This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The Rev. Joseph Winston April 26, 2009
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Where did you have your favorite meal? Are you one of those people whose fondest memory of food involves an extra special affair that normally includes white linens, silver service, and porcelain plates? Feast in Houston serves traditional European fare in an atmosphere of a public house that ﬁts nicely into this category. It might be that you simply love the pork cheek or the Welsh rarebit along with a glass of ﬁne French wine. Or do you like to go to new, highly rated restaurant? According to Bon App´ tit Magazine, e the number one seafood restaurant in all of the United States is an hour away in Houston. Reef gives you a seasonal menu like based on locally caught seafood. Last week, Gulf Blackﬁn Tuna bacon was the talk of the town. It is conceivable
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3
that your dearest dinning recollection happened on a trip to that quintessential example great food found at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Here you can be assured of impeccable service along with food that appeals to all of the senses simultaneously. A well-loved menu item is pecan roasted black drum. It could be that you simply adore those out of the way places with their authentic American cuisine. You might love the greasy spoon that only a select few know about. They serve a breakfast of eggs and hash browns to die for. Another popular choice is the icehouse. You know the one that I am talking about. It is out on the farm to market. It still lacks air conditioning and uses all those garage doors along with a handful of shop fans to keep the place cool during the summer. Here you go to for a hamburger with hand battered 1015 onion rings. A “long neck” washes all of this down. Then there is that BBQ joint with the smell of mesquite permanently embedded into every inch of the building and probably every one of its owners. You cannot go wrong if you try the brisket, ribs, or sausage and then grab a Dublin Dr Pepper to go with the meal. Maybe you are particular to home cooking. Nothing fancy for you. You know there is no reason to go out when you can get better food at home. Here in the south, this would typically include lighter than air biscuits and butter along with chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and it goes without saying gravy. Certainly, a Thanksgiving meal with all the ﬁxings is best when it is made at home. (This is for the men. You can decide who makes the best meals, your wife or your mother.) I now have another question for you. How would you describe this event? Most people will choose one of two ways to describe their favorite meal. The 2
ﬁrst group will use emotionally charged images to describe both the situation and the food. A ﬁne dining experience perhaps sounds something like this. You might think that this way of dining has completely disappeared from the face of the earth, but you would be wrong. Come and enjoy the good life that still exists. The maˆtre d’ will greet you at the door. ı Walk in. Look at the luxurious linens that grace the table. See how the ﬁne china glistens in the candlelight. From the freshest food available, the chief has carefully prepared today’s menu. An ample wine menu is also available if you choose to enhance your dining pleasure. When the food comes to the table, you will ﬁrst eat with your eyes because of the plate’s stunning presentation. What comes next is difﬁcult to describe but rest assured that your palate will be pleased. A similar story for those individuals that use intense feelings to describe the hidden dinning treasure might be. Come very hungry and prepare to be amazed at what you will ﬁnd here. Something in the atmosphere produces foods here that defy ordinary expectations. All by itself, the quantity of food makes it worthwhile to take a trip to this restaurant. But just you wait. The food is out of this world. That is not all. You will be surprised at the people you will see. Seated next to the biker will be a high priced lawyer. They all come of one reason: good food. By nature, people are very passionate about home cooking. If you do not be3
lieve me, just ask who makes the best homemade bread, chili, or pecan pie. I am even willing to bet you that it will be difﬁcult to ﬁnd two unrelated people that agree on who makes the best homemade food. This difference of opinion seems to raise its ugly head during ﬁrst weeks of a marriage. “Well, you do not feed me like my mother!” Providing details about the meal is the second way to tell someone about your favorite dining experience. Normally, this happens through a recipe. “Take a pinch of this, add a dash of that, combine, and cook for four hours over low heat.” This same idea of enumerating what must be done to prepare a meal can be applied to every dining situation. The only difference will be in the price of the items and the skill needed to complete the recipe. Listing the food consumed is another version of this idea. “My favorite meal is steak and potatoes.” Once again, this concept can be used for every type of meal. We can apply these two very different ways of looking at your favorite meal to today’s Gospel lesson.2 (Do not laugh. We have been doing this in the church for over two years.) A pastor that prefers using emotions to describe today’s Gospel lesson perhaps
Liberal theologians favor the starting point of experience. For example, Friedrich Schleiermacher stated that the foundation for theology must be the feeling that is universal in all religions and that this feeling must be available to every human. Nancey Murphy, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set The Theological Agenda, (Trinity Press International, 1996), p. 22-23. It is these feelings that must be used to examine all doctrine and it if the foundation for theology. ibid., p. 24. For the conservative, the Bible is the foundation for everything, thus all of the teachings of the Scriptures must be completely free of any error. ibid., p. 17. This methodology causes fundamental theologians to be cautious in changing any words in Scripture since language is used to make “precise statements” about God. ibid., p. 61.
