The Reality of God’s Presence

For the Third Sunday of Easter: a sermon preached at St. Francis by the Lake, Canyon Lake, TX


It is the day of The Resurrection. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Joanna and other women who aren’t given the dignity of names but are nonetheless important in the story, had discovered that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. They spoke with the angels who were there and remembered all that Jesus had spoken to them.

These women then shared their experience with the apostles but they chose not to believe the women’s eyewitness account. Peter even went to the tomb to check out their story and found no one there and still didn’t know what to think.

Then Luke tells us about two men who were walking to the village of Emmaus discussing the events of Jesus’ arrest and death. When Jesus joins them, they don’t recognize him and even belittle him for asking what they were discussing saying, “are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened?”

The irony of this statement isn’t lost – Jesus is actually the only one who knows the reality of all that has occurred. The events of the previous three days didn’t fit in with their concept of a savior and messiah and because they were looking for something different to occur, they missed the reality of what actually happened.

And so, Jesus begins to show them the reality of it all, beginning with the writings of their own faith ancestors who had spoken for centuries about what was going to happen when God’s Messiah came to set us all free.

And yet it wasn’t until he sat down to eat with them, in the concrete reality of the human need for sustenance, in the breaking of the bread, do they see the reality of who he is. And they run back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles what they had experienced. Which brings us to the point in the story which we read today.

Before these men could even finish their story, Jesus pops in unannounced. And he says, “Peace be with you.”

These are the closest of Jesus’ followers who had denied even knowing him after he was arrested. He had spoken plainly with them about his own death and resurrection but they had questioned the reality of it all. And even as Jesus offers them reconciliation and redemption through the Peace of God, they think he’s a ghost.

Again Jesus uses the need for human sustenance, the every day ordinary act of eating, to prove he is really real. Not some afterlife apparition but resurrected flesh and blood life. He repeats the same lesson he gave to the men on the road to Emmaus: None of what has occurred should have been surprising or unexpected to you, he says. It’s all exactly what I told you it was going to be.

And Jesus brings his point home when he says, “you are witnesses to these things.” It’s no longer a someday that the prophets spoke of but the reality of now. You’ve seen it. You are a part of it. Now go tell others what you have experienced for yourselves.

And Jesus is speaking to us with these words as well. We’ve seen it. We are a part of this new resurrection life and we are to tell others of our own experience.

The reality of who Jesus is, of who God is, and who we are in relationship with God isn’t only contained in the sacraments of baptism and communion. This reality is in and with all who choose to follow Jesus.

We receive this power of the Holy Spirit at our baptism as we are raised to the new life made possible by the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
We are sustained by the Holy Spirit in the regular receiving of communion.

And we are to be witnesses to this reality. How cool is that?

God cherishes us as worthy to be the vessels and instruments through which God’s love and light and compassion are made visible reality to this world!

In the words of John, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”

Jesus appearing first to Mary, Mary, Joanna, and the others, and to Cleopas and his friend, and to the apostles after the resurrection wasn’t the goal of Easter but the beginning. We are given their names so we know the reality of what they witnessed and follow in their footsteps as we bear witness to the goodness of God in our own lives.

We have the gift of the Holy Spirit to equip and enable us as active witnesses of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

We follow Jesus, learning to live in this new resurrection life every moment of our regular, ordinary days.

We bear witness to the goodness of God in all things – from the most basic of human needs of sustenance and safety to the most extraordinary moments of both our greatest joy and our greatest pain.

Open the eyes of our faith, Lord God, so that we may see your redeeming work and then bear witness to your everlasting goodness and love. Amen.

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