Monday, April 16, 2012

Gospel for Sunday 22 April 2012

Luke 24:36b-48
While the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-- that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

1 comment:

  1. The idea of resurrection and immortality did not begin with Jesus. Ancient Egyptian gods were understood to die and rise again, some of them perennially. In ancient Greece superior soldiers and sages were raised from the dead and became immortal deities. Our Hebrew ancestors tell the stories of how the prophets Elijah and Elijah each raised young boys from the dead. There is even a story from the first century of this era that claims when Aristeas, a Greek, died, and his friends came for his body, the body was not to be found. At some later date, the resurrected Aristeas appeared to his friends as they were traveling. With this as historical context, the death, missing body and resurrection of Jesus was probably not particularly shocking to his early followers.

    However, between then and now we have navigated the age of Enlightenment. In the process we have shined our high power flashlights into every nook and every crevice. The great thinkers of the Enlightenment considered our ancient Christian and pre-Christian ancestors as ignorant and immature. In the bright light of reason humanity put on a pair of glasses with a particular filter intended to eliminate mystery. While much was gained in the process of applying reason to the material world, the cost of the loss of mystery to humankind is enormous.

    How in the light of reason are we to engage the story of the risen Jesus appearing, not as a ghost but of real substance, to his disciples? How are we to understand Luke’s comment that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures?” How are we to respond to Jesus’ instruction to “proclaim in his name to all nations…” repentance and the forgiveness of sin? None of this is reasonable, logical nor can it be historically confirmed. Still, in 2010 there were 2.18 billion Christians throughout the world. Just two years ago roughly one third of the world population subscribed to the unreasonable idea of death and resurrection which is a central tenant of the Christian religion.

    Although mystery may be associated with fiction, it is not necessarily so. Even our physicist friends are perplexed as they bring reason to bear on matter and discover that certain types of energy, photons, behave both as particles and as waves. The words of one of the fathers of quantum physics describe, “Nature as she is – absurd.” (Richard Feynman) Reason is not sufficient to engage creation or our human experience of it. The boundaries between life and death and new life may be as mysterious as Feynman’s photons, which is no doubt why relationship with God is based on faith rather than reason and a third of the world’s population choose in favor of mystery.