The Kingdom of God Has Leveled the Playing Field: All Are Equal

Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, April 30, 2017, Easter 3, Year A, Luke 24:13-35

“But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Amen.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

“The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia”

Good morning. I am so grateful to be in this place at this time. I was just reminding my kids yesterday, that we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I love watching the trees turn from blossom to bloom. I’m excited for my first full summer up north. I’m not sure that I’ll ever grow tired of the sunrise and sunsets that meet us with each new day. New life is everywhere.

Now, I hate to disappoint you all, but I haven’t caught a fish since good Friday.

You should know, the main cause is the fact that Jodi and I have been sick since Holy Week.

I have mostly recovered, unfortunately… she’s still sick.

But that’s only part of the reason for my fish-lessness.

I did go fishing on the pier once this past week. But I’ve got to tell you I was “blanked”.

Zero fish.

Zero bites… that I know of.

I mention this because when I fish on the pier, or when I fish from shore, there are lots of chances to miss fish.

So, if you’ve never done it before, the fisherperson casts out, up to three lines. The sinker pulls the bait to the bottom, and then some floats in the bait, lift the bait back up off the ground a few feet. So the bait hopefully stays at the correct depth, while the fisherperson sits and waits for a fish to bite.

But there are so many scenarios that could keep that fish out of your freezer. Here are a few of them…

Maybe there are no fish in the area for whatever reason.

Maybe there are fish there, but they aren’t feeding.

Maybe they are feeding but not on the bait that you are fishing with.

Maybe your line is tangled and because you can’t see it underwater, you fish with it for 4 hours with no chance for a bite.

Maybe your bait is too old. Maybe your bait is too fresh…

Maybe your bait is floating too high… maybe it is down too low.

Maybe you hook into a fish and the fish breaks your line.

Maybe you miss a 9-pound steelhead with the net and instead knock the hook right out of the mouth of the fish as your wife is trying to land a monster.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

But there is one other reason a fisherperson may come home empty handed that is by far the most painful reason…

You stop paying attention for just a minute… you look up at the lines and you discover that you are in the middle of a bite or your rod is straight up indicating that you completely missed a bite.

Occasionally, you can make this mistake and you still get to the rod in time to set the hook.

But most of the time another fisherperson will let you know “Hey buddy… you got a fish on.”

This is absolutely humiliating.

To avoid this kind of mistake there are a few fishermen I know that use alarms or bells.

Some fisherpeople giggle at this idea. They consider this kind of technology to ruin the purity of the endeavor.

But, I am here to tell you, that bells and alarms have put many fish into the freezer for my family and for many of my friends.

But without those alarms or bells, the person fishing has to really be paying attention.

They have to really focus.

They must dial in all of their senses.

They must forget about the rain or the cold… forget about the sun… turn their phone off… keep conversations to a minimum… the first priority must be to watch those rods.

If not, it is a long walk back to the car.
With every tourist or pier walker asking you “How is the fishing”…

Or your spouse asking you, “How many fish did you catch.”

If you don’t pay attention, you will definitely miss the action. You will definitely miss what is happening all around you.

That’s the point of the gospel today isn’t it?

Earlier in the 24th chapter of Luke, some of Jesus’ disciples who were females, discovered the empty tomb and were visited by two angelic figures.

You know the story… they run back and tell the other disciples… who question the women.

In fact the text says, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” It sounded like a fish-tale.

This whole aspect of the story is intended to elevate the disciples who could see the truth… the female disciples… and to poke at the men in whom the power of the patriarchal society rested.

The underlying message is that the Kingdom of God has leveled the playing field.

All are equal.

Societal wisdom is deconstructed and rebuilt with a new reality.

In fact, maybe the point of this pericope, the section about the empty tomb… is that those who hold less power and find themselves at a lower cultural status, are in a better position to notice the Resurrection and to be immersed in the Reign of God.

Maybe…

And so, skeptical disciples carry on, immersed in the truth of the tomb rather than the truth of the resurrection. They have chosen or are subject to, the reality of Good Friday over the reality of Easter Sunday. They have literally chosen death over life… They have chosen or maybe just remained in the only reality that they can comprehend.

After the women report the facts, Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself, and the rest of the disciples carry-on in literal disbelief of the resurrection.

And we still haven’t even touched the text for today.

The text says, that same day, two of his disciples were walking to a village called Emmaus. “Talking with each other about all these things that had happened.”

The text makes it apparent that those traveling to Emmaus have not been persuaded by the women about the resurrection. They are fully aware of the persistent reports from the disciples who were females, but would not… could not believe it.

In fact, they seem content to keep Jesus in the realm of teacher and prophet.

They have resolved that he was not the redeemer they had hoped for. Because, what kind of redeemer… what kind of Messiah… what kind of Lord could he have been,

if the authorities could torture… humiliate… shame and kill the one they had so much hope for.

It seems Jesus would just go down in the books as another prophet killed by his own people.

Another teacher killed because of his ideals.

And Jesus, who still has not be recognized says, “How could you be so foolish to think that Jesus would overthrow the system without suffering. How foolish to think that he would be able to accomplish anything without being put to death.”

And yet… they are still blind. They still cannot see that Jesus is present with them.

They cannot fathom resurrection… they cannot comprehend salvation and redemption coming from any other place other than through the sword… they cannot see reality… right in front of their faces… The stone has not been rolled away for them… They are still stuck in the tomb.

But… there is good news. They are curious enough about the truth and about life to beg Jesus to stay with them.

This is surprising to me because Jesus, a stranger to them, just called them fools.

These disciples have been on quite a journey… honestly doing, I believe, the best that they can…

and…they hide after the crucifixion… they refuse to take the word of the women who have spoken with the angelic figures… they scramble to get out of town…. They are unable to recognize the man that they had spent so much time with as they walked together on the road to Emmaus…

And now… in the breaking of the bread… they can finally see reality for what it is.

They are finally flooded with understanding and wonder and amazement. They remember the last time that Jesus broke bread with them. As he served them… As he washed their feet…

It must have been a remarkable thing for those disciples to experience. My hope is that they were overwhelmed with gratitude and joy because their friend was once again with them. I hope that any shame was washed away by the joyful celebration of life over death. I wonder if that mystery and surprise of new life were enough to carry them forth as they changed the world forever.

I suspect that it was. Well, that and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

What an incredible story. Even those who refused to or were not able to see resurrection when it was apparent, even those who ridiculously could not… would not acknowledge reality… even those stuck in the tomb… were able to experience the resurrected Jesus.

And that is still true, today. We can absolutely place ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually… where we can see new life. We can train ourselves to focus on life… we can put away all distractions and keep our eyes peeled. We can intentionally place bells and alarms all over our lives so that we don’t miss it… when resurrection happens.

In fact, if you are having a hard time seeing new life… If you are having a difficult time seeing Resurrection… A hard time seeing the presence of the divine in your life… the good news is that we can experience the very real presence of Christ…. Today… in just a few minutes. Soon, he will be made known to US…. in the breaking of the bread.

And the acolyte will even ring the bell to grab our attention so we don’t miss it.

And that will act as a catalyst for you and for me. On Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday… while we are at work and we hear a story from a co-worker… Ding ding… Sanctus bells.

Or when we hear a story from our children, grown or in elementary school, about some success or challenge overcome… ding ding… Sanctus Bells.

Or when we encounter that person in our lives that we find it difficult to be around… ding-ding… Sanctus Bells.

Resurrection is all around us, St Philip’s. New Life is here! My prayer for us this week is that we will not be kept from recognizing resurrection in our personal lives, in our common life, or in the world around us.

“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.”

Amen.