Sermon April 14 ~ Appearance to the Twelve(Luke 24:36b-48)       Rev. Betsy Hogan

You know which of our animal friends I always feel a bit sorry for at this time of year? Not Shubenacadie Sam, who deserves all the mid-April shade he receives, with his proven track record of lies and misdirection…

But the second robin of spring. The one who turns up a week or so after we’ve all been excited to see the first robin of spring.

The one whose appearance feels not so much revelatory and hopeful, as sort of frustrating. When any brief and glorious moments of imagining that it might actually be as warm out there as it LOOKS like it is, have fallen victim to a certain weary resignation.

Yes, spring is here. Yes, it’s begun – but kind of by inches, two steps forward and one step back, and oh look. Another robin. Hope it brought a sweater.

Two kinds of time, we talk about in the church -- arising out of the part of Christian thought as it developed in its early days, steeped in Greek philosophy. Two ways of thinking about time.

There’s chronos, life as usual, time marching on chronologically, as it were… and then kairos – the breaking-through moments, the fullness of time. 

When – even if only briefly – the veil’s drawn back between this and beyond. When we experience what the Ancient Irish called a thin place between ourselves and the divine, the Source, the Spirit. 

That’s kairos time -- it’s like a breaking-through moment of inspiration and revelation and promise. Beyond time and time stretched out, and Godness shimmers and surrounds and with God all things are possible. Before we settle back, resettle into, chronos time. Time as usual, time marching on. 

Because that’s where we LIVE most of the time. Chronos, time as usual. And if it’s not hard to be inspired by the kairos moments – and it isn’t – being inspired in the chronos time of life as usual? That’s a lot tougher to figure out.

And it’s one of the reasons why this is my favourite of all the resurrection appearances of Jesus, the one we heard this morning in the passage that Janet read from the gospel of Luke. Because it’s so ridiculously, almost comically, ordinary. 

It can be difficult to separate out the different appearances that Jesus makes to his disciples after he’s risen – they’re recorded in three out of the four gospels and then in the added bit of Mark as well – and they’re all over the map. Literally all over the map, since he appears not only at his tomb to Mary Magdalene, and also to the other women, but also apparently to Simon and a few others, and also to Cleopas and someone else on the road to Emmaus… There’s a whole list.

But in the midst of this whole list of ways and times that Jesus appeared, risen, to various of his followers in those first hours and days after the resurrection, there is this funny little story told by Luke in the passage we heard this morning. Totally different from the others. No glowing white robe, no face transfigured by light, no angels hovering, no moving through walls and closed doors, no sudden disappearing before their very eyes…

In this resurrection appearance that we hear from Luke, Jesus does exactly what Jesus probably did every other day for the whole time he and the disciples have been together.

It’s suppertime, the disciples are sitting around the table in the Upper Room, Jesus comes in, says Hi, and asks what’s for supper. That’s it. If it weren’t for the fact that he’d died a few days earlier, it’s literally what probably happened exactly the same way hundreds of times before. Like, hey! It’s Jesus! Pull up a chair, Jesus, we’re having fish again!

It’s a beautiful story. It’s not impressive, it’s not glorious, it’s definitely not the picture that’s going to pop up if you google ‘Jesus Resurrection’. Because it’s entirely, boringly, beautifully ordinary.

All the disciples, sitting around, having supper, and in comes Jesus to join them. Just like always. Only…. He was dead, and now he’s alive. He was buried, and now he’s risen. He arose!!! And -- now they’re sitting around again, having supper, and in he comes to join them … 

Just like nothing ever happened. Only it did. Can’t you tell?

One of my colleagues out in Vancouver, Wendy Bily, spent a lot of time thinking about, writing about, Holy Week metaphorically. The notion that we live much of our time in this world in a sort of extended Holy Saturday – that there are Good Fridays of intense pain and grief, and there are Easter Sundays of redemption and healing, but often we’re in the in-between place. Sort of at sea, still fragile from whatever our Good Friday was, still hurting and sore… and waiting. Waiting for the sign of hope, waiting for the resurrection, waiting for the release into a new beginning. And when, when will it happen. Holy Saturday can feel like a very long day sometimes.

