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April 10, 2005 (Easter III)
Intern Pastor Katy Grindberg
Grace and peace to you from God our loving creator and from Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.
In today's gospel, we hear the story of two men, walking down a road, talking about the strange and life-changing event of the past few days. Their beloved leader had died, had been executed and humiliated. "What would happen now?" maybe they were saying. What would happen to them, to their movement? And on this journey, they are joined by a stranger, who inquires about their conversation. From their response, his question was probably akin to approaching someone in St. Peters square last week and asking "what's all the fuss about?"
And, we know that this stranger that joined them was, in fact, Jesus. Presumably someone they had talked with and listened to, and knew well. Why then don't they recognize Jesus? Why are their eyes kept from seeing him? Maybe because they had a specific idea of who Jesus was and what he was about. We are given no indication of what that may be, but we do know that some of Jesus' own disciples were looking to him to lead a rebellion against Rome, to free them from their subservience to the empire and the empire's leaders. Some were looking for Jesus to be a great healer or miracle worker, some certainly saw him as a Rabbi or teacher of wisdom. It's fair to say that wherever these two fell in their understanding of who Jesus was, it certainly didn't include his violent and humiliating death. No wonder they were sad and confused and heading away from Jerusalem and no wonder they didn't recognize Jesus when he met them on the road.
Well, we who have the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight, we know the real story don't we? We know what Jesus was about and who is was. We have the historical and biblical traditions handed down to us that helps us see! We certainly know the "right" answers.
So, who is Jesus? Like seemingly every other topic, theologians don't agree on this either. A theologian who conducted a review of books about Jesus found that each book showed striking resemblances between the characteristics of Jesus portrayed in the book and the author of that book. And, going on the basis that theologians are "irregular" people, regular people don't agree about who Jesus is, either. A survey of the people there, or the larger community may reveal the idea of Jesus as a judge--determining who gets in to heaven and who doesn't; or as a sacrificial lamb whose only role was to die; perhaps a warrior who will return to purge the earth of all that is un-Godly or unworthy; or perhaps it is the image of Jesus as just a nice guy. Each of these images carries with it an expectation of where one will meet Jesus. If you see Jesus as a warrior, that you will find him in vengence and war; if your focus is on the sacrificial aspect of Jesus' death then you find him primarily in your search for your personal salvation.
Think for a moment--who is Jesus for you? What does he do? What characteristics does he have? Is he a judge, warrior, or nice guy. Maybe a shepherd or teacher or king... Now, take your vision of Jesus and extend that. Where do you meet this Jesus, the one you connect with?
I don't know what the guys on the road to Emmaus were looking for, but when they didn't recognize them, he didn't turn away in disgust, he didn't give up on them. Instead, he walked with them speaking with them and teaching them from the scriptures. And at last when he sat down with them around food, at the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
We, today, connect that moment with communion, with the breaking of the bread, where we meet Jesus with the words "the body of Christ broken for you." This meal is one where you kneel or stand beside your brothers and sisters. Where you hear the words "for you" But it's not just for you--it's for everyone. And likely everyone around that table has a different image of who Jesus is. There is often a question posed whether one can be a Christian without being in community--and for my money, the answer is no. And one of the reasons is that we all have our own image of Jesus. And that is normal, and healthy--it helps us connect with Jesus in a real and personal way. But it's important to remember that your image of Jesus isn't the whole picture, my image isn't the whole picture . If we only have one image, we miss the richness and complexity of who Christ was and is.
We know, through Jesus' own promise, that we meet him in service to others. We are told in the book of Matthew: "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, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." In the care for the sick, the sad and the poor we meet Jesus and we are as Christ to others.
Jesus also promised that we would meet him in the community of believers, and through the sacraments. So we come together to worship, to pray, to share in the sacraments, but also to learn from each other. Because as we each share who Jesus is for us, the tapestry of the community is woven and the depth and diversity is revealed. I encourage you to ask the question of each other "who is Jesus for you?" To share your story and listen to others. It will increase your understanding of who Jesus is, I guarantee it.
May the risen Christ bring you light today and every day.
Copyright © 2005 Katy Grindberg
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