Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter
Sunday, April 18, 2021
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

Watch Here (TLC Worship Service 04/18/2021)

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Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

For the second Sunday in a row, our Gospel reading takes us back to Easter evening.

Last Sunday, we heard John’s account of the resurrected Christ’s appearance to the disciples on the first day of the resurrection. Today, we hear Luke’s account [Luke 24:36b-48]. For the record, neither the gospels of Matthew nor the earliest known (and most reliable) manuscripts of Mark’s gospel, include an Easter evening appearance of Jesus to the disciples. In Matthew and Mark, the Easter announcement is that the risen Jesus had gone ahead of the disciples to Galilee.

But in Luke and John, the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples on the evening of the first day. There are both similarities and differences, in Luke and John’s accounts:

  • Both include the greeting:  “Peace be with you.” Some scholars point out this was a common greeting, and we shouldn’t read too much into it. However, I do think that in contrast to all the violence the crucified Christ had experienced, that there is significance that in response, the first word out of the resurrected Christ’s mouth is peace.
  • Both accounts include an element of fear among the disciples. In John, the disciples were locked in fear behind closed doors, worried that what happened to Jesus might happen to them. In Luke, the disciples were startled and terrified at the presence of the risen Christ and thought they were seeing a ghost. In response to this fear, in both gospels, Jesus showed them his body. In John, Jesus showed them his hands and side. In Luke, Jesus showed them his hands and feet. All, according to the scriptures, punctured on the cross in the crucifixion.
  • Both accounts lead to a commissioning: In John, the disciples are sent in the spirit to forgive and retain sin. In Luke, the disciples are sent with the invitation to go and witness. It’s clear from both gospels, the resurrection of Jesus was not something to be kept  private, but something to be announced and shared with the world!  

There are also key differences.

  • John is curious about Thomas’s need to see for himself the marks in Jesus’s hands and side. Luke doesn’t mention Thomas at all.
  • John, according to the NRSV translation, mentions that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, Luke doesn’t mention breath or spirit. Instead, Luke mentions that Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to the scriptures.  John mentions the spirit, Luke mentions the scriptures.
  • Another difference, and the one I would like to focus on today, is that John’s account doesn’t mention food, but in Luke, the resurrected Jesus asks for something to eat. “Have you anything here to eat?” asked Jesus in Luke 24:41. What’s in the ask of Jesus for something to eat? What’s in this detail?

Last week, I suggested that in the detail of Jesus breathing on the disciples was testimony that the crucified body of Jesus was alive, and that the living body was breathing. Dead bodies don’t breathe, but living bodies do, and Jesus breathing witnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps the detail about eating serves a similar function?  Dead bodies don’t need to eat.  Living bodies eat. Living bodies have stomachs that growl with hunger, and mouths that thirst for something to drink. Like Jesus breathing, perhaps the detail of Jesus eating witnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

The deeper theological point appears to be the way in which Jesus is made known in the sharing of food.

Central to the 24th Chapter of Luke, is the resurrected Jesus recognized in the breaking of the bread. The first appearance of the resurrected Jesus in Luke’s gospel –was to two disciples (not part of the original 11) as they walked to Emmaus. But while Jesus walked with them, they didn’t know it was Jesus until, as recorded in verses 30-31, “He was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

Our gospel reading this morning, picks up when those two disciples who recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread went and told the original 11 disciples.  As they were explaining this, Jesus appeared among them, and after showing them his hands and feet, he asked for something to eat. Obediently, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” Luke 24:42-43.

And then, for a second time in Luke 24, understanding came about in the meal. After the disciples gave Jesus something to eat: “He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”  Luke 24:45.

What I see in Luke’s witness, is that the living Christ of the scriptures, is made known in the sharing of food. Whether it was in the breaking of the bread with the first two disciples, or the broiled fish in the presence of all the disciples, the disciples recognized Jesus as they ate.

The Good News today, is that we experience the living Christ in the breaking of bread and the sharing of food today.

Every Sunday in the Eucharist, we celebrate the presence of the living Christ in bread shared for all. Here in the meal we share, is the risen Christ.  Here is the risen Christ who appeared on the first night of the resurrection to the disciples. Christ lives, the same Christ lives, and here in the meal we experience Christ.

And, the Christ we meet in this meal, lives not just in this meal. The living voice of Jesus asking the disciples for something to eat, is alive in all those asking for something to eat today. We don’t know what the voice of the resurrected Christ sounded like back then, but we do know what the voice of the resurrected Christ sounds like today! The voice of Christ today, is the voice of all who are hungry today asking disciples for something to eat: in the voice of a hungry child in Worcester, in the voice of a hungry man in El Salvador, and in the voice of a hungry woman in Vietnam, with ears of faith, we hear the living voice of Christ.

And if we recognize that is true, then we hear the living Christ speaking in the world all around us!

  • The ELCA World Hunger appeal suggest that 820 million people, 11% of the world population is hungry, and that 10% of the world’s population lives on less than $1.90/day.
  • In an editorial written in February by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey; President & CEO of Project Bread Erin McAleer; and President and CEO of The Greater Boston Food Bank Catherine D’Amato, 17.5% of households in Massachusetts are struggling to put food on the table. Nearly 22% of the households with children don’t have enough food. Because of historic inequities, Black and brown children are twice as likely to experience hunger and its lifelong consequences.
  • Bringing it closer to home, The Worcester County Food Bank points out that in 2019, even before the pandemic caused a 91% increase in demand across Massachusetts, 75,000 people turned to the Worcester County Food Bank Partner Agency network for help finding food. Of the people helped, nearly one third – 32% were children.

And here’s the true tragedy:  people aren’t hungry because there isn’t enough food on the earth. Two years ago when our youth group visited Washington, D.C., a legislative aid to Congressman Jim McGovern pointed out that the earth produces enough food for the entire population of the world. The problem is not that we don’t have enough.  The problem is that the world’s food isn’t shared equally.  Some of us receive far more food than we need, while others receive far less food than they need.

As we respond to the voice of Jesus in those who are hungry today, we respond not just by giving food to those who are hungry, but also in addressing the systems that create hunger in the first place. In asking for something to eat, the resurrected Jesus isn’t just asking us to feed those who are hungry, but to correct and solve systemic issues of why people are hungry in the first place.  

The resurrected Christ lives among us …

  • when we BOTH fill up the shopping cart for the Carty Cupboard Food Pantry the first Sunday of each month, AND when we advocate for SNAP benefits for low income households
  • when we BOTH give generously to IHN and support meals for the families at Interfaith Hospitality Network, AND when we advocate for a minimum wage that provides a living wage
  • when we BOTH giving financial donations to ELCA World Hunger, AND when we address underlying issues of racism and xenophobia that contributes to children of color experiencing hunger at twice the rates of children who are white    

Friends, the Good News in this Easter season, is that the crucified Christ is alive!

Christ is alive and made known in the breaking of the bread. In our meal shared here, and in our sharing of food for the hungry in our city, in our commonwealth, and in the world, the resurrected Christ lives!

At table today, may you meet the living Jesus Christ through faith!

Filled with the living Christ, may you work so that all are fed.

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!