BEGINNING FROM JERUSALEM

April 28, 2008

I don’t know if you will believe me if I tell you.   I don’t know if I believe it myself.   What we are about to accomplish is enormous.   What the Spirit of Christ Jesus has charged us to say and to do and to embody over the next few years, over the next few generations, is nothing more and nothing less than a cosmic enterprise.  

 

William Willimon, the one-time chaplain at Duke University, found himself at a dinner party.   Over ######### he met high-stakes corporate executive.   The man asked Willimon what he did for a living, and the ordained Methodist minister told him about training young people in the art and the skill of following Jesus.   Then, after another sip of his martini, came the predictable reply:  “Isn’t that nice?”

 

“What’s so nice about it,” answered the feisty Pastor Willimon.

“It’s just nice that the church is there for those who need that sort of thing…”

 

Clearly, you see, the vast majority of people don’t get it.   Clearly, the popular consensus on Christianity in North America is that it’s nice.   It’s nice to believe in God, if you need that sort of thing.   And even if you don’t need much of anything, the idea of God always makes a lovely wedding ceremony or for a comforting funeral service.   Church buildings often serve the public good.   In Ohio, the public health department used our facility to give out flu shots to the community.    Someone called me on the phone:  “Is this the church that has the flu shots?”  

Hmmm, yes it is.   Church may be the place that has the flu shots, but the true living virus which we share goes more like so:

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations… Beginning from Jerusalem… You are witnesses of these things…”

 

Now, I don’t know what you just heard in Luke 24:46, but that sounds to me like an extraordinary and enormous mission.   Where would people like us even make a dent in the colossal task of preaching “in his name to all nations,” or to all ethnic groups?   I’m telling you that I cannot believe that this responsibility is ours.   And, given the prevailing context of our ever-present niceness, how do we communicate to our friends and to our neighbors that they actually need to repent, that they actually need to receive forgiveness?

 

“Thirty years ago,” writes Annie Dillard

“my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written that he’d had three months to write.  It was due the next day.  We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surround by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.  Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.’”

 

 

Now, this is going to sound strange.   But the advice given to Annie Dillard’s father also seems to be the advice given by the resurrected Christ in today’s passage.   No, Jesus isn’t encouraging us to write our own ornithological report for a grade at school.   But, “beginning from Jerusalem… you are witnesses…”   And what does it mean to be witnesses?  

Isn’t it simply to describe what we have seen and heard and touched and felt?    Aren’t witnesses those who have been called or summoned to testify?

 

A few weeks ago, on the Sunday after Easter, we explored passages in the New Testament which suggest that the first followers of Jesus had been sent home.  They were sent back to Galilee, back to the familiar mountains, molehills, vineyards and villages which Jesus himself knew and loved.   And this, this sending back to the ordinary, this re-entry, is as it should be.  Christ is present in the ordinary.   Even when he’s seems absent and missing from the place we last observed him, Christ is present.   Even when he disappears out of our sight, Christ is present.  Even when all we feel like doing is indulging our appetites and eating broiled fish, Christ is present.   And yet, if Christ is present, he is also past and he is also future.   If he is there when we are desperate and dry, what would it mean if we experienced a fully-loaded blast of his power?

 

Well, my friends in Christ, this could be Jerusalem for you.   This could be the place where “the promise from on high” hits you right between the eyes…

 

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There’s a well-crafted scene in the film, October Sky, when Homer Hiccum and three of his buddies are trying to develop a small rocket for their school’s science fair.   After a series of mishaps, Homer’s father has told the boys that they may not launch any more of their test rockets on company property.   And, since this coal mining company in Coalville, West Virginia owns the entire town, the aspiring engineers face a dilemma.   Do they walk the twelve miles to Birch County, or do they give up?   Miss Riley, the boys’ teacher, encourages them to try.  Later, she’s diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and when the four build their launch pad outside of town, she can see the rockets soar from her hospital bed.   

