The Rev. Rhoda Montgomery, D.Min.
3rd Sunday in Easter
April 22, 2012
I wish what I am about to say would just shock the daylights out of you. But it won’t. Even if you don’t know me well at all, you still won’t be shocked by what I’m about to say. So, here goes: I like to eat. Obviously. One time I had the flu and a 104 degree fever still had dinner. I have been in the emergency room, unable to breathe very well….and been hungry. I have never said the phrase, “o gosh…I got so busy I forgot to eat!” I worked full time while doing graduate school full time….I forgot what day it was sometimes, but I never forgot to eat. Cooking and eating are great pleasures in my life, but food, like anything else can be used or abused. We can have way too much or way too little… finding a balance is critical because our bodies are made to need food.
And in our American culture…and perhaps most especially in the South, food carries with it powerful symbolic meaning as well. On occasion I’m really hungry for this certain kind of cake I enjoyed in my childhood, and sometimes that’s just about my love of sugar…but sometimes that desire is really about missing my grandmother and the way that she loved me.
Sometimes our hunger for food is just about innate biology, but sometimes the need for food is bigger than that…sometimes it’s about connection...and memory and love.
Something as simple as a three ingredient casserole dropped off at someone’s home at just the right moment can show love and concern like nothing else does, and that gesture can sustain a family beyond the dinner hour. But you all know that so well. Through our Helping Hands ministry, this parish rallies around its members by bringing meals when there’s been a death in the family or the addition of a new baby or some other disruption to a family’s usual routine. Those meals are a practical way of meeting physical needs, but those meals are also about extending love and support.
Sometimes an ordinary casserole or a plate of brownies makes a hard situation more bearable and sometimes, like we hear about in the Gospel of Luke…an ordinary piece of fish can change everything.
For the community the author of Luke describes, the discovery of the empty tomb by women was only the first shocking event in a long list of shocking events following Jesus' death. After the women make that remarkable discovery, two more followers encounter the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, in a story that comes right before the passage we heard today.
But the two travelers on that road didn’t recognize the stranger walking beside them, even after spending the night with them they didn’t recognize the mysterious companion as the Risen Messiah….until… he broke bread with them.
Only then, Luke tells us, only in the breaking of bread did they recognize the mysterious traveler as the Risen Lord. It took a little food to help make clear what was happening.
And now the two who had that experience…who had that bread…those two have come and corroborated the story the women told about their experience and now more disciples are gathered and suddenly... the Risen Jesus appears to this larger group and says: “peace be with you.” And if you’re in that group…and you’re like me and you tend to eat when you’re nervous….you’re looking for some cake right about now.
Although the stories about Jesus being alive were spreading rapidly, this now larger community was still afraid and curious…. hopeful but scared…trying to make sense of all that was happening…trying to make sense of what the women had told them and what the others had told them until finally, the writer of Luke tells us today: "while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering...Jesus said to them, have you anything here to eat?"
And every Southern cook and every chubby priest in the world is shouting, Hallelujah! First the Risen Lord makes himself known in the breaking of bread, and now, Jesus asks for something else to eat. For the writer of Luke, food is at the heart of the Resurrection, and I love that.
Clearly the writer of Luke is trying to make a theological point about the bodily Resurrection of Jesus, but these stories about bread and fish…these stories about the Resurrected One eating in the presence of His shocked followers, tell us something else too.
This food that Jesus eats fuels more than just His body, this food created a community…a community that changed everything…a community that continues to change everything. And the question Jesus asked… “do you have anything here to eat” that’s a question Jesus still asks of our community.
Because here we are…thousands of years...and thousands of miles later….still telling this Story….still trying to make sense of it all too. And into our community the Resurrected One still comes…still asks us the question, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
And like that first community we have literal food to share…it might not be broiled fish…but the food we share comes in the form of casseroles distributed by Helping Hands, and boxes of food distributed through the pantries our church supports, pantries that care for low income people, or it may come in the form of pancakes on Sunday mornings at our community building breakfasts. But whether it’s pancakes shared by friends here or food given out to strangers in need like yesterday at our mobile food pantry, food is at the heart of our identity as children of the Living God. The Resurrection really is all about food….because we are fed every single week…fed the body of the Living Christ every time we gather at this altar.
And because we are fed at this altar, fed by the Living God….all of our encounters with food…from pancakes…to casseroles…to canned goods at a food pantry…all of our meals can become encounters with the Risen Lord.
When Jesus asks the question “Do you have anything to eat?” He’s asking…do you have anything to offer? Do you get that this experience must be shared? Do you believe the Risen Lord still comes...still calls...still matters...still wants to be with you...do you have anything to eat?
Yes...you do...and so do I...but we have it together. We share it together. The literal food and the food of Resurrection…all of it we share together.
And where we are together the Risen Lord comes….over and over....that's the power of Resurrection…it’s revealed in a community… it's not just a onetime miracle frozen in a history that we can never touch...or experience...it's here today..right here…right now...Do you have anything to eat?
You bet we do. And here’s more good news. The food we share...the doesn't mold or disintegrate...or make us fat…this food we've been given brings life out of death...this food we've been given fills us with the life giving life changing power of the Resurrection not just so we feel good not just so we feel full and satisfied. This food compels us to go out into the world...a world that is starving…sometimes literally starving for the food that I so easily take for granted.
And this Resurrection food fuels us to go out into a world that is starving spiritually too…a world that has mistaken the temporary sugary delusion of money...and power...and revenge...and celebrity...and instant gratification…mistaken all of that...for Real Food. The food of New Life. Food that we have been given...the food that we are commanded to share…food that is available to us always...in all the circumstances of our life...and even...in our death.
Because this food never runs out...this Food never leaves us...this Food...binds us to one another and to the Risen One forever. Do you have anything to eat? You bet we do. Thanks be to God.