john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    The author of life eats broiled fish

    St Cuthbert Croxteth Park 9.00 Eucharist
    repeated at Good Shepherd 10.30 Eucharist, 26/4/2009

    Acts 3.12-19, Luke 24.36b-48

    I wonder what you make of the stories of the risen, resurrected, Jesus?

    For some of us, seeking security in certainty, it is enough to know that he did rise - that he has conquered death. That is the foundation of hope for our own eternity. Believing this can bring us fulfilment in our own daily lives.

    If Jesus defeated death then - embracing him - so can we overcome all the little deaths - and big deaths - in our lives. Out of all the endings we experience, the losses, those things we do which kill the spirit, Jesus can resurrect us, over and over again. Solomon, in the Book of Wisdom, wrote,
    God did not make death,
    and he does not delight in the death of the living.
    For he created all things so that they might exist;
    the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
    and there is no destructive poison in them,
    and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
    For righteousness is immortal. [Wisdom 1.13-15]
    You and I can share in this immortality, in our daily lives. Maybe your understanding of the stories of the risen, resurrected, Jesus gives you a sense of that possibility.

    The book of Acts records Peter preaching to a crowd in Jerusalem and describing Jesus to them as 'the Author of life'. There at the very beginning working with the Father and the Spirit in the activity of creation, there in the resurrection re-creating life in a new way never done before, here beside us helping us rebuild, reshape, experience our own resurrections - Jesus, the Author of our lives.

    I wonder what you make of the stories of the risen, resurrected, Jesus?

    Many of us are struck by the ambiguities in these stories of his appearances to his friends. They raise all sorts of questions:

    Questions about what he looked like - why did Mary in the garden and the companions on the Emmaus road not recognise Jesus at first, but the disciples gathered in a room in Jerusalem knew who he was immediately he came into the room?

    And questions about his body - was he physically whole, a fully restored human? Or a ghost? Or some strange mix of the two? In the garden he told Mary, 'Don't hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.' But in the room in Jerusalem he told his friends, 'Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.'

    I love the ambiguities in these stories, the mystery of who Jesus was and what Jesus did after he came back from the dead. I love the way that he surprised his closest friends and loved ones with joy - when they recognised him, at first astonished, then elated. Helping us to know that there's always the possibility that Jesus will surprise us with joy at some unexpected point in our lives.

    I love that Jesus seemed to come and go as he pleased - disappearing from that table in Emmaus at the moment after he broke the bread and his companions recognised him; appearing on the sea shore early one morning to cook breakfast for his fisherman friends. Helping us to know that at those very times where we feel the absence of God, feel abandoned by the divine presence in our lives, then Jesus will come again to us, reappear in a new and energising way.

    I love that in the gospel story we heard today, Jesus asked for food and - watched by his friends - savoured that piece of broiled fish he was offered. Proving - importantly - that his resurrected body was a fully human body (it has to have been a fully human body or the resurrection would have meant nothing). But showing also how the risen Jesus continues to be keen to meet with his people in very ordinary, simple situations, in the middle of everyday life. In rooms where there's a bit of food on the go.

    I love that the creator of the world, the generator of eternal life, was hungry and needed to tuck in to some food offered to him by friends. The Author of Life eats a bit of broiled fish: that's the whole resurrection story in one simple image.

    How can we make the connection between these inspiring but odd stories, and our own everyday lives?

    We might understand in our heads that the resurrected Jesus is still with us today - that is our faith. But how do we know that in our hearts? When we feel abandoned like his friends and followers did - how can we be sure that the resurrected Jesus will return to us?

    I can offer this observation, which might help us to appreciate and embrace the position of those who saw and heard the resurrected Jesus: they may not always have recognised him from how he looked, but they knew him by his voice.

    It was when Jesus said 'Mary!' that she knew it was him. It was when he said the words of blessing over the bread that the companions in Emmaus had their eyes and hearts opened. Standing suddenly among them in the Jerusalem room it was when Jesus said, 'Peace be with you' they recognised their Lord. It was the voice. It was when he went on to explain the scriptures to them that they fully understood who he was and what he'd done for them.

    They knew the resurrected Jesus by his voice.

    And that is the connection for us. Because we cannot see him - he has ascended to the Father. But we can still listen for his voice. In prayer, in stillness, in conversation with others, in the middle of the activity of the day, Jesus will speak to us. Amidst all the uncertainties and ambiguities of our lives and our faith that is something we can be sure of. Jesus will come and speak to us - not, perhaps, where and when we expect him to, not perhaps speaking the words we expect to hear.

    But that voice longs for us to open our ears, the ears of our hearts to him. That Lord longs to stand in the centre of our lives and say to us, 'Peace be with you', to guide us and direct us into our uncertain future in confidence and faith.