 

Now, Lord knows, I am neither an aspiring engineer, nor a scientist.   I have no intention of igniting any kind of combustible fuel any time in the near future.  But when I read about Jesus telling stories about fields and seeds and pearls and fish of every kind, it seems as if he’s preparing to launch something.   It seems as if he’s mixing some fairly potent words and images and when the right person lights the fuse the good news of God’s Reign is sent.  The message is sent out, out beyond the company owned operation.  It’s sent into valleys and over mountains.  

 

And the only question, according to Matthew 13:51, is, “Have you understood all this?”  

 

I heard a different question over ten years ago.  

 

In Pennsylvania we helped to start a new church with a bank of rented telephones and a reverse directory.   We placed calls to over 14,000 households, and among them I will never forget the Scottish brogue of one agitated gentleman on the other end of the line.  He said, “What’s wrong with the ol’ Kirk?”

 

Well, after considering the obvious weight gain of William Shatner a.k.a. the Captain of the USS Enterprise, I took a deep breath and stuck to my script.   That script involved the demographic changes in the local area, the postmodern statistics which describe a decline in denominational loyalty and finally the hope of connecting with the many who do not currently participate in any religious institution.   That was the script that I had rehearsed and the one that promptly fell upon deaf ears.   But if I had the chance to respond to that nice gentleman again, I think that I would simply refer him to what Jesus says in verse 52: 

“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

 

Here, the focus is not upon what’s wrong with the old, but upon the ways in which “the kingdom of heaven,” the Full and Complete Reign of God, is preceded by a volatile mixture of “what is new” and “what is old.”  Jesus is indeed about to launch something, something utterly unique and terribly mysterious, something at the limits of all human experience.   The ekklesia, or the church, however, involves those men, women and children who have been called out in preparation for this coming kingdom. 

Every scribe.   In the first century, as you know, scribes are often lumped into the same genetic pool with lawyers and Pharisees.   They have a bad reputation for misinterpreting the Law of Moses and the Prophets.   And yet, in this passage, Jesus refers to “every scribe who has been trained,” every story-teller who anticipates not being able to tell the whole story, every script-writer who cannot quite express what happens in the final episode.  Every scribe who yearns and aches for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household. 

 

The master of a household.   This person, of course, has at his or her disposal a fantastic assortment of gifts—jewelry, utensils, food, furniture and treasure!   And the master of a household would probably like nothing more than to sit inside the walls of his household and to bask and to luxuriate in the glory of that treasure.   But, if that’s you and that’s me, Jesus compels us to finish the sentence.    

 

Every scribe who has been trained in the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household WHO BRINGS OUT OF HIS TREASURE WHAT IS NEW AND WHAT IS OLD.  

 

Friends in Christ, Latah Valley Presbyterian Church is comprised of both new and old treasure.  And it’s your treasure.  It is the treasure that Christ has trained us to bring out of the household.  Already, you see, our precious fragments reflect the radiance of God’s Resurrected Son.  Already we shine with prayers, with passion, with purpose.  

And it is WITH YOU, and not WITHOUT YOU, that we make our brightest witness to future generations.  It is WITH YOU that we cross the threshold.  

 

It is WITH YOU that we launch.  And it is WITH YOU that we soar.

 

 

Amen.

View Scene 8 of Pirates of the Caribbean

Read Luke 24:36–43

 

Somewhere in Connecticut, along a lonely stretch of rural highway, is the Bee & Thistle Inn.   Sheryl and I stayed there for a weekend years ago.   And among the highlights of that restful trip and that special place has to be the absolute best clam chowder of my earthly existence.   I remember the fragrance of the soup as the server whisked it around my left shoulder.   I remember the perfect texture of the creamy broth.   I remember the salty brine of the mollusks themselves and the succulent slivers of supple potato, white onion, celery, bacon.  And I remember how these ingredients mingled and danced upon the taste buds of my tongue and slid effortlessly past my palate.  I’m telling you, each rich spoonful of that chowder constituted a spiritual experience.   In fact, after gorging myself on a second bowl, I felt as if I were having a heart attack.   And, of course, if I had suffered such a trauma at the age of twenty-three presumably my bodiless spirit wouldn’t be able to enjoy clam chowder ever again.  That would be the shame of it.

