of Easter. Readings for this
Sunday: Acts 3.12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John
3.1-7; Luke 24.36b-48. Preached via
Zoom to All Saints, King City, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, 18 April, 2021.
41While in their joy they were disbelieving and
still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. Lk 24.41-42
Why does the risen Jesus
ask the disciples for a piece of fish?
Maybe because he wants to put them at ease and help them get over the
shock of seeing him. Maybe it’s
because he wants to prove his physicality to them (after all, he’s just
appeared among them, as if out of thin air!).
Or, maybe because he’s just hungry.
As in all the
post-resurrection accounts in the gospels, all three things seem to be at
play. In each appearance Jesus strives
to calm and reassure the disciples (his “peace be with you” (Lk 24.36 in today’s
reading), while also nudging them into a new awareness of God’s kingdom that
will equip them to become the resurrected body of Christ on earth, namely the
church. And, in these accounts, eating
and shared meals are important. So today
I want to talk about how these stories, and particularly food, give valuable
lessons in what it means to be church.
Besides the broiled fish
in today’s gospel, there are two other such episodes that I can think of, the
shared meal at Emmaus that happens just before this one (Lk 24.30) with its obvious
Eucharistic overtones, and the breakfast that Jesus prepares for the disicples
while they are fishing at the end of John’s gospel (Jn 21.12). In all these cases, something more than just
eating is going on. We also see
hospitality and sharing, we see an awareness of what it means to be God’s
people, chosen and forgiven by God, and we see a movement out into the world to
share God’s blessing with the world. In
other words, we see the church in action.
Let’s start with
hospitality. In today’s gospel, Jesus models
what it means to be the hungry guest, calling on the gathered disciples for
food. This is something more than
friends getting together for a bite.
Once Jesus taught his disciples that the kingdom of God was given to
those who care for others: “for I was
hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink ,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25.35).
Perhaps this isn’t a test,
but it’s an intimation of the work of the church, that the disciples of Jesus are
a community that exists to care for others.
We saw a bit of that vision of that church taking shape last Sunday in
our reading from Acts, when the early church pooled their goods and “distributed to each as any had need”
(Acts 4.32-35). The lesson seems clear:
for the church to be church, it must be a community that practices hospitality.
Let’s move to what it
means to be God’s chosen and forgiven people.
When Jesus appears, he says “Peace be with you”. Why does he say that? Well, yes, because he should be dead, and it’s
unnerving that he just appears seemingly out of thin air, but also because
these are his friends that abandoned him in the garden and denied him. Jesus chose these people and they betrayed
him – as if that’s the first time such a thing has happened.
God’s people Israel did
the same thing, rather frequently, really, but when he “opened the scriptures”
(meaning the Hebrew scriptures), Jesus is pointing to this same story of God
calling and forgiving God’s people, only this time putting the story in a new frame
and new covenant. We see the same
dynamic in our first lesson today, when Paul tells the people of Jerusalem that
even though they gathered recently to call for Jesus’ death, God offers them
forgiveness and reconciliation (Acts 3.19).
Our faith is always about new beginnings. God is loathe to close the door against us.
Just as Jesus extends his
peace to the disciples before eating with them, so is forgiveness built into
our very worship. As church, we can
only gather for the eucharistic meal after we repent and receive
forgiveness. As called and forgiven followers of Jesus, we
view each other across the Lord’s table as equals, invited only because of God’s
grace. Here is the corollary to our
call to feed the stranger – we do so because we are fed by Christ’s body
and blood shared in love and grace. We
have no right to expect this meal, which we receive in gratitude, and so we are
reminded not to be condescending or ungracious to those we feed, for all of us
are fed by God.
Finally, we are invited to share what we have
received with others as part of our calling to be God’s blessing to the
world. Our gospel ends with Jesus
calling on the disciples to share “that repentance and forgiveness of sins” are
to be shared with “all nations” (Lk 26.48).
How does a small church do it’s part in this? Locally, and starting with food.
At All Saints we have
abundant opportunities to do this, either by contributing to the King Food Bank
(currently looking for tinned fruit or, as always, money), our monthly meals
for the CrossLinks community (always ways to help there by offering to pay for
ingredients) or to the larger communities we care about, including clean water
in Pikangikum or the many local agencies we support through FaithWorks. When
we talk about our mission as a church in these contexts, we are talking about
an ethic of love and care that Jesus models in his simple words to the
disciples, “Have you anything here to eat?”
Let me close with a word
about Covid, which sadly is not going anyway anytime soon. While Covid prevents us from gathering
together to share eucharist or church meals, it does not impede us from doing
the missional things I just mentioned.
We can still give and still donate and still find ways to help. We can still check on one another and make
sure that those of us who are vulnerable have enough to eat and are looked
after. But at the same time, we are
Many of you, I know, live
alone. Our Bishop Andrew realized this
when after he urged us to take comfort in our shared family meals, only to apologize
when many in the Diocese reminded him that they eat alone. The single, divorced, widows and widowers, can’t
share meals in this time of pandemic and quarantine. Nor we can we go to church and share in the
Eucharist, as our Collect today painfully and unintentionally reminds us. So what personal comfort and solace is
there for those sitting along at the dinner table?
“Oh that we might see
better times!” says today’s Psalm. That
lament rings true for us now, as does the reassurance of the psalmist, that God
hears the calls of the faithful – and of
the lonely. Get the vaccine, pray for
our leaders to muddle their way out of this, but at the end of each day (for Psalm
4 is a nighttime prayer), let’s trust in the Lord who makes us dwell in safety.
And each day, as we sit down
to break bread, imagine our risen Lord, who walks through walls to give peace
to his followers, imagine that same Jesus sitting across from you. Draw comfort and strength from his presence,
for no grave and no plague can keep Jesus from his people. Remember that we are church, and that we will
gather again, to see our God clearly in the breaking of bread, in the teaching
of the scriptures, in the sharing of bread and wine, and in the mission which
he calls us to.