would tell you something like this. Fear is one of the harsh constants found in this life and it is one of the horrible curses placed on humanity. We have been told so much by many poets throughout the ages. We are born to die. If this pain was not enough for each of us to bear, some of us have the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It might be that we see the out of control car barreling towards us and there is nothing that we can do to stop it. Knowing that someone has an incurable disease also ﬁlls us with fear because we are powerless to stop the illness. The discomfort for the disciples was the fear of persecution. It is Easter Sunday and Christ’s body is gone. Everyone realizes that the authorities, both Jewish and Roman, will want to know what happened. And if that was not bad enough, their leader is gone and the opposition will be out to get them. They know it is only a matter of time before they are killed. In the middle of all of this, Jesus tells them “Peace be with you.” That is Christ’s gift to you today this peace that comes in the midst of fear. A lover of facts and ﬁgures would give us a completely different sermon. It might sound like this. It is the ﬁrst Easter Sunday and it is sometime in the evening. According to the text, night has fallen on that eventful day that started out with the women going to the tomb (Luke 24:1). They were surprised 5
when they saw two men in bright clothes who told them Jesus had been risen from the dead (Luke 24:4-10). None of the men believed their witness but Peter took the chance and went to the tomb (Luke 24:11-12). Cleopas and another follower decided to go to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-29). On the way there, Jesus appeared to them but they did not know it at ﬁrst. After their conversion, the three decided to eat. When Jesus took the bread and blessed it, God let them see who was at the table with them (Luke 24:30-31b). Jesus disappeared and the two remaining men decided to go back to Jerusalem (Luke 24:31c-33a). Back in Jerusalem, they joined up with the other disciples and they found out that Peter had also seen the risen Jesus (Luke 23:33a). The two travelers recounted what happened to them and then Jesus shows us. Now, we pick up today’s lesson. Jesus comes and says to them “Peace be with you.” The eleven disciples along with Cleopas and the other man still doubted Jesus and they were afraid. Jesus stayed with them despite their fear. You and I are followers of Jesus. We trust that Jesus will stay will us just like He remained with the disciples. While it is very likely that you have heard both sermon styles during your time in the church, you will have to admit they both come up short. Additionally when we go back and carefully look at the two different ways of explaining to someone else your favorite dining experience, the same problem occurs. Neither one is all that good. The ﬁrst problem found in both methods of explaining your favorite meal or 6
today’s Gospel lesson is the lack of participation. No matter how skilled you might be in conveying your feelings about food to others, it is never as good as actually eating something. If you really want someone to know how you feel about a meal, sit down with them and share the dish. Providing the details about a meal suffers the same fate. I do not want to know that cream, butter, salt, pepper, and potatoes go into mashed potatoes nor do I care about the proper ratios of these ingredients. I only want to taste mashed potatoes. Similarly, someone who only attempts to tell you about how others feel in the Scriptures is leaving me out of the story. What difference does it make for me? Here is where the Holy Spirit works. Have you been frightened? Of course. Have you had doubts? Undoubtedly. In many different ways, what happened on the ﬁrst Easter evening occurs every day of our lives. We are in trouble and Jesus comes to save us. The recitation of facts and ﬁgures about a speciﬁc Bible text also excludes me since it is apparent that I am not a character in the Bible. How then do I ﬁt in? When you listened to the Gospel reading today, did you notice the lack of names? Jesus wants to include you, and you, and you. In fact, every use of you (ςύ) in the lesson is plural and should really be translated as “all of you.” Jesus desires that all of you know this account includes you. The fatal ﬂaw with using either feelings or facts to describe either a meal or the Bible is a severe lack of trust. If I only recount my experience through the use of emotions rather than taking you with me, then I am clearly telling you that I am not certain you will like the meal. The enumeration of ingredients or exactly listing everything that happened without inviting me out to eat obviously tells me 7