 

Food is good.   Food happens to be among the many great pleasures that human beings might savor.   And yet, where did we get the idea that all the great food and all the great pleasures of this life are meant only for this life?   Didn’t Jesus famously say that if we seek first “his kingdom and righteousness” that “all these things—including food and drink and clothing and families and friends—will be yours as well (Matthew 6:33; Luke 18:30)?  

You see, I think it’s very curious that after Genesis, chapter one, describes the creation of God (including every fruit of every tree) as “good” and after Acts, chapter ten, permits Peter to “get up, kill and eat” all of these previously forbidden animals, that we don’t look for God in the menu of joys and pleasure which we’ve been given.  

 

Let me clarify.   We tend to think of food nutritionally.  We tend to focus our attention on the ways that people may eat what’s best and to not abuse their bodies.   Or, if we become religious, we tend to think of the food that we might share with the homeless and the poor.   And, of course, each of these perspectives is appropriate and even faithful.  But let’s consider for a moment the mystery of the resurrected Jesus as he asks for and receives “a piece of broiled fish.”  Why does Luke 24:42 provide us with that kind of detail?   And why, in John 21:13, does Jesus return the favor and prepare broiled fillets for his disciples?

 

Believe me when I say that I have tried and I have tried to overly-spiritualize this story.  I have tried to imagine some sort of analogy for the seafood.   But another way of interpreting this passage is to suggest that the resurrected Son of God likes the taste of the fish in his native Galilee.   That is, given the choice between the blue plate special and the catch of the day, Jesus will go for the fish every time.   And that possible interpretation says something about the things that we may enjoy.

 

In his book, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman offers this interesting observation. 

He writes: 

“An inordinate number of cereal commercials are based on the premise that a given cereal is so delicious that a fictional creature would want to steal it…  The most obvious is the Trix Rabbit, a tragic figure whose doomed existence is not unlike that of Sisyphus.  Since the cereal’s inception, the rabbit—often marginalized as ‘silly’—has never been allowed to enjoy even one bowl of his favorite foodstuff, and the explanation for this embargo smacks of both age discrimination and racism (we are to accept that Trix is reserved exclusively ‘for kids’).”  (p. 123)

 

Now, what intrigues me about this paragraph is the legendary rabbit’s focus on enjoying his favorite cereal, which ironically the animators drawn him to do, but which he will never be allowed to do.

 

And I guess, Klosterman’s commentary might hit home in our study of the broiled fish in Luke 24.  Is this something that specially meant for Jesus, and not for us?   Are we doomed to always want what we cannot have?

 

In the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Barbosa would clearly like to appreciate the taste of an apple.  Unfortunately, because he’s been cursed by the gods of the Aztec gold, the buccaneer can’t really generate the saliva to really enjoy it.  He can’t taste.  He can’t feel.  He can’t suffer pain.  

 

By way of contrast, the risen Christ can taste.  He can feel.  And, although he no longer experiences pain and death, he’s gone through them.  In everything that has been thrown at Jesus by the world, by human history and by the evil one, there is a perfect demonstration of radical openness.    And with that same openness he eats. 

Jesus is no Stoic.  As I understand it, stoics try to detach themselves from the things of this world.   They detach and become indifferent so that whether things go well or not so well, the stoic rides even keel, never quite bottoming out but never quite peaking or becoming excited about anything.     

 

Likewise, Jesus is no Buddha.   Buddhists believe that desire is the cause of all unhappiness.   Therefore, when we want something—even something good—we tend to grab for it.   And when we grab for it we tend to live in fear of losing it.

