In the Name of God who appears to all and yet in God’s own way….
Today’s reading of the Good News reminds us that religious folks have always had an issue with actually seeing what is in front of them. This inability to use our eyes and accept the reality of life seems to have begun shortly after Jesus’s crucifixion and continues to this day. Quite simply religious people like to pretend they don’t see a lot.
We like to pretend to that we don’t see the homeless person standing on the side of the road as we drive by in a rush to make it to our next appointment. We like to pretend we don’t see the requests the local food bank sends out in order to meet its ever-growing demand. We like to pretend that the issues and struggles facing other faiths have no relation to Christianity. We like to pretend that the obstacles others are facing in their lives have no effect on our own. Heck, sometimes we like to pretend we are the only person in the room and we are all that matters.
However, today we are not allowed to dwell in our state of ignorance and refusal to see what is before us. Today we are called to attention and to open our eyes. In our passage, the Eternal Christ appears and says, “Peace be with you.” These words may seem simple enough; we have heard them countless times in our lives. But these words require a response. They require that the person who is offered them respond by saying, “Peace be with you also.” The disciples fail to do so. Instead we are told they are frightened, startled, terrified and disbelieving. As matter of fact, the passage leads me to believe that disciples would have been happy to pretend they never saw Christ standing in that room. You know, just look busy.
Christ, on the other hand, demands that his presence be acknowledged. Christ forces them to gaze upon his body, to touch his hands and his feet. You see Christ knew all to well that religious people like to pretend. They like to pretend that all is well and they have no need to engage the individuals who stand before them in life.
Today, the Eternal Christ calls our attention to the individuals we find in the middle of the rooms of our lives and demands that we respond.
We are given the sacred opportunity to quit pretending, to open our eyes and behold the person who seeks to give peace and receive peace. The person, this mystical appearance of the Eternal Christ, happens all the time and rarely do we notice it. I saw Christ this morning in the face of the person standing on the side of the street hungry and homeless. I have seen Christ in the face of a child who wondered where their next meal would come from. We have all beheld Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters around the world who fear for their lives simply because of their skin color, religion, gender, or sexuality. The Eternal Christ is always present in our midst seeking to reveal the Divine to us. But we like to look busy.
In our passage, Christ asks his disciples to give him something to eat. When given a piece of broiled fish, we are told Christ “ate in their presence.” You see today is no different, Christ stands before us in so many different forms, perplexing forms, even frightening forms and yet asks the same… Christ asks for peace and something to eat. The question is whether we will keep pretending to not see or if we will allow ourselves to touch the face of God in the homeless, the broken, the hurting, the marginalized and the forsaken. Will we give them a piece of sustenance, a piece of ourselves, a gift of life in order that they will abide in our presence blessing us with all the gifts they have to give?
Christ comes to us again and again in this life. But so often we find ourselves terrified at his appearance because it wasn’t expected or we don’t know what to say or what to do. And yet all we have to really do is say, “Peace be with you…here is a gift of love.” It is in the simplest of gifts, the smallest of deeds, that allow us to enter into true relationship with the Divine – we enter into relationship by not ignoring those around us or living in some mystical detached life but in embracing the world around us and seeing God in all we encounter.
God seeks to abide in our presence. God appears constantly. Will we allow our judgmental doubts and fears to stop Christ from dwelling in our presence? Or will we embrace the Christ in all, acknowledging their realness, their need, and their humanness and ultimately break bread with them?
It is no mistake we share the words, “Peace be with you,” before partaking of communion. It forces us to see the people around us, to see God in them and to reconcile ourselves to them. Can we do the same for those we meet on the street and in our neighborhoods? If not, we have truly failed in our mission and our liturgy, our religion, is in vain. This worship service is only the beginning of the liturgy…life out there is the continuation and the same rules of love and willingness to embrace all are upheld if not needed even more so. Gaze upon all and you will see Christ. Love all and you will experience Christ. Listen to all and you will hear Christ whispering. Receive peace and give peace.