1 John 3: 1-7 Luke 24: 36b – 48
Today is a chance to look back and celebrate the life of this church. You might think about all the faithful people you have known through the years, all the things which have been said and done here as witness to God’s love, all the times you have come here to celebrate and mourn, laugh and cry.
And I know that the last 2 years or so have been baffling and difficult, and that you may well look back with a mixture of longing for what has gone from the years long past and dismay at some of the things that have happened in the recent past.
And then when you look to the future, you might wonder what is in store for you all here, and whether you have the courage to face what is to come…
But this mixture of the highs and lows of life, and the determination to face the future faithfully, and the hope
that God will be with us in it all, this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Paul puts it well in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:7) when he says “we walk by faith, not by sight”.
So let’s look again at what happened in the sight of the first disciples, and what that did to their faith.
There are many Easter stories we might be used to hearing or seeing on film or TV, and quite a lot of them seem to involve food and drink.
Jesus eating the last supper with his friends, being offered wine as he hangs on the cross, the women with spices finding empty tomb as the sign of resurrection, and the moment when Jesus breaks bread and the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize him.
But Luke tells us this odd story – Jesus appears to his friends and they are amazed but also a bit scared – they wonder if Jesus is just a ghost or if this is just wishful thinking. So Jesus eats a piece of cooked fish. Not very glamorous, is it?
Bread, wine - we're used to them as symbols rich with meaning and significance - but fish is just a bit of supper left over on someone's plate. But perhaps that's the point - Jesus is real: not a ghost, not a nice idea, real life, down-to-earth - back from the dead, but back - really!
Jesus himself says to them “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself”. He is there with them.
But then he says “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you.”
We might wonder which words are true – is Jesus there, to be seen and eating fish, or is he not and speaking in the past of ‘while I was still with you’?
The followers of Jesus have to learn that Jesus is alive and will be with them always – but not in the flesh-and-blood way they’ve known for the last 3 years – yet still really with them.
They need to learn to look for God-with-us in new ways, perhaps more ordinary ways, but no longer only in the flesh-and-blood Jesus.
Jesus’ disciples, then, are in a strange in-between time, when their faith is still growing.
They have been through all the agony of Jesus death on the cross;
they have started to come to terms with the fact that Jesus is risen, and yet Jesus will be with them in a new way;
and they do not yet know what the future will hold (because they have no idea that the day of Pentecost will come and the Holy Spirit will blow them off their feet!).
They have mixed feelings about the past, they are uncertain about the future, they desperately want to know that God’s love in Christ will never abandon them.
Does that sound familiar?
You have mixed feelings about the past, you are uncertain about the future, you desperately want to know that God’s love in Christ will never abandon you.
So what happens to those disciples in the midst of all this change and uncertainty?
Luke tells us “Jesus himself stood among the disciples and their companions and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’. ”
Here, then, is the good news for us, however uncertain we feel. Into the depths of all our feelings and thoughts and worries, the words Jesus speaks are the same : ‘Peace be with you’.
We might look back at years gone by and might mourn those we have lost. Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’.
We might still be feeling terribly confused and hurt about the things that Tom did. Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’.
We might wonder what life will be like when Patsy arrives here as the new minister. Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. And Christ is with us – alive forever and breathing his peace and his power into our present and our future.
Jesus says ‘Peace be with you’. Today, tomorrow and forever.