Reading: Luke 24:36b-48
I always have a bit of a problem with the time after Easter. It is a time in the scriptural readings when we hear about the post resurrection appearances of Jesus. While they appear in Luke, Matthew and John, Mark has no knowledge of them, and they sit uncomfortably with me.
So I wondered what I should say about them today.
Then I had an epiphany when listening to the radio.
I love the radio, particularly Radio National. No matter what time of the day or night it always has something interesting being talked about, or someone amazing being interviewed.
I have recently heard from a woman scientist who specialised in jelly fish, an incredible person and take my word for it, jelly fish are incredible sea creatures. I listened to an interview with a female indigenous author, Alexis Wright, who won the Stella prize for her book on late Arrente man and activist Leigh Bruce `Tracker` Tilmouth, an amazing man and an amazing writer, but the one that really spoke to me was about the Wayside Chapel.
Many of you would know that the Wayside Chapel in Sydney was established in 1964 in the red light district of Kings Cross. It was founded by Ted Noffs, a Uniting Church minister, to help the poor and homeless of the city, while also establishing a drug referral and rehab centre for the first time. From there it has gone on to provide many services to those marginalised in our society, including education through the Ted Noffs foundation. All this work has its roots firmly in the Christian gospel of social action and care for the poor and marginalised and reflects the work and faith of its founder.
Ted Noffs used to say, `I am a Christian, I am a Catholic, I am a Protestant, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Jew, I am a Sikh, I am agnostic, and I am an atheist, but first and foremost I am a human being and no one in this world is a stranger to me.` His motto, `Love yourself and others as they are` saw the radical side of religion take centre stage. Over time he developed the family of humanity, a belief that transcended all boundaries of belief, all ideas of barriers of class and socioeconomic status and put him on a collision course with his own church.
And he suffered terribly. He was charged with heresy not just once but a number of times as well as being accused of harbouring drug addicts and criminals and of being, God forbid, a non-Christian.
Sounds like Jesus` life and teachings.
So why am I telling you all this. Because on the radio I heard that Pastor Graham Long, who has been the pastor at the Wayside Chapel for 14 years is retiring, and a new pastor, Jon Owen, is taking over. And the same ideas, the same love of others, the same belief that everybody is your family, and everybody has a story and the need for community came from Jon. It`s like the mission of Jesus continues, even though the people change. As Graham said, it`s about the mission to create community and family that continues. Love over hate, and care and compassion over exclusion and isolation.
I was taken by a quote from the Brothers Karamazov, a famous novel written by Dostoevsky that Jon used in the interview. `Love in your dreams is such a marvellous and glorious thing. Yet love in reality is active, labour and fortitude.` Love is a decision not to give up on a person, and to walk and journey with them is a daily decision, not one that comes and goes. And for Jon as it was for Graham and Ted Noffs before them, it`s a joy to make.
So where does that leave us today.
We are 2000 years away from the event, from the appearances related in the scriptures. Supernatural acts don`t quite cut it. But love does. Love that requires commitment, fortitude and sometimes labour. The disciples see Jesus and go on to live as Jesus lived, seeing Jesus in everything they did.
Every time in our world, there is love over hate, care and compassion over exclusion, we see Jesus.
Every time someone seeks out and stand alongside those persecuted and marginalised, as brothers and sisters, we see Jesus.
Every time someone shares their money, their time and their heart with others, as a family, we see Jesus.
Every time someone chooses to hang around, to persist, to journey with those who have fallen outside what is society`s norm, we see Jesus.
Every time someone speaks up for those defeated by the system, we see Jesus.
Every time someone cries out for peace, not only here but around the world we see Jesus.
Every time someone calls for justice, and keeps calling for it, until things change, we see Jesus.
Someone? Let that someone be us, for we can be Jesus, show Jesus to others. In this sometimes harsh, but beautiful world.
Then the appearance stories will have something to say in the 21st century.