Preacher –  Rev Miak Siew

12 April 2015

“And then what?”

John 20:19-31

This is probably the week most pastors take their week off from preaching. Holy week is the busiest time in church. After Easter Sunday, most of us crash. I am grateful that I now have a wing-woman with me – I am still surviving after Easter Sunday.

It doesn’t help that this Sunday, one has to be the follow up act to the climax of the Christian story – Easter Sunday. After proclaiming the glory of God saying, “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” then what next? How do you follow up to that?

The Sunday after Easter Sunday – the second Sunday of Easter as it is known in the liturgical calendar is probably the Sunday with the lowest attendance. Maybe also that this year, it coincides with Song Kran.

I wonder how many of us think that Resurrection is the end of the Christian story? How many of us think “That’s it, it is finished.” How many of us think that after Jesus said, “It is done,” he had no more to teach us.

So Jesus has risen – and then what?

For those who were baptised, now that you are baptised – and then what?

We finished the sermon series based on the book “Jesus is the Question” – and then what?

We start from the easy one – we are starting on another series based on Brian McLaren’s book “We make the Road by Walking.” McLaren takes an interesting approach in this book – he invites us to imagine ourselves with the disciples, Cleopas and the unnamed disciple on the road to Emmaus.

This is how he described what happened after Christ broke bread with them, they suddenly (or finally) recognised Christ, and then Christ disappears. (We Make the Road by Walking pg 169-170)

———————————————–

“It hits us at the same instant. This isn’t a stranger… this is… it couldn’t be—yes, this is Jesus!

We each look down at the fragment of bread in our hands, and when we look back up to the stranger… he is gone!

And we start talking, one interrupting the other. “When he spoke about Moses and the prophets, did you feel—?” “—Inspired? Yes. It felt like my heart was glowing, hotter and hotter, until it was ready to ignite.” “Did this really happen, or was it just a vision?” “Just a vision? Maybe a vision means seeing into what’s more real than anything else.” “But it wasn’t just me, right? You saw him, too, right? You felt it, too, right?” “What do we do now? Shouldn’t we… tell the others?” “Yes, let’s do it. Let’s go back to Jerusalem, even though it’s late. I could never sleep after experiencing this!”

So we pack our gear and rush back to the city, excited and breathless. On our earlier journey, we were filled with one kind of perplexity—disappointment, confusion, sadness. Now we feel another kind of perplexity—wonder, awe, amazement, almost-too-good-to-be-trueness.

“Do you realize what this means?” one of us asks, and then answers his own question: “Jesus was right after all! Everything he stood for has been vindicated!”

“Yes. And something else. We never have to fear death again.”

“And if that’s true,” another answers, “we never need to fear Caesar and his forces again, either. Their only real weapon is fear, and if we lose our fear, what power do they have left? Ha! Death has lost its sting! That means we can stand tall and speak the truth, just like Jesus did.”

“We never need to fear anyone again.” “This changes everything.”

“It’s not just that Jesus was resurrected. It feels like we have arisen, too. We were in a tomb of defeat and despair. But now

—look at us! We’re truly alive again!”

We talk as fast as we walk. We recall Jesus’ words from Thursday night about his body and blood. We remember what happened on Friday when his body and his blood were separated from one another on the cross. That’s what crucifixion is, we realize: the slow, excruciating, public separation of body and blood. So, we wonder, could it be that in the holy meal, when we remember Jesus, we are making space for his body and blood to be reunited and reconstituted in us? Could our remembering him actually re-member and resurrect him in our hearts, our bodies, our lives? Could his body and blood be reunited in us, so that we become

his new embodiment? Is that why we saw him and then didn’t see him—because the place he most wants to be seen is in our bodies, among us, in us?

It’s dark when we reach Jerusalem. Between this day’s sunrise and today’s sunset, our world has been changed forever. Everything is new. From now on, whenever we break the bread and drink the wine, we will know that we are not alone. The risen Christ is with us, among us, and within us—just as he was today, even though we didn’t recognize him. Resurrection has begun.

We are part of something rare, something precious, something utterly revolutionary.

It feels like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death. It’s an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It’s the “someday” we have always dreamed of, emerging in the present, rising up among us and within us. It’s so different from what we expected—so much better. This is what it means to be alive, truly alive.

