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Celebrate the Party Gospel!


Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, "Peace be with you." They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

LUKE 24:36B-48

Sermon: The Rev. Dr. Maryann Amor

When I walked into my Introduction to the New Testament class, much to my surprise I heard Celebrate playing. On the front table were an assortment of donuts and coffee. We were all invited to grab something, sit down, and enjoy.

This was my introduction to the Gospel of Luke, which I have attempted to re-create for you today. In that memorable class, my professor used food and music to help us understand one of the main themes in the Gospel, as he said, Luke is the ‘party Gospel.’ In Luke you will regularly find Jesus hanging out with people, those he knows, strangers and the outcast, breaking bread with them and having some drinks. Now we might imagine that these meals with Jesus were calm affairs, everyone was well mannered, nice and orderly, it is a meal with Jesus after all…but instead imagine noise, laughter, food…the sound of people enjoying each other’s company filling the air, Jesus sitting amongst them sharing fully in the celebration.

This is the background we need to make sense of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples that we heard this morning and his odd request, “have you anything to eat?” In this episode, Luke has Jesus ask for food, thereby, placing him within a familiar context…he is going to eat as he does all the time in this Gospel. Luke is showing the disciples and his reading audience that Jesus is not, as the disciples assume at first, a ghost, a clear, body-less, spectre…but Jesus is fully human. Jesus is so real that what he did prior to the resurrection, eating, drinking, partying, is something he can do post-resurrection. He is the same Jesus, back from the dead.

And in response to his request for food, the disciples give him broiled fish. Now if this stood out to you as odd, maybe you wondered why that specific meal…you are not alone. Gail Ramshaw, author of the book, Treasures Old and New: Images in the Lectionary, states, “The biblical use of fish is not only a narrative detail about people’s livelihood and means. Religion in the ancient world used the fish as an image of divine life, which helps account for the connections between the image of fish and Christ’s resurrection.”

Fish is what people would have eaten often in the ancient world, almost being like chicken is for us today. With people living by the sea, they relied on fish to feed their families…it was comfort food, food for the common people. When Christianity was persecuted, Christians would draw fish on the walls to communicate with each other…fish being a secret symbol of the resurrection and the early Christian movement.

Thus, the broiled fish reiterates that Jesus is the same Jesus as he was before the resurrection. During his life Jesus was not associated with kingly power and might, so instead of feeding him rich, fancy food, like wine, olives, cheese, or chocolates, the disciples give him a symbol of the common, humble people, which ends up symbolizing the resurrection.

And as we are with the disciples and Jesus, joining in the party, sharing the broiled fish, we might ask what are we supposed to take away from this passage?? The point of the passage is actually found at the end, when Jesus says that we must be “witnesses to these things.”

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity writes, “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw people into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself are simply a waste of time.” Jesus models what it means to witness to him, his many parties in Luke functioning to draw people to him…Jesus demonstrates love, hospitality, and generosity, showing each person that no matter who they are or what they have done they are a little Christ and worthy to have a place at the table with him. We witness to Christ when we do the same, when by our words and actions we invite others, love others, show them that they are worthy of the love of Christ. For example, we do this when we provide KFC for the youth…when we share soup Sunday together…when we open our doors for choirs to practice, for Scouts to meet, for AA to gather…when we collect items for an outreach organisation like Sunrise House. To witness, is really this simple, it is as simple as a meal of broiled fish….it is to see Christ in others, to love them and share what we have with them, thereby, recognising each individual’s inherent value as a little Christ in and of themselves.

So today, let’s celebrate Luke the party Gospel, and its message for us. Let’s witness to the risen Jesus in our midst, who conquered death and brought life and hope to all the little Christs who walk this earth. The call might seem overwhelming at first, but as Jesus models it really isn’t…all we need to do is to open our hearts and our homes, invite others to gather with us around some bread and wine, or, maybe, KFC, soup, Tim Bits, or broiled fish. Amen.

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