3rd Sunday of Easter Sermon

April 14, 2024
Preacher: The Rev. Kae Eaton

If you happened to read Thursday’s email missive from St. John’s this week, you’ll understand why I found myself running to my library looking for wisdom, comfort, something, as I began to prepare this sermon.

I opened a book by a physician, a surgeon, named Atul Gawande. The book has been on my shelf for a number of years now, since I was a chaplain at the VA. It was recommended by a hospice chaplain.  It’s called Being Mortal.[1]

I have to tell you, if there’s one thing I have thought about this week, it’s mortality.

We have three precious people in our little community, who we know are in the final stretch of their journey on this earth. Stu, Diane, and Timmie.

Our dear music director Dennis, is in hospital, recovering thankfully, from viral meningitis.

Carol had a fall, and will be in rehab for fractures for a good while, and Mary is in rehab as well, healing from joint replacement.

Mortality is hitting us hard this week.

So I grabbed Dr. Gawande’s book, and scanned the table of contents, knowing that the book is full of personal vignettes as well as professional ones, all dealing with… right: being mortal.

He talks about long-term care, end of life care, for his aging mother-in-law, and how it felt to be a surgeon prolonging life, saving lives, and having to learn to face the inevitable, that we are all…mortal.

I knew all this, so as I scanned the contents, feeling a little desperate, my eyes stopped at the last chapter title:     Courage

 

That’s it! That’s what we need in this moment….   Courage.

John, the beloved disciple speaks tenderly to us: “Beloved,” he says, “we are God’s children now; What we will be has not yet been revealed.”  BUT:  “what we do know is this: When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.[2] As he is.

We read in Luke today that Jesus, back from the dead, for heaven’s sake, is trying to convince those disciples, including the two who just saw him hours earlier, that no… he wasn’t a ghost!!

“LOOK!” Look at my hands. Look at my feet! This is how you know it’s me!

It makes me wonder what it was that opened the eyes of those two disciples as they watched Jesus break the bread. With his hands…I wonder… was it the wounds that made them recognize him? Were they scars by then? Healed, but not cured.

It makes me wonder about the words he said to them on this day: Peace be with you….

Peace.  Be still. And what courage it takes when faced with what terrifies us when we are confused and frightened, startled, afraid.

To be at Peace.   To be still.

Honestly, I am struck by Christ’s insistence that they look at his wounds, the holes in his hands and feet. His side. It couldn’t have been pleasant to look at. But he insisted. Repeatedly.

Dear friends… We too are known by our wounds.

From the moment we are born with the jolt of being expelled like a locomotive from the warmth and safety of our mother’s womb we know pain. We know hunger.

It is the human condition.

And so it is that G’d, too, experienced the human condition… all the way to death.

This was the point.

And now he is known by his wounds.

And we are too.  And it takes courage to know that. To know that in our weakness we are strongest.

I know many of you by your wounds, And, you know me by mine. Do they define me, or you? No. But they distinguish us, one from another. Our wounds are unique to us. And yet they are the same, aren’t they? Just the same, only different.

Rejoice!! You are beautiful!  Even now with scars you will carry through the veil to the other side. You won’t be a ghost, you will be you, distinctly you. Just as Jesus was… for we see him as he is. And we will be seen as we are. Fear not. Peace be with you.

This is no joke; no myth; no fairy tale. “See me! Touch me! A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like this.” “Give me something to eat!”[3]

When I think of the time it took for the disciples who lost Jesus on that day; three whole days of grief, disappointment, confusion, rage. I imagine every emotion known to humans. Day after day, night after night… and finally giving up. He’s dead. Gone.

No wonder they were shocked.

But then Jesus goes on to interpret the scriptures to them. He tells them: “These are the words I spoke to you.” From Moses, all through the Prophets and Psalms. All the scriptures they knew at the time. The Messiah was to suffer, and to rise from the dead. Repentance and forgiveness are proclaimed now for all nations.

He’s telling them: It’s all true

And now we know that suffering and woundedness are part of the journey of our lives. And healing comes.

Each journey up to the veil and through to the other side is its own, as sure as every life is unique.

Just the same only different.

Timmie’s, journey, I must tell you, as long as she tarries saying goodbye to family, parish siblings – which you all are – is one of celebration and joy. She is sucking champagne from little sponge lollipops (!) telling all who are present the stories of her life and laughing with delight.

The stories are endless.

and she is fierce with reality….

And as I sat with her, it was tears of joy glistening on our cheeks (we both assured each other of that). My friends:  this is because of Christ!

We suffer. We rise. Embrace it!  Just as God in Christ did.

All those we have lost, all we are journeying with now all the way up to, and through, the veil

between this world and the next: We shall all rise and be healed.

Those scars he showed the Emmaus disciples, and Thomas, and today, all of them, and all of us,

was proof he was who he was!

We are witnesses. And the scars we bear help make us who we are, they are our life, our story.

Embrace them as Jesus embraced his own pain, as it was the will of the Godhead to embrace the human condition, for Godself to embrace the pain and to rise from it. To cleanse us from pain, and from brokenness to a new way of being. A way of loving, of sharing, of kindness, of joy.

Amen.

[1] Gawande, Atul, Being Mortal, Metropolitan Book, Henry Holt and Co., LLC, 2014

[2] I. John 3:2

[3] Luke 24:39