- Chapel of St John the Divine
- April 18, 2021
- 08:00 AM
The Rev. Robert P. Travis 3rd Easter Sermon – 8:00 online (due to Pandemic) for Morning Prayer and 10:00am For Outdoor Eucharist
Church of the Ascension, Wakefield RI and Chapel of St. John the Divine, Saunderstown RI
RCL 3rd Easter Year B 4/18/2021
Scripture Text: Acts 3:12-19, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48, Psalm 4
So this week, among all the horrible things in the news. There was a story about one of the Kardashians, having accidentally posted a picture of herself without any photoshopping or alteration. An unedited picture, if you will. And she was frantically trying to remove this picture from the Internet, even threatening to sue people who continued to share it, because she didn’t want people to see her as she really is. Like most things in our media saturated world, that struck me in stark contrast, even the opposite of how Jesus is revealed in his resurrection appearance that we just heard about today.
Well, it is the third Sunday of Easter now. But we’re still talking about what happened on that first Easter Sunday. This encounter with the resurrected Lord that we just heard about comes right after he appeared to the disciples Cleopas and maybe Luke, on the road to Emmaus. It was actually just after those disciples had made it back to Jerusalem, and were sharing with the others how they recognized Him when He broke the bread, when he appears among them in that locked room and says “Peace be with you.” And the first detail that comes right after that statement of peace, is that he showed them his hands and his side. He showed them his wounds. He showed them the very marks of the shame that he endured. Those wounds were the marks of an executed criminal. It would be as if a person today were to show the burn marks that they had received in the electric chair or the rope bruises around the neck from being hanged. They were not badges of honor. For everyone in that room they were marks of shame. And yet, when Jesus had showed them his wounds he said, “see that it is I myself.”
In his resurrected body did he just keep his wounds so that people would believe that it was really him? Or was there a deeper meaning to those wounds. And that begs the question, when we are raised, will we keep the various injuries, wounds and hurts that we have had in this life?
But he was very clear, at least that he was with them in his physical body.
What is it about the flesh and bones of Jesus’ resurrection body that is so necessary to our faith and our lives?
There was a man,
an older man,
a janitor at the hospital in Florida
where I worked as a chaplain,
whom I came to know
as a particularly devout Christian.
He has such joy and peace in his life
that you can just see it.
He has joy and peace in how he walks,
how he greets people,
how he goes about his difficult
and laborious job.
When he greets you,
you can see love in his eyes.
His very life preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I met him as he was vacuuming one night, I asked him what difference Jesus’ resurrection made in his life.
He told me,
that it has changed the way he thinks,
The way he talks,
the way he acts,
and the whole way he lives.
He added that if the resurrection didn’t do that,
then Jesus wasn’t fully risen in his life yet.
Then he said to me,
if he hasn’t changed everything about your life
then he isn’t fully risen in you yet.
I had not thought about that before,
and I thought to myself
“Well he is fully risen in my life…”
But now that I reflect on my life,
The wounds that I carry, that I’m ashamed to show,
I see I am a long way
from that process being complete,
Certainly, when I think about the joy and peace
this man displays I know I have not allowed Jesus
to be fully risen in my life yet.
But I want Him to be resurrected in my life.
I want that change, yet I resist it.
I resist showing people who I really am.
What makes me resist the change?
Fear is what makes us always resist change.
Fear is what makes us resist showing others who we really are.
And what do we fear most?
Death has always been people’s greatest fear.
It’s behind almost all of the other things we fear.
And it is the basis for what a big deal Easter is.
Death has been our lot since the beginning.
But it didn’t have to be that way.
God always wanted us to live with Him forever.
But we chose to believe the deceiver.
We chose to trust in a lie that said we would not die if we broke with the direction we received from the source of life.
And Satan thought he had won.
But God had something else in mind from the beginning.
For thousands of years people died,
With no hope of anything after death as good as this life.
Various cultures had notions of an after life,
But it was always fraught with peril, or pain
Or often only the rich or noble
could even hope to enter a better end.
But if there was anything after death it was never true life.
So people mourned death,
And people feared death.
And to this day,
people who approach death,
Without a strong faith,
Approach it with great anxiety.
Not knowing what will become of them.
Not wanting their lives to mean nothing.
Struggling with the notion
that they will Expire,
and be no more.
People are terrified of death,
They languish in doubt and uncertainty,
They pine as their bodies fail,
For fear that only emptiness awaits them.
And woundedness becomes connected to death,
And people want to cover their wounds and hide from
Painful experiences they have had.
Sometimes those wounds reflect something we have done wrong, some way that we have sinned, and we know
the result of our sin had to be death.
Because God is the source of life,
And to do things apart from Him,
To actively separate ourselves
from the source of mortal and eternal life,
Must result in our death.
But God had something else in mind from the beginning.
God chose to show His love for us
By becoming one of us,
And though of all people
The Son of God did not deserve to die,
Did not deserve those shameful wounds,
For He was without sin,
Yet he was willing to take our sin upon him,
And suffer the most shameful sort of death
On our behalf.
Then he went to the place where
everyone had gone before Him.
And I bet the evil one was thrilled,
Believing the Son of God to have suffered the same eternal fate of every human being,
His own fate since he rebelled and fell from heaven.
As we remember in the Apostles creed, Jesus went to Hell.
But Hell could not contain Him.
St. John Chrysostom wrote in the 4th century.
“Let no one fear death,
for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled
by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome
by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?”
The victory belongs to Jesus, who conquered death for us.
And when he rose from death. He bore still the wounds. That brought him to that death. But like everything else that was transformed, so those wounds were transformed as well.
They were no longer marks of shame.
They were marks of honor.
They were no longer marks of defeat.
But they were marks of victory,
marks of victorious love that conquered death.
His wounds showed his disciples what he did for them. When he said, “see that it is I, myself.”
It is like he was saying, I am the one who took these for you, and yet now I live. Here was another “I” statement. It’s like so many of those statements he said when he was walking with them before his crucifixion. “I am the Good Shepherd.” “I am the bread of life.” “I am that I am.” “Before Abraham was, I am.” When he showed them his wounds and said “See that it is I myself,” it was a statement that here is God standing before us a resurrected human being who carries wounds proudly.
God is re-enfleshed as a wounded human being, in a form that honors our woundedness,
As the first transformation, that wounded human flesh and blood has become a sign of new life.
The scriptures say in first Corinthians,
“As in Adam all die,
So in Christ shall all be made alive!”
As Christ bore his wounds in his resurrected body, as a sign of who he is, he honors that our wounds make us who we are, and that those wounds can be transformed from signs of pain and shame, to signs of love and victory.
As St. Paul says, we boast in our sufferings, for God transforms them into new life.
So is Jesus fully risen in your life yet?
Has he changed the way you act,
The way you think,
The way you feel,
everything you do?
Are you ashamed of the wounds in your life,
and afraid to show them to others?
Or can you say, these wounds are a part of who I am,
And I can see how God has transformed them into new life?
Today, I invite you to let Him rise.
Let Jesus be resurrected in your very soul.
Let him come in and transform you, into who you were always meant to be, fully alive in Him, wounds and all.
Then when the end of this side of life finally approaches,
You will not fear death.
You will rejoice at the next stage.
You will be ready for everlasting life,
because you will begin living it here and now.
You will see His glory in the Kingdom of God.
You will meet the One who conquered death once, forever.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! (the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!)