Sermon for Sunday 15 April 2018 – Third Sunday of Easter
St John the Baptist, Felixstowe
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24.41-42)
God give you peace my sisters and brothers.
This Thursday Lesley-Anne and I will celebrate our 38th Wedding Anniversary. Sadly, due to the small matter of a PCC meeting that evening we will only be able to go out for a meal on the following night.
One thing we have learnt since coming to Felixstowe is that our Friday‘Date Night’ holds many gastronomic delights. Will we go for the Tapas at Anatolia or the Ducks Egg in Purgatory at the Alex? Or will it be an overflowing frying pan of Paella at The Boardwalk on the Pier or break the bank and become immersed in the luxury that is the Chateaubriand at The Fludyers? Who knows, all suggestions and offers of sponsorship will be gratefully received over coffee…
However, one thing I do know, though Lesley-Anne does love me dearly (and far more than I deserve) she might cavil just a little if, to celebrate our betrothal, I gave her a piece of cold broiled fish!
Why then is this what the disciples offer their risen Lord to eat?
An odd dish to lay before a King surely? Even if the King’s followers were a rag-tag bunch of fisherfolk. But fish it is.
The more interesting question is not about menu choices buy why did Jesus ask for something to eat? Surely he now had no need of food? If in the resurrection we need physical food the Tesco van would be making regular deliveries to the Pearly Gates, or perhaps it would be the van from Harrods – that would make the wedding feast of the Lamb into Paradise indeed.
This resurrection appearance is not about the type of food offered but the eating thereof.
The disciples were frightened and uncertain.
There had been the rumours at the empty tomb.
The travellers on the road to Emmaus and an unmistakeable meal – bread this time not fish.
The rush back to Jerusalem and the story that Jesus had also appeared to Simon.
Then, as if out of nowhere, He appears and proclaims ‘peace’ and they were startled and terrified.
He goes one step further and speaks to them, questioning their fear – but they shrink away.
He reaches out his wounded hands and feet and asks to be touched – they begin to find joy yet still disbelieve and wonder.
The clincher comes with the words, ‘Have you anything to eat’.
And with him chewing on a piece of cold fish their joy is made complete and He can speak of the Spirit of Power who will clothe them not many weeks hence.
Faith is not found in seeing Him
Faith is not found in hearing Him speak
Faith is not found in touching His wounds
Faith is found in the sharing of a meal.
Little wonder that from the first days of the church until today a meal is at the centre of our faith. Sharing food is the proof of the Resurrection and is the promise of the Spirit’s presence amongst us.
Of course the food we are called to share is more than a small wafer and a sip of wine. The Eucharist, if we do not discern rightly the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11.29) will only give us calories not eternity and we may find ourselves in darkness instead of light.
When Jesus said, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’. (John 6.53) He was not talking about our liturgical practices and the petty arguments over wine or grape juice, bread or wafers that have rent the church apart down the ages.
He was speaking of us becoming the Body of Christ ourselves. If we do not eat of Him we do not have life.
If we do not discern the Body of Christ and partake in his life and death how can we ever presume to participate in His resurrection.
This is more than about regular receiving of communion, though I heartily commend frequent communion as one of the chief ways by which we are reminded of our calling to live the resurrection and strengthened to proclaim the Good News of God’s love.
This is about becoming the Body of Christ.
To become the Body of Christ we must live as He did.
If we desire life, like Him, we will spend time with the ‘wrong’ people,
If we desire life, like Him, we will run to sit with the orphan and the widowed, the prostitutes and the publicans.
If we desire life, like Him, we will stand up and say uncomfortable words in comfortable ears.
If we desire life, like Him, we will gladly bear the death of our reputation for the prize of eternity.
If we desire life we will give all that we have to help spread the good news of the love of the One who gave His all for us.
Until we start to do these things we remain with the frightened disciples in the Upper Room and, instead of worshipping a risen and ascended Lord we grow old and weary living in fear of a ghost.
How sad that would be…
We only ever truly ‘eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,’ when we become the Body and Blood of Christ for an hungry and thirsty world. Or did we think that when ‘He gave His own self for heavenly food’; we were somehow excused from imitating His example?
We are gathered here today a privileged few, feasting at the table of God’s love and finding glimpses of eternal life within us.
Those glimpses of life flame into light every time we take who we are – the Body of Christ – to those outside of our fellowship.
When we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, visit the sick, clothe the naked and visit the prisoner we feed them the Body of Christ and offer the gift of life.
Why would we ever choose to not do this?
© Andrew Dotchin – 2018