And I think she was right. We get a diagnosis, someone we care about gets a diagnosis, we lose someone, we lose a job, we get emotionally slammed up against a wall and things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, we break up into a million tiny pieces – 

Our Good Fridays are intense and they’re shattering and they’re nearly unbearable.

And Easter is promised – we know it is, there WILL be light again, there will be a new day that dawns – but until then? That shattering of Good Friday gives way to a long long Saturday of just making it through. 

I think we do a lot of time in Holy Saturday. I’ve always wished the gospel stories didn’t skip over it the way they do.

But then there’s the other place we spend a lot of time. Easter Monday, if you will. After Easter’s happened… and everything goes “back to normal”. 

Because however we get your head around the stories of the resurrection, there is no doubt that those who were there at that time experienced something extraordinary. Jesus was battered, he was broken, he was dead, it was over, and then No. It. Wasn’t. 

And is there any way to explain that scientifically? Not even close. I can’t even pretend to get it. But what I CAN get is – when despair breaks, and Easter lets light in. When what we imagine is done and dusted, set in stone, never going to change, Easter suddenly shifts it. Ever so slightly. And we get a glimpse of goodness or peace or hope.
Easter morning is huge for Jesus’ disciples and his friends. Never mind all the redemption theology we throw at it later, it’s huge for them because someone they loved who had died, was with them again. Alive. We may not get how it happened, exactly, but imagine what that would be like. Imagine how that would feel. That’s Easter morning. God breaking through time marching on, life as usual, with a kairos moment of extraordinary brilliance. 

And the gospels could have left us there, standing at the empty tomb in awe, blown away by sparkly Jesus. Fall on your knees, hear the angel voices. This is what God can do. And that is, in fact, where Mark’s gospel DOES leave us. In that kairos moment.

But the thing is, kairos moments don’t last. Time marches on, chronos time kicks back in, things go ‘back to normal’. And now what are we going to do? Often, maybe, what the disciples do. They kind of slip back into their routine. 

Which is why I love this gospel story. Because in it the disciples are sort of where we are. Like, in a long Easter Monday. After Easter. 

And yes, this is also a resurrection appearance – for most of them it’s the first time they’re experiencing Jesus risen and returned among them – but at the same time there’s still a kind of settling-back-down feeling about it. 

The big event, the angels, sparkly Jesus, those have happened and they’re over. Now when he appears, they recognize him. He looks the way he always did. He sits down with them and has supper like he always did. He teaches from the scriptures and helps them understand like he always did.

It’s almost life as usual, except it’s not. It’s Easter Monday, if you will. Or maybe… a couple of weeks after Easter. The holiday’s over, it’s back to routine, work, school, the daily weekly schedule. It’s normal life. Or is it?
Because, is what we celebrated at Easter still mattering, now that the big event is over? Now that we’re settling back into our routine, life as usual? Because the point’s meant to be that we stay marked by Easter. Changed by it, so that we never see the world the same again. 

No despair that hope can’t break into. No shadows so deep that the light can’t creep in. So that our whole orientation all the time is that even the worst brokenness isn’t final, can’t win. Is comforted by presence. Is made better with love.

I like to imagine the disciples sort of figuring that out on the way. How to live like that now, in their kind of long Easter Monday. Mostly because it’s exactly where we are all the time.

And the thing is, the disciples were just ordinary people, like us. They had family members they were worried about, burdens that kept them up at night. They wanted to live well, they wondered how to make a difference, they felt powerless sometimes in the face of so much wrongness.

And maybe what they wished for was some kind of glorious extended Easter Sunday kairos time of sparkly Jesus and fall on your knees and hear the angel voices -- 

But what they got instead was Jesus – yes, absolutely present with them – but 
right smack dab back in the chronos time of their ordinary routine. When the most dramatic issue on the agenda is “what are we having for supper?”

And it seems like they’re just back to their familiar patterns, listening to Jesus, asking him questions, passing him more fish, the usual stuff… except not quite. Because every now and then now, they looked up and saw him alive and caught their breath and – oh, God is good, God is here, this isn’t just life as usual, it’s a new kind of life as usual.

The kind that celebrates the first robin of spring, but notices the second. And the third. And the tenth. And says thank you every time.

Thanks be to God, who knows we need reminders. Amen.