April 18, 2021
Based on Luke 24:36b-48
Last week I spoke about how Jesus comes to us, even through locked doors.
I want to expand on that a bit. In particular I find myself reflecting a bit on the idea Jesus still bears the marks of his crucifixion.
There is a phrase that comes up quite often when you study the early years of the Christian church. It is ‘the scandal of the cross’. Christianity in its early years was very much a minority religion. In fact, it could even be called something of a curiosity. Yes, we often hear about how the Romans persecuted the early Christians and there were periodic events where Christians became the target of systemic violence.
But in general, the elites of the age viewed this movement as almost silly. It was a religion of slaves, fishermen, labourers, and women. Its main financial supporters seemed to be well off women such as Lydia and Phoebe.
And beyond all that the man they worshipped as a God had been executed by the empire on a cross as a rebel. He hardly measured up to the other God’s of Rome who boasted great power and strength. This man Jesus died suffering, alone on a cross.
In many ways we can look at Jesus suffering through torture and crucifixion as upending common visions of strength and power and weakness.
You see, if you are constantly ignored or belittled or exploited and used by the society to which you belong; to the point where you even question if you truly do belong in that society; the image of a God who suffers torture and then a slave’s execution at the hands of the powers of that society, may not seem so absurd. There might be something there. Perhaps that God seems a little more relatable?
Because that is part of the message of the life and teaching of Jesus. Jesus was born into this world. He lived a life and suffered like so many of the people whom he met and lived alongside of. And he suffered. He experienced betrayal and abandonment. He endured beating and torture and being mocked. And then he died a cruel, violent, and agonizing death.
And then he returned to life. And he came to his friends in their tie of fear and heartbreak.
Life is not easy. Even those of us who can look at our lives and think, I have it pretty good, must endure times of pain and uncertainty. Times of loss and heartbreak and feeling we are all alone. For many those experiences and emotions are more pronounced, more common. People are often left feeling life was completely stacked against them.
And in those moments Jesus can come to you; show you his hands, his feet, the wound in his side and say, I get it.
NO matter how deep in your own personal hell you might fall. No matter how painful your life might be, Jesus can come to you and tell you are not alone. He has been there. He has been that vulnerable. He has been that weak. He has been that abused. And there is another life on the other side. There is a new life after the tomb.
I am struck by the image in this story of Jesus coming to a group of followers. He meets them as they are gathered in community. Just prior to this he meets two disciples as they journey the road to Emmaus. Jesus meets people where they are. They do not necessarily recognize him immediately. But they still welcome him. And he breaks bread and eats with them.
Jesus is encountered and experienced in the common activities of sharing food and sharing stories. In the practices of welcoming and serving one another.
The church is called the body of Christ. We have an opportunity to share our stories, to share our pain and share our joys. As a church we are called to support one another; to lift one another up and celebrate who we are.
We are not called to the church as perfect examples of faithful, successful human beings, devoid of doubt and pure in our lives. We are imperfect, messed up human beings that are all carrying our own wounds. We all carry our own failures and shames. All of us can name a host of ways we feel we are unworthy or feel we have been betrayed by some part of this world.
And yet, Jesus calls to us. Jesus comes to us and says, I get it. I’ve been there. And I chose you to walk with me. To be a part of this movement. To proclaim and live a life of forgiveness and healing.
When the church is working it remembers its humble beginnings. It remembers that it gathers those often abused or ignored by the rest of the world. It sees the image of God in each and every person and celebrates their presence. And we as that church welcome them, share with them. Eat with them and see their wounds.
We are challenged in this time of physical distancing, when we need to refrain from gathering in one place. And yet we can continue to reach out, offering welcome and sharing love and expressing gratitude for each and every person who is a part of our community and part of our lives.
We are changed by the people in our lives; by the people we let in. And in return we are a transformative presence for the people we come in contact with and to whom we offer love and compassion.
And for that we say,
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Warner Bloomfield
Music provided with permission through licensing with CCLI License number
2701258 and One License # A-731789