"Blessed Hunger, Holy Feast"
Sermon by Jennifer Davis Sensenig
Scripture: Luke 24:1-10; Acts 10:34-43
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Blessed Hunger, Holy Feast
Texts: Acts 10:34-43; Luke 24:1-12
The Impossible Dawna Markova ends her poem I will not die an unlived life with these words: "I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit." Jesus risked his significance. He lived, as Clarence Jordan put it, in a crucifiable situation–in tension with the world. We know some measure of the world's brutality. We have been to the abyss of grief over personal losses, abuse, estrangement and political dead ends. We have grown cold with indifference. We have become rigid in our religion. We have despaired of our sin–the mess we have made of our lives and the natural world. Yet, on Easter Sunday and every day the church proclaims hope. We confess Jesus, the center of faith, as God's messiah, anointed to bring peace to the nations, good news to the poor, deliverance for the oppressed, healing for our diseases and forgiveness for our sins, to bring a kingdom–that is a whole new way of being into the world. Today we celebrate that though the world killed him, Jesus is risen and our hope for ourselves and for our world is fresh again like tender blossoms and ripening fruit.
I sometimes worry that progressive-minded church people will minimize Jesus' resurrection in favor of some disembodied values. Is it reasonable to believe that a man who was tortured and killed was after several days in a tomb brought back to life by God? Reason gets us a long way, but not all the way to resurrection faith. But I know the church needs resurrection, so I'm believing again this year that he is risen. Join me.
The Story Join the apostles: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary and others. They went to the tomb because, like us, they loved Jesus. And it wasn't only admiring love. They went to the tomb because their love made them responsible to treat his body with dignity. They risked much to visit that tomb. These are the same women, mentioned in Luke chapter 8, who had the money to fund Jesus' ministry from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. They made their resources available for Jesus and whomever he touched, or healed or called or delivered.
When they watched him breathe his last on a cross, did they regret their investment? In their grief did they blow their wad on the spices and ointments? Or did they haggle with merchants to get the goods cheap, saving whatever was left to get themselves and their friends out of the city and safely home? We don't know. We know they loved him. They felt responsible for his body and there was work to be done–preparing the corpse for a final Sabbath…and disintegration over time. That's what happens to the bodies of those who die. But they did not find the body. Good news and bad news. Good news, no work to be done. Bad news, spent money on the funeral arrangements and he's not dead after all.
Because of the resurrection, the women's love, responsibility, wealth, work–maybe also their grief or regret had to be redirected. The Bible describes their reorientation as a conversation with the bedazzled duo at the tomb. And then they began a fresh ministry of hope in Jesus' name. Talk about risking their significance, they became apostles, sharing the good news of Jesus–raised from the dead. They began with their closest contacts, but having no credentials–they were women–no one believed them. Their words seemed to them an idle tale.
Idles Words I've preached Easter sermons that mildly scold those bad male disciples for not believing the women, hinting that women have the same credibility and status as men if you're going to be Christian about these matters. And we are. So, assuming all that, it's still true that words can be idle. Words about resurrection are insufficient. Saying so, doesn't make it so. Human language isn't enough for us to hold resurrection, to grasp that Jesus Christ is risen, powerfully alive and among us always.
Among those who heard this message, Peter, suddenly becomes the fact checker. He went to the tomb. And he didn't find the body either. Later, after Jesus has appeared to the women and men who knew him best, it's recorded in Acts that Peter also becomes an apostle. Like women before him, he shares the good new of Jesus' resurrection–and with an unlikely audience. The Acts passage is one of Peter's sermons. Talk about risking his significance, he's preaching to a military commander's household. He starts with Jesus as God's message of peace for all nations and winds up the sermon with forgiveness in Jesus' name. In the middle he has this gem: Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed. And of resurrection he says–God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to everybody, but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses and who ate and drank with him after the resurrection. Who ate and drank with him? What difference does that make?
Bible scholar Marianne Sawicki, says that it only becomes possible to apprehend resurrection when we are a community where some of us are hungry, where some of us recognize the hungers among us and where we meet some of those needs in Jesus' name. In other words all kinds of ministry–care for the poor and those who need forgiveness and justice and food and friendship and love isn't a result of first believing words about Jesus' resurrection. A ministry community is the garden in which resurrection blossoms are seen and enjoyed, where the fruit–Jesus' resurrection–is as real and sweet as the first strawberry. Jesus' resurrection is not apprehended through reason alone. Reason gets us a long way, but not all the way to resurrection faith. The spiritual truth of Jesus' resurrection is known and lived through our bodily human needs and our responses to the needs around.
