Sunday, April 19, 2015
Have you ever watched a movie, got to the end, and said, “Whoa, wait a minute – I’ve gotta watch that again!” I remember watching The Sixth Sense and The Matrix and thinking that. A more recent movie I watched was Tailor, Tinker, Soldier, Spy. It was super complex and confusing until I watched it a second time. There are some movies and books that you can’t put all the pieces together until you get to the end. Then you have to go back through the details and the foreshadowing throughout the story to really “get it.” The disciples are at this point when Jesus appears to them in the gospel of Luke. It’s like everything Jesus told them before is finally starting to make some sense. Luke tells us, “Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’”
The disciples know the scriptures. They’ve heard the law, the prophets, and the psalms. They’ve heard Jesus tell them numerous times that he was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die and be raised to life again, but it didn’t all make sense. It was more than a little bit hard to believe. Even at that very moment with Jesus with them, they are trying to make sense of the ending: perhaps Jesus stayed dead and they were seeing a ghost. Maybe this wasn’t really Jesus, but a mirage. Or… Jesus really was raised from the dead. Jesus shows the disciples he’s real, that HE’S the end of the story. He eats a piece of fish with them, shows them his hands and feet, to reveal what his resurrection is all about – a fulfillment of the scriptures, a true real, life, flesh and blood resurrection, the Messiah in their midst.
I think if I would’ve been one of Jesus’ disciples, I probably would be right with them at not noticing or realizing for a LONG time that Jesus was really the Messiah—that Jesus really is the Son of God. First of all, like many Americans, I tend to be skeptical of supernatural or miraculous events. Prove it to me that Jesus exists through scientific, rational means, and I’m all on board. Ask me to trust with faith that Jesus is for real, and that’s a much harder thing. But also, unlike some of you who are gifted with paying attention to details (I’m jealous, by the way), I have a very bad habit of getting so absorbed in my own thoughts and agenda for the day that I can completely miss pretty significant things happening around me. For example, I’ll drive all the way home and not remember the entire trip, I was so lost in my own thoughts. Our neighbor’s house across the street had a for sale sign outside of it for a month before I noticed! I quickly forget to pay attention to what’s happening around me, to connect the dots to seeing God at work EVERYDAY in my life.
Luke notes that the disciples are a bit airheaded, too, in this gospel passage. “Jesus himself stood among them” Luke says, but the disciples are still frightened and still have doubts that it’s really him. They’re slow to notice how Jesus HAD been at work in them the whole time they were following him.
Our presiding bishop Liz Eaton says that as longtime Christians sometimes we become hesitant or even forget to talk about Jesus with others, even at church. We forget to pay attention to Jesus being at work in our lives, too. Sometimes we just assume Jesus is there – “Jesus has become like wallpaper” she says, “we know it’s there and everyone can see it, but we don’t have to talk about it.” I like this description of how we tend to treat Jesus. Pretty soon, just like the wallpaper or artwork hanging on our walls, Jesus becomes something in the background for us that we rarely even notice, we’re so used to him just being there. We don’t expect Jesus to show up and be ACTIVE in our lives, eating with us, talking with us, guiding us in our daily lives, making a difference. We assume that if our friends and family know we’re Christians, then that’s enough – we don’t have to actually talk about our faith. We assume that everyone else knows about Jesus, too — that they have the same wallpaper.
The awesome thing about this resurrection appearance in Luke this morning is that Jesus calls us witnesses. He reminds the disciples of what they’ve seen and heard about him. He reminds us that he’s not just wallpaper, he’s standing here, right at the center of our lives in flesh and blood as God in human flesh. Jesus walks the disciples back through their journey with him – reminding them of what happened if they had spaced out or forgotten in their distress about Jesus’ death on the cross. He eats with them and shows them his hands and feet so they know he’s real, that’s he’s not just wallpaper. They HAVE seen the risen Lord, and he has given them the power to forgive sins, to bring healing to the nations, and to share with people the good news that they have life through his name.
So what witness do you have to share? When has Jesus really showed up for you in your life? I could tell you many stories of when Jesus has showed up for me, but I’ll just share one. When I was in college, I was struggling with what I was supposed to do with my life, like many college students do. I had thought I would be a teacher, but I didn’t really like my education classes, and what was worse is that I discovered in the classroom, I really didn’t care for working with many little kids. At Augustana, a Lutheran college, we were required to take a few religion classes, and one day I went to talk to my religion professor, a guy I really respected, about a paper. I walked in, and he said, “Rebecca, are you thinking about being a pastor? Because I think you should consider it. You have real gifts for ministry.” Whoa, that was like Jesus calling me to follow him in a whole new way I hadn’t really thought about seriously before. Before then, Jesus was more like some pretty cool wallpaper in my life – I liked him, I liked learning about him and even talking about him, but now he was calling me to follow him with a career change. I can tell you my life has never been the same, because Jesus showed up.
You may not have all of the answers, and Jesus might still be helping you put all of the details together to figure out this whole faith thing, but I can assure you that Jesus is showing up in your life over and over and over. Sometimes we just have to take our heads out of the clouds or out of our own little worlds to notice that Jesus is way more than just the wallpaper around us. When you share your stories of how Jesus has shown up for you, you are being faithful witnesses to the resurrection, along with the disciples. You can help remind others that Jesus is more than wallpaper in our lives, but changes lives dramatically for the better. May you see Jesus standing in your midst this week, showing up for you. Amen.