16 April 2006

Easter Evening Homily

Texts: Acts 5:29b, 30-32; Psalm 136; Luke 24:13-35

I can’t really imagine a day in the Christian calendar about which more has been said than this day. And for good reason, because this is the day that defines our faith.

We knew the ending of this story even before we began Lent forty days ago, but each year we return to Jesus’ last weeks and days. And each year on this day, we remember and relive His rising.

I want to pause for a moment to reflect on just how remarkable this is. THIS is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in this world and in our lives. And it is for us. We must always remember this one truth: Jesus has risen today, this very morning, in our hearts. It is as real as it was 2000 years ago.

It is in this way that we are witnesses, just as the women at the tomb, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the apostles in Jerusalem and Galilee witnessed the risen Christ. We share the Easter-moment with them, here and now.

That is what makes this day remarkable: it is the realization of all that Jesus said and did. It is the moment of hope that belongs to each and every person.

In the encounter on the way to Emmaus, the two disciples experience and know Jesus fully in the breaking of the bread. It is in coming to the table that we, too, can begin to know Jesus more fully.

Like the disciples, we are on the road, on a journey together. And when we meet Jesus, will we recognize him? Will we know him when we meet on the way? At the turn of the last century, Frank Weston, a priest and missionary in Tanzania, wrote:
You are Christians, then your Lord is one and the same with Jesus on the throne of His glory, with Jesus in His blessed sacrament, with Jesus received into your hearts in Communion, with Jesus enshrined in the hearts and bodies of His brothers and sisters up and down the world.

Now go out into the highways and hedges, and look for Jesus in the ragged and naked, in the oppressed and sweated, in those who have lost hope, in those who are struggling.
Let your eyes be open to the presence of Jesus yet among us. Let us know Jesus in them, and let us break bread with one another. We have, today, experienced the rising of Jesus Christ. We have, like the disciples on the road, an amazing story to tell. So let us go forth, strengthened by the meal of fellowship that we share today, and let us go forth to tell the story of our Savior, not only in our words, but in our actions, not only with our voices but with our hands, with our love, with everything we have to give.

Because we have been given the greatest gift ever given this holy week. Jesus gave his life for us, for all of us. And, in the midst of doubts, darkness, and disappointments, we have also been blessed, alongside his companions, by hope in the resurrection of Christ on the third day. We have been given so much, and these blessings are not ours to keep but instead belong to each and every person. So share the joy, the love, and the hope that this Easter day has brought to us.

We have been offered a great gift, but it is up to us to pass on the good news, to witness to the risen Lord, and to bring the kingdom of God into reality. In this way, we become part of the gift that God has given the world this day, by telling the story of the resurrection and by remembering who Christ has called us to be. In the resurrection, God overcomes death and brings light into the darkest hour; there is hope for the kingdom that Jesus had lived and died to preach. When we recognize the spirit of Christ in one another, we are bringing about the kingdom in our own lives. We must live out the hope of Easter-morning each day, remembering that we, too, are witnesses to the power of God and the promise of abundant life.

Let us, as the Psalmist did, give thanks to God who created us and redeemed us, who lived and walked with us in ancient Palenstine, who is with us still.

Let us give thanks to God for this easter day and for the blessed one who came in the name of the Lord. Let us give thanks to the risen Lord, here and now, but also in everything we do.

Let us give thanks that Jesus, the Christ, is made known to us in the breaking of bread.

Let us praise God for we have much to give thanks for! Alleluia, alleluia! Amen!