Witness

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, RCL Yr B, 15 April 2018, Trinity Episcopal Church, Castine Maine.

Act 3:12-19; Ps 4; I John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

We are witnesses to these things.

I speak to you in the Name of God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

In a world where resurrection happens — Jesus makes himself known to his followers. 

And, Luke is clear that ghosts and angels — while they might exclaim, “Peace be with you” — they do not have flesh and bones, nor do they eat broiled fish. 

But, this is no ghost or angel — it is the resurrected Jesus appearing to those whom he loves — his followers.

In saying, “Peace be with you.” Do you hear him say, “Do not be afraid?” Or, “Don’t be startled?” How could they not be startled? Would we not be startled, too?

We would be if we were afraid. We would be if we doubted. And, he understands. Notice that Jesus does not chastise his followers for any sign of surprise, any fear or any doubt. He only invites them to have a closer look — “touch and see.” 

Even so, the believing comes before the seeing. If his followers didn’t believe, they wouldn’t see. I wonder, what do we believe…what do we see?

If they hadn’t even the slightest inkling of belief, they wouldn’t touch. I wonder — would we have just enough belief to reach out our hands to Jesus? 

Believing — even if with a small bit of faith — “Well. I think it might be Jesus. I’ll take a closer look. I’ll trace his scarred hands with my fingers…his feet. I’ll caress his cheek. I’ll see for myself….IT IS THE LORD!”

We don’t have to imagine their joy — we can be as joyful as though we were standing right there with them! Stop right there!! 

This may all be well and good when life is going along just fine. But, life isn’t always just fine. Then, what will we believe? What will we see? What if a loved one — for example — leaves and unexpectedly never returns…

This is exactly what happened to David and Sandra Hill. David is a pastor in England. The Hills sons’ Stuart aged 30 and Jason ages 32 along with Stuart’s girlfriend Becky, aged 27 were killed in an accident. While touring the Grand Canyon, their helicopter crashed in the desert the evening of Saturday, 10 February. 

Speaking before the memorial service, David said: “Remember to give your children a hug if you forget everything else. Tell them you love them…the greatest thing my children  gave to me was love.” 

The Hill’s church family has committed to walking with the couple in their grief — they are doing so as witnesses to the gospel truth, that Jesus is present with them — sharing love just like the Hills shared with their sons — this is the kind of love that is only possible with the presence of Jesus among them.

Philip and April Schentrup also lost a child recently.  On Wednesday, 14 February their 16 year old daughter — youth group leader at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, Florida — left for school. She was never to return home again. She was among the seventeen shooting victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

In a 6 March letter to the Episcopal House of Bishop’s her parents wrote: “Our hearts are saddened for the loss of our beautiful little girl and the absence of her amazing presence, but we cannot be sad for Carmen. We believe that Carmen’s murder was not part of God’s plan and that God is saddened by the violence in this world more than we can know. We know that God’s promise is for us to be with him in heaven, and in faith, we believe that Carmen is in heaven, in the loving embrace of God. She awaits us, loved and cared for…As our family struggles to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, we ask the Good Lord daily for the strength to fight the good fight, to finish the race. In our attempt to heal from despair and grief, we are compelled to try and make the world a better place for our two remaining children and for all children.” 

If David Hill and Philip and April Schentrup — visited by horrific tragedy — can touch and see, can trust the living Jesus — surely we can in the midst of wherever we find ourselves.

Jesus comes to us.

He is alive.  

Because they believe, they see. Because we believe, we see.

Believing — even if with a small bit of faith — “Well. I think it might be Jesus. I’ll take a closer look. I’ll trace his scarred hands with my fingers…his feet…” Just like in the example of Jesus’s followers in Luke’s Gospel — It’s our believing that will lead us to our seeing. 

Jesus still comes to us, saying, “Peace be with you.” He still offers himself to us, to touch, to see and to taste. The Hills encountered the resurrected Jesus reaching out in love through their community. The Schentrups — from the heart of their suffering — they present the resurrected Jesus to others by their testimony.  

He is no ghost or angel — he is here with us, his followers — the ones he loves —the ones for whom he lived, died and arose. The resurrected Jesus is with us, opening our minds to understand the scriptures.

In a world where resurrection happens — Jesus makes himself known to us. We are witnesses of these things. 

Thanks be to God, Alleluia.