organs in Seattle and in the Netherlands. Father Marvin’s wife comes out to join them holding a glass of Chablis wine. She takes a long look at Jesus and greets him. Jesus looks at her and says: “I know what you’re thinking. It’s the polyester. I travel so much I thought it would be convenient. Perhaps I should reconsider.” “Good idea.” She responds and then offers: “Would you care for a glass of Chablis? It’s French, very dry, very crisp.” Jesus says: “ I don’t mean to complain, but I’m not used to this American lemonade. It’s rather sweet. Really, I’m more comfortable with wine. Thank you for asking.”
Father Marvin gets up to get the two glasses of wine.
Christine says to Jesus: “If you turn your chair slightly to the right you can see right across the San Juan Islands to Canada. On a clear day we can see Victoria. And that really tall Douglas fir tree is a favorite perch for eagles. We’ve seen seven on that one tree in a single day. They are majestic.” Jesus says: “This is really beautiful!”
Father Marvin returns with the two glasses of wine. The three toast, expressing their delight at this gathering.
Christine looks at Jesus thoughtfully and says: “Before you were killed you prayed to the Father. I’ve sometimes thought you had a moment of doubt. You knew would be killed, and still you were aware of having a choice. You could have asked to be spared. Did you ever wonder what it would have been like if you had not gone through with the horrible suffering and death?” Jesus looks at her with the patient kindness that is love, and says: “What-if’s are useful for us to understand and appreciate what is. Of course preparing to die was hard. But that’s what we have prayer for. Yet, if I had not gone through with the death, Easter Resurrection would not have happened and we would not be having this conversation.” “Thank you and thank you and thank you.” was Christine’s reply.
After further discussion Father Marvin invites Jesus: “Please join us for dinner. We’re having fresh salmon. I’m great on the grill with salmon.” Jesus declines the invitation, thanks them both for their hospitality and the great conversation but noted that he had to go on to Minneapolis as soon as possible. “I’m much in need there right now,” he said with a look of deep sadness in his eyes. They voiced their good-byes and Jesus left.
Well, I can easily imagine such a conversation. The point here is that Father Marvin, in his suggestion of visualizing Jesus was getting at the same point we hear in Luke’s Gospel: Jesus is real. If he is not real for us with a real message that we can ingest and make our own, and bring to the real world, then this beautiful story is just an interesting story about some friends together having some fish. In my believing, this is far more than a fish tale.
Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!