Blessed Hunger, Holy Feast For many months our congregation has offered special prayers for a baby. When Arthur was safely delivered, we rejoiced. We knew Arthur would have some complex physical needs. Indeed he lived his first five months and more in a NICU. Now Arthur is at home and we are celebrating that he and his parents can develop more ordinary rhythms as a family, even as he still requires some special care. Visiting Arthur during Holy Week helped me apprehend something about Jesus' resurrection.
Arthur has a feeding tube to his small intestine. He has had a continuous supply of food. That's been good for growth and development in the NICU. Now that he's home rather than continuous nutrition, he's learning how to be hungry and then eat. That's how bodies thrive. The gradual weaning from continuous feeding requires the family to get hungry, to notice hunger and respond to hunger. Our hope and prayer is that as Arthur grows, he will develop physical patterns of a blessed hunger and enjoy the holy feast of being fed and eating.
The church lives as a resurrection body, confident that the risen Lord is among us and between us as we become hungry, as recognize the needs and hungers among us and in our community, and as we meet those needs. It's in these imperfect ministry exchanges that resurrection becomes our faith.
Hungry Christ And, there might be more to it. In the Gospel of Luke the risen Jesus is hungry. You remember the story on the road to Emmaus. Jesus needs a meal and a place to stay. Two disciples invite him in, though they don't realize it's the Lord. It's during a shared meal that Jesus' resurrection becomes real. Until then, it was just a report to be debated. Until Jesus broke the bread, resurrection seemed just idle words.
And later, as these two disciples tell the others about meeting Jesus in Emmaus, the Lord appears to all of them, but they aren't certain until he says: Have you anything here to eat? They give him some fish and he eats it. Why all this hunger and sharing and eating and feasting? Well, literally, at the Last Supper, Jesus told his friends he would fast–neither eating nor drinking–until the kingdom of God comes. No wonder the risen Jesus is hungry. He's been fasting for days. [PAUSE] The risen Jesus is hungry. He is a needy stranger. He is poor, incarcerated, an immigrant, a child…hungry.
And that's why you and your hunger are welcome here. If your need is great, you belong here. Your hunger for justice is necessary for this community. Feeding and caring and visiting and serving and resisting oppression must be our practice or the church's claim that Christ is risen, will seem idle worlds. Our investments of love and responsibility and resources and wealth, even our grief and regret can be redirected in the name of the risen Lord.
Our theme during Lent has been Blessed hunger, Holy feast. It's Easter, so we feast. Our meal at the Lord's Table is real and symbolic. We already ate breakfast; we're not literally hungry. But we are hungry for resurrection life. We want God's message of peace to be lived through this body. We need forgiveness of our sins. We want to be known as people who go about doing good and healing oppression of all kinds. Let's join the apostles and be those who eat and drink with the risen Lord, who come together in exchanges of care and blessing and grace and service in Jesus' name.
Sometimes our Christian season of Lent-Holy Week-Easter really fits. The timing of the Bible stories we tell aligns with the stories we are living. It's like God is speaking to us. Hallelujah! At other times we feel out of sync. Here it is Easter and we're angry or disillusioned or grieving. Friends, we are the body of Christ. So the whole life of Christ has made us who we are. Jesus' life, teaching, suffering, death, resurrection and reign is our lifeblood. Whether we feel it this year or not, we are a resurrection body. As Community Mennonite Church, we believe that Jesus is risen from the dead. We believe, as Peter preached, that Jesus was God's message of peace for all nations. When we're hungry and when we're addressing the deep hungers of the world, Christ risen the from dead beyond reason, becomes a revelation. We believe it. Hallelujah!
Community Mennonite Church is a peace church where everyone is welcome. We inspire one another to live generous lives in the name of Jesus. As we notice the hunger in ourselves, in our community and in our world, as we respond to the needs around us, we will meet the risen One. We don't know the timing. It means risking our significance. Let us celebrate the blessed hunger of Jesus among us and the holy feast prepared for us. Let us eat and drink together with the risen Christ, so that like Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary and Peter and all the rest, we might be apostles of this good news. The Lord is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
Our theme music is "Jesus, I believe you're near," composed by Matt Carlson and arranged for strings by Jeremy Nafziger.
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