 

On the other hand, with the risen Christ, we receive the possibility of redemption, and that redemption, includes our bodies (Romans 8) as well as all the human appetites and aptitudes that God has given us.  Everything that we enjoy—everyone that we cherish—every special food, every special drink, every special gift—all of it now in Christ has the possibility of being refined and renewed.

 

Raymond Carver wrote a short story about a little boy, who had been knocked down by a car in traffic.  He got back up and went to school, but later died.   The day that he died had also been his birthday and earlier the boy’s mother had ordered a special cake which she had planned on picking up at the bakery after work.   Anyway, as you might imagine, the mother and the father of this only child had been utterly devastated.   They sat in the waiting room, totally numb.

And when they returned home to their empty house, they couldn’t seem to shed one tear.   The phone rang and the man on the other end of the line spoke with a heavy Italian accent.  He said, “Did you forget Scotty?”   The mother dropped the receiver to the floor.   Her husband hung up the phone.  But the man called back.   The mother and the father then took turns shouting curses and angry threats about calling the police.  But then, they realized who it had been. 

 

The caller, it turned out, had been the baker of their child’s cake.  He’d been calling about the order and wanted to let them know that specially ordered food item had been ready for some time.   That realization, however, only fueled their bitterness even more.   With a vengeance the father of the dead boy grabbed the keys to their car and they drove to the bakery even faster and more recklessly than they had driven to the hospital.   They barged into the store and were immediately overwhelmed with the delicious smells of pastries and pies and there on the counter was the cake.   “My son’s dead!” shouted the mother, sobbing suddenly.   “My son’s dead,” she repeated, stumbling into her husband who held her up.   And just then, a strange expression came over the baker’s face.   He softened and brightened and expressed how sad he was for them.  Then, he tried to speak again and stopped himself.   He invited the couple to sit down and to rest at one of the tables in the back room.   And retrieving some freshly baked rolls from the oven, he fed them.   He fed them soft, warm, delicious bread and they ate it.   Amen.

 

Watch Scene 20 of The Prestige

Read Luke 24:13–35

There’s a moment in every magic trick when we think we know.   There’s an instant in the middle of the theatrical production—what magicians refer to, in three acts, as the Pledge, the Turn and the Prestige—when certain, savvy members of the audience think that they’ve spied something.   It could be a trap door in the flooring of the stage, a thin wire that hangs from the rafters… Whatever that ordinary thing is—every illusionist from Houdini to David Copperfield makes his living by concealing that thing, or at least by preventing us from seeing that secret thing or at the very least, by skillfully disguising the technique by which the entertainer does what he or she does.  

 

In other words, magic is nothing more and nothing less than adroit, masterfully choreographed, deception.   And if we think that we’re onto the inner workings of a magic trick, guess what?   The magic is over, and you might as well save your money and skip the performance.

 

Well, believe it or not, I’m wondering this morning if the vast majority of folks in North America don’t have the same posture toward faith in the risen Christ.   I’m wondering if a large percentage of people think they’ve seen something, something that drains all the magic out of church…

 

I had an “Aha!” moment like that when the congregation I attended with my mother invited me to confirm my baptism.   I’m not saying that this church made people disappear or that its pastor pulled rabbits out of his hat.   But in late May of 1978, my older sister and her husband had asked me to go with them to Disney World.   The trip unfortunately would coincide with the Sunday which had been scheduled for confirmation. 

 

So, with the minimal application of the right parental pressure, we moved confirmation up a few weeks, made the caravan trip from Pennsylvania to Florida and convened at Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom just in time.   Looking back now, that easy maneuvering, that rearrangement of commitments, spoke volumes to me about whose magic had already been figured out and whose hadn’t.   Alice, a fellow ninth grader told me how she envied my trip and how I would miss all those days of school.   And then, just as we entered the sanctuary to answer the traditional questions which are posed to confirmation graduates, she mentioned envying one more thing.   What Alice told me that she envied had been my faith in Jesus; she said that she was just being confirmed because her mother would “die” if she didn’t go through with it.   Alice whispered that atheism actually made more sense to her and that her baptism, as an infant, and her participation in this aspect of worship had all been part of the show.  

