Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sermon from April 21, 2013; Luke 24:36-49

Rev. George Miller
Luke 24:36-49
“The Original Happy Meal”
April 21, 2013

Three years ago I moved to Sebring. Back then it felt like living on Mars: homes in shades of pink and green, yards with odd kind of grass, and lizards crawling up walls. Everything seemed so…foreign.

One day, needing some semblance of normalcy, I went to CVS. It was Paradise. I knew where everything was: greetings cards were in the back, cold Pepsi was in the side cooler and gummi bears were in the front.

That’s a good thing about corporations: no matter where you are or how foreign things may feel, you can step into one of their stores and experience a sense of normalcy.

Target will always smell like Target. McDonald’s fries will always taste like McDonald’s fries. CVS will always look like CVS.

Yesterday, after our Golf Outing, I had another need for normalcy. It was my first time playing the game, and it felt like I was back on Mars.

The course looked unlike anything I knew; people spoke a foreign language.

Before yesterday, I thought Mulligan was a stew, Bogie loved Bacall, Parr was the last name of a parishioner and a birdie was something I fed in the morning.

Add to it that every time it was my turn, there were three sets of eyes watching me and offering “helpful” suggestions: stand this way, bend that way, look down.

It was like gym class all over, if gym class was in Spanish and on Mars.

So, at the end of the day, it was nice to come home, be greeted by my cats, pour a glass of iced-tea, and put on some Mariah Carey. The familiar reappeared; the cats purred, Mariah sang, real birds came to the feeder.

Normalcy had resumed and I fell pleasantly into a peaceful sleep…

Right now our nation has a hankering for some normalcy. It started with the bombing in Boston. Then the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas.

Then the rain in the Midwest which caused flooding in places like Elmhurst, IL. On Friday virtually the whole city of Boston stayed inside while the nation watched a manhunt commence.

Almost too much to absorb for a five day period. As someone on Facebook posted, “Dear Lord, next week may all the news be about rainbows, puppy dogs and unicorns.”

I called up a friend in the Chicago area to ask how today’s scripture could be applied to all the things that have taken place.

This is what Rev. Jeanne Murawski told me: that after all the things the disciples have been through, the resurrected Christ gives them back a sense of normalcy.

By asking for a piece of fish, and eating it in front of them, Jesus is showing them this is real. In doing so, he helps them to regroup, come back to the table, and to share.

Rev. Murawski stated, “A meal is one of the most connective things you can do. That’s what you do after a disaster-you regroup, you connect with friends and family; you assure yourself that life will go on.”

…Since the start of Advent, we have spent a lot of time in the Luke’s Gospel, listening to stories about children being born, and a new community being formed.

And though the elements of angels and transfiguration border on the strange and fantastic, it is important to remember that the people featured in Luke’s story are every-day people: hard working dreamers, capable of making mistakes, longing for something more.

These men, these women who followed Jesus were not super-men and wonder-women; they were ordinary folk, living during ordinary times, experiencing extraordinary things.

Sometimes these things were too wonderful for words; sometimes they were distressing. Normalcy went out the window that last week in Jerusalem.

According to Luke, Jesus was crucified while all his acquaintances stood far away. Peter denied Jesus not once, but three times and was left outside, weeping bitterly.

A once tight community has been shattered and scattered.

That’s what disasters can do; that’s what acts of terror try to bring about. To violate any sense of normalcy and to replace it with fear and confusion, isolation and depression.

That’s what the folk in Texas and Illinois are recovering from; that’s what the bombers in Boston tried to do.

And here is where the Good News comes in: in the resurrection, the community found a way to come back together.

It first started with individual women who made their way to the tomb on Sunday. Though terrified, they had an experience which allowed them to begin the process of remembering what Jesus had taught them.

Then a couple on their way to Emmaus, looking sad and slowly moving, share a meal with a stranger, in which their eyes are opened and their hearts burn from within.

Then they all come together, discussing their experiences, and while they are in the midst of sharing stories, Jesus is present, and he says “Peace be with you.”

Startled and terrified, with minds still clouded over and unsure, Jesus says “Have you anything to eat?”

Not “stop your crying”, not “get back to work”, not “snap out of it.” But “Have you got anything to eat?”

It was perhaps the single most normal thing Jesus could have asked at that moment.

All the meals they ate, all the stories told about banquets, the feeding with loaves and fishes, their last night together sharing Passover, what could have been more normal for his followers then for Jesus to ask for a knosh and to eat it in front of them?

Could power and principalities, acts of terror and disaster stop the work that God had begun in Jesus? No.

To prove it Jesus does one of the most normal actions one can do: he eats.

And this fearful, fragmented group begins to reassemble. In the midst of the extraordinary, a sense of normalcy begins to reenter their lives.

Note how this period is not rushed through. Jesus tells them “Stay here until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

“Just stay,” the resurrected, well-fed Christ tells them. “You don’t have to plan, you don’t have to organize, and you don’t have to create a committee or solve any problems. You just have to stay. You’ll know what to do when the time is right.”

And that’s what they do. They stay in the city; they regroup, they worship, they pray, they bless God, they share meals, they recall the promise that was made with grain of the field and fruit of the vine.

Acts of terror will happen. Disasters will strike. Streets will flood and lizards will climb walls. There will be times when we feel like we have landed on Mars and nothing is familiar.

But our belief in Christ resurrected is not just a statement of faith or a ticket to eternal life, it creates a way for us to reclaim some sense of normalcy.

Those times when our lives feel fractured or community becomes disjointed, Christ calls us to regroup, to share, to come back to the table. To come back to life.

For when we do, we reconnect, and we are reassured that life will go on. It may be different, it may no longer be the same, but life goes on.

That is part of the peace we find in Jesus Christ; that is one of the ways in which God feeds us.

It is one reason why no disaster, no enemy can ever defeat us.

Amen and amen.

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