Saturday, April 25, 2015

The 3rd Sunday in Easter: Have you anything to eat?


The PDA volunteer work crew from Sacramento Presbytery
Today we have our friends from the Sacramento Presbytery with us. We’ve got 8 volunteers from the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance program to do a week’s worth of reconstruction work with us, under the leadership of my longtime friend Jeanie. (Marsha finds it a fun thought that we qualify as a Presbyterian disaster.) Andre has come to lend his voice and jazz musician Adam Birnbaum is our musician.
Pat and Larry decorated again

As we do throughout Easter, we begin with Alleluias. And the traditional greeting:

One: Christ is risen!
All: Christ is risen indeed!

Our first hymn is  Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain. And for the first time in a long time, we get one of Andre’s jazz improvs on Psalm 4. Today’s gospel reading is LUKE 24:36B-48
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 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
44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.”

I start my reflection with the question:
Have you seen Jesus this week?   Just wondering…was he on one of the posters of the victims of police shootings at the rally last Tuesday at Union Square? With Cornel West and Eve Ensler and Arturo O’Farrill? Did he spend the night in jail? Was he with the one who came in to my office last week, the one who we helped find housing who said you helped me can you help him? Asking me to contact our Reachout friends and write a letter to help get his friend a place to live. Passing it on, you might say. Or was he the one who needed a home? Was he at the PCUSA DC training on Mass Incarceration last Friday? Maybe a cell mate of my friend whose 39 year old son has been in since age 17? Or did he come from Sacramento with a hammer and paintbrush? Have you seen Jesus this week.?

Rising…resurrection living…that’s our topic, that’s our theme…today the question is…do you have anything to eat? We’re looking at what the disciples saw, reported…
Let’s set the context….after Easter morning, in the late afternoon, two unsuspecting characters were walking along the road to Emmaus and were taken by surprise by a stranger. And they walk and talk and ask the stranger to stay for dinner and when he breaks bread, they recognize him…like Mary needed to heart her voice, and Thomas needed to see the wounds, it’s this familiar act, they must have shared with him so many times….those must have been great meals, not the food so much, but the fellowship…during the revolution in Nicaragua, the usual form of address was companero, the one I break bread with …like our word companion…with the Latin word for bread in the middle..Jesus was before all else, their companero, the one they shared bread with…and in that act, they knew him..

So the two guys, already late in the day, walk the seven miles back to Jerusalem…anxious to tell the disciples…and all of a sudden, Jesus is there…don’t ask how he got there…and he says, Shalom….peace…
And how do they respond? 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
And how does he respond? As he did to Thomas…
Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 
And although they feel joy, it was too much to believe…so what does Jesus do? He asks for something to eat…(It’s been a pretty long day after all…) And they offer him broiled fish. (Several were after all, fishers…) And he eats….
What is the gospel writer trying to tell us? That this was a flesh and blood rising…even this risen, resurrected one could hunger and need food and nourishment…that just as Christmas was about incarnation, so too is Easter…God made flesh…(John puts this story on a beach…at breakfast…here, we’re still on Easter night..)
And then he connects his story with the Bible story they all know…and before he’s done, tells them to take this story to all nations…as witnesses…that’s what it means to be a disciple…to be  a witness….
So what is this supposed to tell us about our rising? Our resurrection living?
First of all, it’s not about metaphor. We are being challenged with flesh and blood reality. Go wrestle with that. There’s no how here. There may be a why. But at the end, it’s just an IS.
Believe me, I have struggled with that my whole adult life. Je suis Thomas,  le incredule…I survived for years on the power of metaphor…but I feel I’m starting to get it… it has to be flesh and blood….
And we are to be witnesses…what do we witness? How do we witness? It’s got to be flesh and blood real.. He asking for something to eat…

My Easter ended perfectly with the meal we served at the women’s homeless shelter…no fish this time, though Kate can put out  mean salmon…but we did have lamb and ham..he wants  to break bread…he wants to walk the road with us…he wants a place for the night to rest his head…and yes, he wants to breathe…
SO your job for next week? See if you see Jesus…maybe carry a notebook, or just put a memo on your smart phone…
I want to close with a poem by John Updike, not usually one of my favorites, but with this one he took me by surprise…

Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike, 1960.

We enter into our prayers by singing
Lead me, guide me along the way
For if you lead me I cannot stray
Lord let me walk each day with thee
Lead me, O Lord, lead me

And then there’s a joyous passing of the peace all around. Andre treats us to a an artful
Fairest Lord Jesus as we pass the plates.
a circle of friendship

And we close the service with Christ is Risen Shout Hosanna to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to joy. And it feel something like that.

After our post worship conversations, Don from Sacramento, the construction manager of the team, and I will head down to Home Depot in Chelsea to get all the supplies needed for the week’s work.

I get back to the church in time for Noche’s  final flamenco singing class. The song that begins Si alguna vez va a Cadiz a el barrio de Santa Maria, tu veras los gitanitos bailando con alegria is working its way inside of me. We’ve been working on it all week. Since it’s the last class, there are bottles of wine and Spanish sherry and cheese and later chicken. Voices are singing open and full. I learned from el maestro Juan Ogallo that you riff on the open vowels, the a’s and o’s. It’s like una ventana entro la alma…To do it on the i (sung as e in Spanish) sounds like you saw a mouse. So I did learns something. 
Talking with Juan about flamenco singing

Around 7 PM, I’m in the lobby. In the sanctuary, the francophone African fellowship is finishing it’s service with vibrant soul stirring song. Upstairs in McAlpin Hall the Stop Mass Incarceration Network is working diligently and determinedly on their next action.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network
And in Martin’s studio, the flamenco fiesta continues. I think to myself, this is how it is supposed to be. 

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