 

You see, everyone (I think) has a moment, a moment when we’re tired of pretending, a moment when we’ve seen the man, working the levers behind the curtain or seen the strings attached to the angel’s halo.   Everyone has a moment when the magic goes out of the room.   But what if I were to tell you that Luke 24:31 is not, and cannot be, one of those?   And what if we were to learn together how the “vanishing” of Jesus “out of their sight” is really something more than magic?!!!

 

 

Let me explain the difference.   Magic, as it’s popularly conceived, has pure entertainment value.   People pay good money to see magic because they don’t know and they don’t want to know how a trick happens to be pulled off.   Another more ancient understanding of magic, however, involves the manipulation and control of things, powers and persons so that we get what we want.   Now, in the Harry Potter genre of stories, there are good witches and bad witches.   Good witches want good things.   Bad witch want bad things.   Yet, both kinds of witches cast spells and wave their wands because they themselves want to re-arrange the fundamental elements of the Universe.  

 

By contrast, faith in the resurrected Christ differs from ways of Harry Potter and Houdini in this way:   as soon as we recognize the fullness of Jesus and his ultimate claim upon the world—in that very mysterious moment—he’s gone!    Then you saw him and now you don’t.   In fact, based on the Luke 24 encounter, I would argue that any person who claims to be experiencing Jesus right now—that person—is really only just now able to articulate and to emote what had been experienced seconds, minutes, months, years and decades ago.  

 

 

Douglas Coupland tells about a busload of special needs children who had pulled to the side of a California highway.   They were there, observing a blue heron in the distance as it scavenged for fish.

 

 

Anyway, as Coupland also decided to rest at the edge of these wetlands, another kind of bird—a raptor, some kind of hawk or falcon—also began perform as if on cue.   The mentally handicapped teenagers were totally enthralled, utterly mesmerized, until suddenly the hawkish animal swooped incredibly close.   Coupland describes fiddling with his camera at the time and then, without warning, these sharp talons reach down and rip into the author’s scalp.   His head is bleeding drops of blood when almost immediately the entire crowd of spectators comes to hug him.   The assorted Downs Syndrome and retarded adolescents groan awkward words of compassion and sympathy while one petite girl dabs his had with a tissue.   

 

Now, I’m telling you about this moment because Coupland says that during it, he didn’t know what to think or what to feel.   It was only afterwards in the car, during the rest of his drive, that he began to appreciate the magic.  

 

Then you saw him and now you don’t.   And perhaps when we don’t see Jesus—perhaps in those retrospective moments—the Spirit of Christ helps us to interpret rightly and magically what it is and who it is we are seeing. 

 

Robert C. Roberts, in his book, Spiritual Emotions, defines our feelings as neither arbitrary, nor irrelevant to our rational thought process.  He says they are “concern-based construals.”

 

 

So, for example, when we hear that Cleopas and the other disciple stand still, “looking sad,” in verse 17, it’s clear that they have construed Jesus of Nazareth as a person who has suffered terrible things in Jerusalem, but that they also construe the “Messiah” as someone who does not suffer and does not die.   These travelers construe things, events and persons in this sad way because they are busy trying to fit Jesus into their individual and collective life stories.   And notice how when “Jesus himself” draws near he permits them to feel this way and then proceeds to pick and to claw and to scrape at the false and incomplete way they construe things.   He nudges them with questions, with conversations, with Bible Study, with appearing to be going further and finally with the breaking of the bread.   He engages in all of these ordinary practices, but nothing seems magical until he’s “vanished out of their sight.”

