We gathered here Thursday night to celebrate Holy Communion. We remembered the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. But our service was more than a remembrance. In Holy Communion, we experience the living presence of Jesus. He is with us in the bread and the wine. He feeds us for the journey of the Christian life.
Then on Friday, we gathered in downtown Maumee and walked the way of the cross. Volunteers carried a big heavy cross down the street, wondering what it might have felt like for Jesus to carry that cross to Golgotha. We read the story of his trial and his crucifixion. We were there once again as he breathed his last breath. We felt the agony, along with the disciples and the women, of the death of Jesus. Because you see on that first Friday, they did not know about Easter. They just knew about death.
But today, we get the joyful Easter story (Luke 24: 1-2 for those following along from far). The women go to the tomb, expecting to anoint Jesus’ body with oil for burial. Instead they meet two men, perhaps they are angels, because there clothes are dazzling. The men say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” The women remember. They go back to tell the eleven disciples and all the rest. But the scripture says, the women’s words “seem to them an idle tale and they do not believe them.”
Peter has to see for himself. So he runs to the tomb. When he finds it empty, and sees the linen burial cloths lying there with no body, he believes. He goes back home amazed at what had happened. You see Peter would not believe in the Risen Christ because of what the women said, he had to see for himself.
That’s what they say: seeing is believing. But we weren’t there. We don’t get to see first-hand, do we? We have to take this story on faith. For over 2000 years people have taken this story on faith. We believe in the risen Christ because of the witness of the women, and Peter and the other disciples. We believe because we choose to believe. Because life with the risen Christ is better than life without the risen Christ, plain and simple.
As human beings we need hope, don’t we? And the resurrection gives us hope, hope that death does not have the final word. The powers and principalities of this world thought they could destroy Jesus. But they could not. They could not destroy the power of love. Jesus rose from the dead. And proved that we have eternal life with our God.
Jesus still lives today. That is the good news. Peter believed because he saw the empty tomb. The disciples also saw Jesus in the next few days. He appeared to them. But I would argue that Jesus is still appearing to us 2000 years later. We can see Jesus. We can see Jesus for ourselves.
Think about it. When have you seen the risen Christ? When have you seen the power of God in the world? We see him every day in the kindness of strangers and in the courage of people to do justice. I saw Jesus at T and Z’s wedding. There were several moments when I saw Jesus. But I’ll tell you about one. During the first dance, Beth fell and hit her head. Yes, it was embarrassing. And yes, it sort of blew the moment of the first dance, but that’s okay, they did a do-over of the first dance later.
But here is where I saw Jesus: in all the people who responded to Beth. Immediately people surrounded her with care. There were two people trained as first responders in the crowd. One of them, Jackie, held her head as if it were in a neck brace until the EMT’s arrived. Kristen held her hand and whispered a prayer in her ear. Rachel and I stood nearby and also prayed. Others found her purse and keys and drove her car to the hospital. There was a crowd there at the emergency room with her, so many that I had to wait my turn to get in to see her. We were the living Christ for Beth. Sure, she was in pain. But she felt surrounded by the love of her friends who were being Christ for her. We saw Jesus that night in the people who were caring for Beth.
Let me tell you another story. I had the occasion once to see a teacher teaching in a classroom of teen-agers. I don’t know about you, but I would find that terrifying. I will tell you that the teacher was Jesus in the situation. He looked the teen-agers in the eye and spoke to them like human beings, something we adults don’t often do. He listened to them. He connected with him. He spoke their language, not in a fake way, but sincerely. Again, that’s a hard thing to do with teen-agers. The man was full of compassion and patience. He wanted them to learn and he was going to do whatever it took to help them learn. The teacher was Jesus for those students.
When have you seen Jesus? I have seen Jesus downtown on a Saturday morning with Food for Thought. They used to gather in the park next to the library and give out those sack lunches with peanut butter sandwiches to the homeless. One year Christmas was on a Saturday, and they still went down there. Becca, Kurt and I went down there on Christmas morning. In one area I saw people giving sack lunches to people. In another area there were people serving up a hot meal. In yet another area people could get warm clean socks from the Hannah’s socks project. We were working in the hygiene area where people could get toothpaste, toothbrushes and razors. Becca had meticulously tied a red ribbon on a couple hundred razors because we heard that was something the homeless needed. People were interacting with one another, having conversations, and wishing one another a Merry Christmas. I saw Jesus on the faces of all the people who were gathered in the park that Saturday morning, both those giving provisions, and those receiving. Because remember, we’re told that when we feed the poor we are really feeding Jesus. You can participate in this ministry this coming Saturday. Come join us at 9:45 AM at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Toledo.
Where have you seen the Risen Christ? Where have you seen someone perform an ordinary act of kindness that became extraordinary in the moment? The act becomes extraordinary when we invite Jesus into our midst. The Risen Christ wants to be with us every day. He is waiting for us to invite him into our lives.
We invite Jesus into our lives when we live for him and live in his way. We can see Jesus for ourselves, because Jesus lives in us. His spirit lives in us. We can be Jesus for one another. This is the miracle of Easter. Jesus Christ did not die. He lives in us. We have the power to change the world. With every action we do, we have the power to change the world.
So what does that mean? When we approach a situation, we pay attention to Jesus living in us. We ask Jesus, “What would you do in this situation?” And that is what we do. We live out the values of Jesus: compassion, kindness, justice, and generosity. I know there are times we think this is too hard. I’ve been there. We feel anger welling up inside of us. We have been wronged and we want to respond with vengeance. This is when we remember that the living Christ lives in us, and we calm our anger.
There are times that we want to hold on to what we have. We don’t want to be generous. We are afraid we won’t have enough if we give some of it away. That is when we remember that the living Christ lives in us and we live generously. There are people who don’t deserve our compassion and kindness. They are mean and cruel. They have hurt us. That is when we remember that the living Christ lives in us and we dig deep down inside and find a way to live with compassion and kindness.
You see, we learned on that Easter morning that God did not die. God overcame death. And so we live as a people of hope. We live with the living Christ inside of us. We can see Jesus every day in our own actions and in the actions of people who are filled with God’s love. So, my friends, look for Jesus. You will see him. And be Jesus. You can be Jesus for one another. Jesus is alive. He lives in you! Amen.