This is what it means to be en route, walking the road to a new and better day. Let’s tell the others: the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!”

———————————–

I read such a long excerpt because I was just as inspired as the disciples McLaren describes when I read this chapter. I felt what they felt.

It doesn’t end with the resurrection. It begins with the resurrection. And then what? is all up to us. Just like the original / shorter ending of the Gospel according to Mark ends at 16:8 after a young man, dressed in white robe telling them “Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they had laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The next 12 verses were added some time in the late 2nd century or early 3rd century – many people then, and even now, found the original / shorter ending to be unsatisfactory – much like how I found some movie endings / TV series endings unsatisfactory.

They struggled with “and then what?”

So today I want to offer on you one possible and then what.

John 20:19-31

20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

20:22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

20:25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

20:30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.

20:31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Christ could have come back, resurrected in a perfect whole body. But Christ came back in a body that was imperfect – wounded and scarred. Was it just to convince Thomas so he would no longer doubt but believe?

We believe that God chose to be incarnated in Christ and that has meaning. The Word becoming flesh is significant. Then aren’t the details, the particularities of the flesh – the wounds, the scars – also significant?

What if Christ came back with the wounds and the scars to identify with those who are bruised, wounded, scarred. What if he wanted us to see him when we see the wounds and the scars of those who are suffering? After all, did Christ not said how the sheep will be separated from the goats? By serving the least amongst us?

Christ told us – whenever you eat of the bread, and drink of the cup, remember me. The disciples only recognised Christ at the moment he broke bread. What if we are to recognise Christ at the moment we minister to, attend to the wounds and scars – physical and/or emotional – of those who suffering? What if we are to glimpse a flash of Jesus in them when we reach out and touch them?

This is yet another reversal. We usually see God in the person who comes and help us – thinking that they are angels sent by God in the various trying situations we face. But here, just like God taking flesh in a vulnerable child in a dirty smelly manger, could Jesus be inviting us to see him in the ones who are broken, suffering, wounded and scarred? After all, Jesus said that this is how the sheep will be separated from the goats – by how we take care of the least amongst us. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” It is so important that Jesus repeats himself in the opposite way – Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40-45)

I know that some people feel i talk too much about works and far too little about salvation. My premise is this – to me, salvation is by faith. It is a given for me. I do not need to keep repeating it to convince you, or convince myself that I am saved. There are, of course, those who say that I am a false prophet who is leading my flock straight to hell. Well, that’s what they say – to me salvation is by faith, and I don’t have any kind of proof – no certificate, no mark, no evidence. I trust in God.

I talk a lot about what we have to do because getting folks to ask – and then what? – after this, what? is the key. Our spiritual journey walking with God doesn’t end when we are baptised. We’ve only just begun.

We cannot end in fear like the women in the Gospel according to Mark who “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

We cannot be stuck talking over and over and arguing about salvation. We need to have our eyes opened, just like the two disciples had theirs opened. They did not recognise Christ in their midst when they talked about theology, doctrines, and what happened. They only recognised Christ when he broke bread with them.

We cannot end with the idea that everything is settled, nothing else needs to be done.

In McLaren’s words:

“We recall Jesus’ words from Thursday night about his body and

blood. We remember what happened on Friday when his body and his blood were separated from one another on the cross. That’s what crucifixion is, we realize: the slow, excruciating, public separation of body and blood. So, we wonder, could it be that in the holy meal, when we remember Jesus, we are making space for his body and blood to be reunited and reconstituted in us? Could our remembering him actually re-member and resurrect him in our hearts, our bodies, our lives? Could his body and blood be reunited in us, so that we become his new embodiment? Is that why we saw him and then didn’t see him—because the place he most wants to be seen is in our bodies, among us, in us?

Have you asked yourself – “And then what?”

Have we asked ourselves – “And then what?”

How does it look like? Maybe it resembles the early Christian community who shared all they have and though they didn’t have much, all of them have enough. Maybe it looked like the community who took loved and took care of each other, especially the least amongst them. Maybe it is the community where healing, growing, liberation and thriving happens.

Christ has risen, and then what?

It is finished, yet It has only just begun.

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