This is an adapted form of the sermon I preached this morning, the Third Sunday of Easter. The gospel text was Luke 24:36b-48.
Think of a place you love, a place you get excited about. Maybe it’s a place you go on vacation, or a childhood home, or something else. Think of a place that you’d be excited to go to right now. It could even be your bed. Whatever place gets you excited.
Now…why? Why is that place special? Why does it excite you? I’ll go first. My special place is Bear Creek Camp. It’s our Lutheran church camp in Eastern Pennsylvania, located near Wilkes-Barre. It’s a beautiful 3000-acre wilderness on top of the Pocono Plateau, and it is gorgeous and magical. But the reason I love it is because of all the memories I have from there. Memories from being a camper as a kid, of attending and staffing youth events there, of being a summer chaplain there, and lots more. I have always felt loved there. In a very big way, it is home to me.
Now your turn. Imagine telling someone about your special place, and telling them why it gets you excited. (Feel free to do so in the comments below.)
It’s fun telling people about things that excite us. What if we were that excited to talk about our faith? What if we were that excited to talk about Christ, about the church, about God? After all, that’s a big part of our job as disciples, a big part of what God calls each of us to do. Now I know it’s not easy…many of you have shared with me that you’d like to get better at sharing your faith. It’s so much easier to talk about places, isn’t it? How can we talk about something so far away and long ago as Jesus?
Except, that’s the thing. Jesus really isn’t far away or long ago. Look at today’s gospel. Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand scripture, and sent them out to be witnesses to all nations. But before he did that, he showed up. He didn’t send them a text or an email. He didn’t call them. He didn’t leave a note. He showed up, and he proved to them that he was real. He was not a ghost. Not a memory. He showed them his hands and his feet, flesh and blood, and wounded by the nails of the cross. And he even shared a little fish dinner with them. He didn’t ask them to do anything until after he showed up. And when they saw him, and finally realized he was real, they got excited. So excited that Luke had to write another book, called the Acts of the Apostles, just to list all the things they said and did because of how excited they were.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything either, until after he shows up. And he shows up in lots of different ways. It’s different for each of us. I’ll tell you how he’s shown up in my life.
Thanks to Christ, my life has meaning. You see, one of my biggest fears is that I’m not a good person, and I’m not making the world any better. I know I can be compassionate sometimes, but other times I am insensitive and arrogant. I don’t want to hurt people, but sometimes I do hurt people. And I can’t seem to make myself better. However, I know that through Christ, God has forgiven me, and continues to forgive me. And somehow God uses me despite how much of a mess I am. God blesses this mess, and uses me to do some very good things. God has a job for me, and enables me to do it. And that gives my life meaning. And that gets me excited. And I can talk about that. And I should, because I believe there are people out there who are like me. There are lots of people who have similar fears to me, and they need to hear my witness. They need to hear that Christ showed up, forgave me, and gave me meaning.
Maybe you’re one of them. In that case, I hope my excitement gives you hope that Christ has meaning for your life too.
But maybe you’re not like me that way. Maybe Christ has shown up in your life in a different way. Maybe the big question he answers for you is different. Maybe the way you experience God’s love is different. Well, in that case, there are other people like you, and they need to hear your witness. So right now, think about how has Christ shown up in your life. How is Christ real to you? What difference has he made to you? Why do you have faith?
Imagine telling someone about this. Someone you are close to. Or maybe a stranger. This is hard, and so it’s helpful to practice in a safe place, with people who know you and won’t judge you — and a congregation is supposed to be such a safe place.
If it’s hard, keep working on it. And when you’re able to find the words, share them with someone. Feel free to do so in the comments below. It’s good to practice in a safe place, because if you can be a witness there, then you can also be a witness to other people too. You don’t have to be an expert on scripture. You don’t have to tell people the stories of Jesus in the gospels. That’s my job. Your job is to tell the story of Jesus in your life. Share that story. People like you need to hear it.
And if you’re not sure, if you’re not sure Christ has shown up in your life, then that’s okay too. Listen as others witness. Keep listening. He will show up. And it will be exciting. That’s what Easter is all about.