 

I mentioned last week how Latah Valley was going to launch this new and illustrious ministry.   I called Mission Muffin, and it consists of folks like us visiting the House of Charity on Thursday morning and giving away freshly baked, homemade chocolate chip, blueberry and banana nut muffins.   Well, a few days ago, I did just that and if you want to know what it was like, you just have to schedule some time and do it yourself.   You see, in months past I had gone into the chapel and started singing, or I had read the Bible and asked a bunch of questions.   But something nagged at my spirit and I think I found out what it was.   The homeless people outside that enclosed chapel don’t believe in the magic of the resurrected Christ.   They imagine him to be another means of mind control or a way that we might have to keep the rowdy vagrants in line.   But I now know that Jesus show up at the House of Charity.  Suddenly I recognized him as the stubbly bearded guy in the army boots.   And just as soon as I saw him, he smiled and vanished.  

 

And the man at the table told me he’s allergic to banana nut.  

 

Amen.   

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUNNING ON EMPTY

April 6, 2008

Read Luke 24:12

Watch Forrest Gump, Scene 16

Going home is not very glamorous.   Going home after a day at work, for example, may remind us of all the chores we have to do, or all the bills we have to pay.  Going home after a trip overseas may be nice, but then there’s that carton of sour milk that we left in the refrigerator.  Going home after a night in the hospital may help with the insurance coverage, but what happens when we buzz for the nurse and she doesn’t come.  Going home is not very glamorous, and if we ask the famous author, Thomas Wolfe, he will tell us that it’s impossible.   The old neighborhood has changed and so have we.   The diner has been torn down and replaced with a CVS pharmacy.   The church on the corner has been converted into a condominium.   The folks have moved to Daytona Beach.   The kids have moved to Bellingham.   Going home is not very glamorous…which is why I think that Luke 24:12 winds up missing in most of the ancient manuscripts that we have of the gospel.

 

 

 

 

Let me repeat that.   In my New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible and in many other translations of Luke’s gospel, verse twelve has become a footnote or an asterisk that directs us to the bottom of the page, where we can read that mostly all of the ancient manuscripts do not include the part about Peter running to the empty tomb, or the part about Peter returning home.   Mostly all will describe how the breathless women of Easter morning found the eleven disciples and proceeded to tell them about the angelic announcement.  But then, we read about the followers of the now dead Messiah ridiculing that story as “an idle tale.”   And what do we typically do after we read the gossip in The National Inquirer ?  

 

 

We go home of course.   We go home, hoping to high heaven that no one from the old neighborhood will recognize who we are, or wonder what we’ve been up to for the past three years.   We go home with this bizarre rumor about an empty tomb ringing in our ears and with our sorry tunic tucked between our legs.   Walker Percy refers to this phenomenon as “re-entry,” and it involves the ways in which people experience something powerfully transcendent, but then have to settle back into life at 4 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon.   Re-entry is a conundrum, sort of like realizing that the Holy Bible has been compiled from a bunch of old parchments which have been copied and re-copied over centuries by scribes and by monks and that every once in a while one of them made a mistake.  The fear of re-entry is why most people get drunk, tell lies, take drugs, steal cars, commit suicide, pick up prostitutes, join a cult or become infatuated with movie stars.   We simply don’t want to come down.

 

 

And yet, if Luke 24:12 informs us that Peter ran—that upon hearing the rumors of resurrection he ran and then stooped and looked in and saw the linen cloth that had once wrapped Jesus’ body—where are we supposed to go?   Let me simply say that I have no doubt that your life and my life have been riddled with what the Bible calls Kairos Moments—that is, moment of great fullness.  There are those intense and beautifully sublime epiphanies.   But the reason I think we believe Easter and the risen Christ are all the chronological times through which Peter and others had to endure.   Peter goes home, and Christ is either risen or he’s not.  And, if he’s risen, that’s the truth whether we’re high or whether we’re low.    

