Transitions

Preacher: 
Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

 

3rd Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:36B - 48

April 15, 2018 (Yr B)

Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills that we may serve you today, now and always.

         Transitions can be tough sometimes.  That time right before or right after great change…when life seems unsettled and we’re not exactly sure what lies ahead of us, can cause us to feel anxious.  Sometimes it’s when transitions present us with a new task…one we may not be sure we’re ready for -  that can cause anxiety – even when that change may eventually result in good.   

         When one of my nephews was little, he struggled with transitions.  As we approached any big transition – like school starting or school ending, he started to act up a bit.  The change of seasons was actually a transition for which he didn’t like.  Many kids wouldn’t have noticed the change of seasons, but he usually did.  One of my favorite memories is of a warm Spring day when he was still pretty little.  We were heading outdoors for something, and his Mom told him to go put on some shorts and a t-shirt.  After a few minutes, down walks this little guy in about every layer he could possibly wear.  He had on a long sleeve plaid shirt, a vest of contrasting color, striped wool socks pulled up to his knees, and a pair of his longest shorts.  He…clearly…was not ready to make this transition yet!

         My dog is also handles transitions in a funny manner.  When he notices I’m getting ready to leave or if people come over to visit, he immediately goes under the kitchen table.  From this vantage point, he can see everything going on by the front door and in the living room, and he is well protected.  I guess it’s rather smart, if you think about it.  He’s safe and can watch all that is going on without risking too much. 

         If I had to admit it, I too have my habits around making big transitions.  You may realize you do as well.  A few of my quirks when it comes to big life changes look like this…I spend time making a plan beforehand…b/c if at least I have a plan, and something goes wrong, I can go back to my plan and reassess.  Anyone else like to plan?   In this last move, I realized I like to gather up those things that are important to me and keep those I love close by.  Somehow it all gives me a sense of safety, comfort, and control when life feels a bit unsteady.  Transitions can be interesting times in our lives.  I bet, you probably remember some of your own.

         To say the disciples were in a time of transition is an understatement.  In the modern age, changes in our lives don’t involve fear of persecution and crucifixion.  In our Gospel today, we are once again with the disciples in those post-crucifixion days.  The tomb, as we know, is empty, but what does that mean for the disciples.  What lies before them?  How, after all they’ve experienced, do they move forward?

         “While in their joy, they were disbelieving and still wondering…”  That is what the Gospel writer shares with us.  As they gathered, still bewildered by all that had gone on, their friend - their teacher – their Messiah appears before them.   Jesus begins by speaking words of peace and trying to reassure them of his true existence, for they were fearful he was a ghost.  Jesus goes to the extent of asking for something to eat.  This piece of the scripture account seems almost comical to me.  Was Jesus hungry after all he had been through?  Do you just sit down with your risen Lord and have a quick bite to eat before hearing what he had to say?  It all seems a bit surreal to me, but Jesus was apparently trying to reassure them in whatever way they needed.

         Yet, I want to direct our attention to what Luke tells us.  Upon seeing their risen Lord, the disciples felt both joy and disbelief.  Those are not feelings we traditionally associate with one another, but in this moment, that is what they felt.     

         Through this account by Luke, we are reminded that joy and disbelief, wonder and knowledge, courage and fear, confidence and insecurity – are not opposites, but rather, they are all part of our experience when encountering God.  Faith isn’t about embracing only one side of the equation- the joy, courage, confidence or belief.  Christian faith takes root in the tension of both the joy and disbelief…of both the knowing and not knowing.

         I love that Jesus accommodates them. They’re afraid!  I would have been too.  He doesn’t yell at them them, though.  He doesn’t criticize them or shame them for how they are feeling.  He doesn’t even ask them why they’re still struggling, when he had told them, before his crucifixion, that the Son of God would rise, or after they had heard the account from the women who went to the tomb, or any of the other accounts they had heard.  Rather, he simply asks for some fish.

         Jesus once again meets them and meets all of us…where we are.  By doing so, Jesus helps us to embrace our wonder, our disbelief, and our joy as we are gathered up into the marvelous, surprising, expectations-defying grace of God.[1] 

         Jesus doesn’t stop there, though.  He goes on to commission them to be witnesses… even though they must have been utterly confused and probably felt ill-equipped to explain what they had experienced.  Because apparently, in God’s eyes, we don’t have to have it all together to be a witness.

         Jesus invites them to be witnesses and to speak of the wonder, the disbelief, the joy, and the shock they feel.  He wanted them to share with others…his teachings, his compassion, his ministry and his healings.  They were told to witness to it all – including his crucifixion and now his resurrection.  They didn’t need any special skills or a degree to do this work.  He simply asked them to share the truth.  And as always, Jesus reminded them to not worry about what was to happen next, because God always provide for us.

         So, though transitions in life can be challenging, and we may want to put on our striped socks and gather all that is dear to us, we know in our hearts that God is with us!  To each new day… may we bring our joy, our disbelief, our wonder, our frustrations, our hopes, our disappointments, our dreams, and our humanness.   

         God is eager to gather up all it…to meet us where we are…and to send us out to be witnesses…witnesses to how God was and is present in all of life…how God accepts all of us…promises to love every bit of us… and how God showed up even when we weren’t expecting it.   Because that…is what God does.

[1] David Lose, davidlose.net

Go to top