that you believe that the dish cannot be reproduced. Likewise, if a pastor or anyone else only explains the Bible using emotions, that person does not fully trust God. In their way of thinking, God’s only responsibility is making us feel better. You will have to agree that is a very narrow deﬁnition of salvation. Jesus comes to repair broken relationships. Jesus heals our physical sickness. He lived and died to make us children of God. The problem also exists with only using facts and ﬁgures because the individual that only lists what God did in the past does not trust that God can work in the future. This attitude terribly frightening and it is wrong. God is working right now. He sustains creation. He forgives our sins. He brings us together and then sends us on our way. Unfortunately, rather than clearly proclaiming to the entire world that God wants you to participate in His story and that God can be trusted at His Word, the Church at large for far too long has been relying on emotion or the rote repetition of facts. The basic reason for this failure is that we want to base our faith on something certain. We want something that we can experience or something that we can grasp with our minds. It is hard to believe that God wants us as an integral part of His story. That is why we continually leave others and ourselves out of the work God does in the world. Trusting in the One who makes and keeps promises is even more difﬁcult than seeing our place. Instead of believing God, we put our faith into something that we can understand, the facts and ﬁgures found in the Bible. Somehow people know something is wrong. They feel something is missing. 8
In their minds, they go over the lists time and time again but it just does not add up. The effects of not telling the whole story have been devastating. Across this country, families are not raising their children in the faith. All over the US, adults stay away from Christianity. The destructive cycle continues for the next generation. The results are easy enough to predict. Fewer people believe in God. This can be seen right here in Wallis. In the middle of this terrible mess that we have made, Jesus comes to us. It is not that single unnamed you that the translators of today’s Gospel lesson want us to believe. It is all of you. Jesus comes to you and to you and to you. He comes to give you this Word. Peace to you. That is what He says in the original language. Peace to you.3 This is the peace that passes all understanding. Jesus gives you peace not because you deserve it. Christ gives you peace not because you earned it. His peace is yours because He loves you. This peace is there when you are afraid. This peace remains when you have doubts. This peace stays with you forever.
The Greek literally reads “Peace to you” (ε ρήνη ν). Normally when a sentence is missing a verb as in this one, the indicative form (simple command) of “to be” is used as in “Peace is with you.” Instead, the translators of the NRSV used the subjunctive (imaginary or a wish) and had Jesus say, “Peace be with you.” The implied but missing word in the subjunctive is “may” as in “May peace be with you.” This is not a correct translation. When combining the indicative with a dative found in ν, this is translated as “Peace is to you” or “Peace is yours.” Brian P. Stoffregen, 2nd Sunday of Easter - Years ABC John 20.19-31, http://www.crossmarks. com/brian/john20x19e2.htm.
The way that you describe a meal gives others a brief glimpse into the way that you like to view the world. A response that basically includes how you felt about the items you ate and drank indicates that you trust your feelings. You also believe that you have the ability to adequately express these emotions to others. Listing facts and ﬁgures shows your preference for things that can be measured. Accurately transferring this information is important to you. There is another way to tell others about what you like. Bring them along. Trust that they might have a good time. Invite them to come and eat with you. The same comparison may be made with they way we tell others about Jesus. Focused talk on feelings is a sign that we believe Christ came to help us feel better. Speciﬁc teachings on the facts and ﬁgures found in the Bible demonstrates that we like the ideas in the Bible. The question before us is this. Can we do something different? In other words, can we trust God’s Word that He has a place for each of us? Even for those people who are not like us? I believe that with God’s help we can do exactly that. We can invite others to come here. Ask them to come and eat with you at this table. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”4
Murphy, Nancey, Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set The Theological Agenda, (Trinity Press International, 1996). Stoffregen, Brian P., 2nd Sunday of Easter - Years ABC John 20.19-31, http: //www.crossmarks.com/brian/john20x19e2.htm.