 

 

During the Los Angeles race riots of the early nineties, Reginald Denny drives his tractor-trailer through the wrong part of town.   There had been looting and violence and the roads are clogged with angry mobs.   And in the middle of it all, Denny is dragged from the cab of his truck and beaten.   Then, while the cameras from the news-helicopters are running, there’s this image of an African American teenager picking up a brick and throwing it at the white man’s head.   Reginald Denny is severely injured and eventually taken to the hospital where he re-covers.   Ordinary hours, weeks and months go by.  Finally, during a broadcast from the Denny home, at four o’clock in the afternoon, a reporter gets an exclusive interview and the victim is peppered with inflammatory questions.  But when he replies with words of forgiveness because of his hope in Christ the face of the reporter goes blank.  “Obviously, Mr. Denny still suffers from the effects of brain damage,” says the man with the microphone.   And yet, is that all the news to be heard at four o’clock in the afternoon?

 

You see, what I’d like to highlight this morning and this entire month of April is the way Luke 24:12 allows us to go home without the hype.   Think about this.   If Peter is the paragon of all Christian patriarchs—if he is the rock or the quintessential disciples upon which Christ will build the church—why do we not hear about him again until verse 34?  In between we have this amazing story, known as the Road to Emmaus.   And when Cleopas and the other unknown disciple race all the way back to Jerusalem, the report they hear goes like so:  “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon.”   But we’re never told about that moment.

 

 

In fact, there is no recorded or written-down, detailed account of the resurrected Jesus as he talks and walks with Peter.   Not in Luke 24.  Not in Matthew 28.  Not in Mark 16.  In fact, in John 21, we finally have this dialogue between Jesus and Peter.  But guess where that encounter takes place?   It’s by the Sea of Tiberius, or the Sea of Galilee, near Peter’s home.   So, we might as well face it:   Peter goes home.  Peter has gone home.   And before home, he’s simply running on empty.

 

Leaders in the tradition of Christ Jesus do that sometimes.  Churches also do that.   We run on empty.   We run without the hype or the hoopla and then we practice re-entry.   We go home.

 

A few years ago I went home with this Nez Perce native who also had been baptized as a Christian.   His name was Adrian Moody and when I stayed at his home he gave me smoked salmon to eat and invited me into his sweat lodge.   Then, Adrian told me stories, stories about Coyote who is this mythic trickster, who eventually figured about a way to subvert the power of the monster.   And I heard these stories and I told Adrian that Coyote is like the risen Jesus.  The risen Jesus tricks the monster.  He was dead, but now he lives and everything he said and did now resonates with all of creation.  I had this discussion with Adrian and then he took me to the Henry Spaulding Museum, to this place where Nez Perce culture had originally clashed with the missionaries.   And, after we honored those missionaries, Adrian led me out back of that museum, by the dumpster. 

An old tree grew by that dumpster and in the knot of that tree I noticed these rusted old shackles.   Adrian put his hands in those shackles and he declared, “This is how they converted us.  This is how they forced us to give up our native dress and our native language.”

 

“That’s not the gospel,” I replied.  “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

 

“I know,” said Adrian, smirking a little.  “But this is our home.”

 

Now, I’m relating this memory to you because I feel a little bit like Adrian today.  This is our home.   Home is the place where we can tell and can hear uncomfortable truths.  Home is the place where our opinion and our viewpoint matter more than anywhere else in the world.  Home is the place we go when we’ve been depleted and running on empty for a long, long time.   And home is the place where the risen Christ will come for us.  And it’s not always glamorous, but it’s true.

 

Last Tuesday night, our family sat around a campfire at the Latah Valley property.   Philip had wanted to spend the night there with his friend, Ben.   Sheryl showed up with Ian, our dog, Pearl and another dog who belonged to our friends, the Kuuskevere’s.   Anyway, we all were roasting marshmallows and making s’mores when out of the woods bounds this enormous moose.   It walked within thirty feet of us and then started chewing on a tree behind the garage.   And I’ll tell you what that wild animal did for me that night.  It filled the emptiness.  Amen.