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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


4th May 2003

Fr David Shepherd

Easter 3

Have you ever had that disappointing experience when getting your holiday snaps back? Your photos never quite manager to capture the special experience you had. The place somehow isn't as you remember it. Other peoples' photos are different. They somehow take you there; make you wish you were there. There is something there about the relationship of place, memory, longing, nostalgia and the photograph which you might care to think about.

There are no photographs from Biblical times; we can only imagine how it was. To do that we have to draw on our own experience, relating our faith to the here and now of our lives.

I came across an interesting suggesting that Luke is deliberately ambiguous about the scene of Jesus' appearance in today's Gospel. It continues on from that of the story of the road to Emmaus. The two disciples returned to Jerusalem. Now the eleven are talking about what they have heard in a room in Jerusalem. Some of Luke's first hearers might just conceivably have known the place. It might still have been there. Luke does not want them to know it; he wants them to relate the appearance of the risen Christ to their own meeting place. By extension we are to do the same, to find the risen Lord as we assemble for worship.

The way in lies in that ancient Christian greeting 'Peace be with you', words used here by Jesus, words suggesting the conferring of the Holy Spirit in Christian Baptism. Just as he was present then, when we use those words we are reminded of Christ's presence with us now.

Within any Christian community and certainly without it, beliefs about the resurrection will differ. St. Luke reflects this in this passage. There is terror as when seeing a ghost. There is fear and doubt. 'Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your heart?' There is disbelief and wonder even in the midst of joy. Luke answers those points and objection.

We might ourselves begin with that question of Jesus and ask what it is we are frightened of, and what doubts arise in our hearts. It is one of those deeply probing Gospel questions. To receive it is to be open to the possibility of profound transformation.

What of those objections to resurrection faith? Firstly there is the view that the disciples simply saw a ghost. Linked to it is the question of Jesus' identity. They are to look at his hands and his feet, to 'see that it is I myself.'

I am always amused at Alexander's (our three year old) greeting, 'Its me' reflecting his new discovery of his own identity. Luke wants us to know the reality of Jesus' identity. He presents the physicality of the risen Lord. Touching and seeing his hands and feet, his eating of a piece of fish all show that he is real not a ghost, nor a spirit disguised as flesh. (Docetism)

Just what 'real' actually means is not explored. We have to turn to St. Paul for an exploration of the nature of Christ's resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15) Luke is more concerned with what it means to know that reality in the midst of our Christian communities. To discern his real presence is to be aware of the fundamentals of the Christian faith. In his words of commission Jesus opens our eyes to the truth of he Gospel.

He is the fulfilment of what we now know as the Old Testament, 'of the Law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms'. His passion and resurrection is 'according to the scriptures'. To understand those scriptures our minds need to opened so that we can witness to the truth. At he heart of this is a turning, a transformation, as we repent of our sins (do a u-turn). To sin is part of our fallen nature. It means that we miss the target, fall short of what God want us to be, people who share his selfless love. To acknowledge our condition in the presence of the Risen Lord is to receive his forgiveness. Once we have received it we are to share it, to proclaim it.

In today's gospel then we don't have one of those disappointing photos that somehow fail to capture the moment, the place and the person. Rather St. Luke leads us to discover the reality of the person of the risen Christ in our place, to know him as we worship, as we work, as we live and as we love.

Such a discovery requires an act of faith and of repentance if we are to receive it. Once received it is to be shared with others so that they too may know that 'It is I myself'. As in a good photograph taken by another we are drawn into a new reality and experience.

Amen

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Last updated 04/05/2003 09:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd