Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48
1st Reading: Acts 3:12-19
2nd Reading: 1 John 3:1-7
What is your favorite book and why?
I've been reading “War and Peace.” I picked it up at the Goodwill Bins a few years ago. I like to read the classics. I didn't really think about how it would sound to people when I said that I was reading it. Sounds kind of snooty, doesn't it? I didn't really take that into consideration when I grabbed it. I just kind of thought that it is one of the greats. It is a bucket list kind of thing, I think. I'd hate to miss out on such a great work of literature just because it is long and people think I'm weird for reading it. I made it through “Moby Dick” a few years ago, and nothing could be as bad as that! At least “War and Peace” is interesting. I just have to keep a list of characters so I can keep track—250 pages and more than 80 characters—3 of them named Marya.
I love to read and I like to think that God does, too. Here we have reference in Acts to Jesus as “the Author of life.” It is the only time he's called that in the Bible. He is the author of one heck of a book, not that any of us would be able to read the whole thing. We've all got our chapter, a part of the book and we try to compare notes with others to see what they've got until we can get a more complete picture of who God is and who we are and what life is all about. Jesus is the author of a book spanning the entire universe, or universes as we've been saying in our creed lately. This book covers the past, the creation, the ancestors, the prophets and teachers. The book covers the present—who we are now, children of God and how to live in the present. And it covers something of the future—how to live in the unknown, what we can know about the future—that we are not alone.
In the book of Acts, Peter is explaining the story. He is weaving God's story with that of the Israelites. They were pretty familiar with the parts about the Exodus and being the chosen people. But now they see part of their chapter that they might be ashamed about. This is part of all our story—how God is right here in our midst and we miss it, we mock him, we reject him, we push him away. Peter doesn't tell the people that so they will feel bad about themselves, but to show the power and love of God. Even when we mess up, when we try to kill the author of life, God is able to take that and use it for good. This message reminds us though, that we are not the be-all, end-all of everything. Our intentions are usually for self-gain. We miss the whole point. We are prone to violence and aggression when we don't get our way. This reading causes us to do some self-examination, knowing that what we find won't be so pretty. But all is not lost. If we turn our eye toward the Author of life, then we will see what really matters, we will be able to find hope again.
The best stories are a series of close calls. Homer's Odyssey, the Book of Acts in the Bible, Star Wars, Harry Potter, War and Peace—they are all a series of close calls. They keep us interested. The story of the Israelites is a series of close calls—that Abraham, a childless man would become the father of nations, that the Israelites would escape the mighty Egyptian army, that the exiles would return after a generation in bondage, these are all close calls in which God rescues them. And we are invited into that story by adoption. That was the story of the ancestors of our Savior Jesus, and he welcomes us into that family, making that our story. In this story, we are the helpless, the lawless, the ignorant, the disbelieving.
But that isn't enough to stop God, thankfully. God comes to us in the midst of the greatest of these close calls—the one in which he dies and we think he's gone, but he is risen in the resurrection and comes to us who betrayed him and denied him—and he does the most unexpected thing of all—offers us peace. And because of that, a whole new future unfolds for us. We are looking at eternal life. Our story, now, goes on and on. It doesn't have an ending anymore, except that we will see God as he is and we will be like him. We will find transformation, complete life change, healing through Jesus, not because of anything we do, but because of his transforming love and how we want to participate in that reign of love and transformation of our whole world.
Many good stories have ghosts in them, and this morning we get the possibility of a ghost. It is Jesus, but he is risen and he is real. We know he is real because the Disciples can touch him. We get the chance to touch him, too, because we can touch those in whom he has promised to be present. We can reach out to people who are sick and homebound and we know that human touch brings healing. We can touch Jesus when we shake hands with an enemy or a stranger. We can touch Jesus when we receive Holy Communion, his body and blood right here with us for us to touch. And we know he is real because he eats with us. Just when we are most afraid, when we don't know what to say because we feel so guilty and ashamed for denying him in our lives, he breaks the tension--”Anybody have anything to eat around here!” Good ol' Jesus—always hungry! Always wanting to share a meal with us. So we—the ones who reject him, who are ignorant, who are lawless—are invited to eat with him. He invites us into relationship, into wholeness, and touches us and feeds us and treats us as his children, for that is what we are.