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3 Easter - 18 Luke 24:36b-48

The disciples never answered the question.

Now it comes to us.

Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Maybe fear has become so familiar that the answer feels too obvious to bother saying, but I hear different answers.

Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Church attendance is shrinking and getting older, and so am I.

The other political party, whichever one I disagree with, is destroying our country...and dividing my family.

Life is complicated and overwhelming.

Too many people are not getting vaccinated, or too many people are.

My kids are black.

My parents are undocumented.

My spouse, my grandma, my reliable rock has died and now I am lost.

The business didn't make it; the money is almost gone.

The doctor didn't want to say it.

Fill in your own answers: Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?


This week, kind, compassionate, caring, good shepherd Jesus doesn't bother to stop and listen to his disciples' answers.

He keeps talking, apparently even with his mouth full.

Touch me, feed me, listen up.

Scripture says this and this and this.

You are witnesses of these things.

Wait, what?

What things?

Jesus has raced ahead to verse 49 while most of us are still stuck on verse 38.

That's the life of faith, and church history, in a nutshell.

For some reason, fear feels more real and reliable than joy.

Grief is more tangible and trustable than hope.

Trusting good news takes time; trusting bad news is immediate.

It takes years to build a temple or a business or a friendship or a marriage and only seconds to blow one up.

Joy comes with disbelief; there is no Easter without doubts.

What Jesus embodies, and then shares with us, is what we have learned to call "too good to be true."

Eternal life...peace...a place at the creator's family table...forgiveness...true freedom...the completely new way of seeing reality Jesus calls repentance...resurrection...new life for all nations and not just the privileged or the proper – it's all too much to trust when our days are so full of danger and despair, so many concrete reasons to fear and doubt.

So Jesus the talking corpse makes it tangible, touchable, visible for us.

He invites the disciples to touch his skin and watch him eat.

He gives us Holy Communion, bread and wine we can see and feel and taste and swallow into our bloodstreams, for those of us who prefer drugs to words.

And he also asks us to feed him, which is what our friends at Central Lutheran in Van Nuys do

every week, providing groceries for hungry neighbors even if there are fears and doubt involved.

Hunger doesn't wait for explanations.

Jesus can do all the Bible study he wants, but he's not doing a training seminar so that the disciples have all the right answers to all the nations' potential questions.

He is feeding them Scripture; he is not just filling their brains, he's nourishing their souls.

He's moving their hearts.

He is leading the witnesses: he is meeting them in doubt and disbelief and walking them toward a joy so infectious they can't not share it.

When we really get it, it gets us—when we taste peace, when we feel forgiveness, when we glimpse the glorious depths of Easter joy—we can't not share.

But Jesus doesn't wait for us to get it.

He tells the unprepared disciples they are witnesses, not they will be.

They are still disbelieving, still doubting, still frightened – God's church is still stuck at verse 38, but Jesus is plowing ahead.

To wait for us to have our act together not only wastes eternity, it undermines the message.

The gospel is for people who need it, not for people who qualify.

Asking "are you good enough" is tired old terrible normal; that's not good news at all.

We are witnesses to a reality so different that repentance is necessary not for it to be true,

but for us to realize and trust it.

We're not ready for this assignment, and Jesus sends us into a world that isn't ready either.

Our doubts, our fears, our shortcomings, our misgivings, our worries and questions give us more credibility, not less, giving the gospel a better chance.

We are one more way that God makes it real for the people in all nations that God so loves.

The extravagance of Easter, the mind-bending abundance and complexity and completeness of God's passionately loyal love for the world, is too much to fathom, much less explain.

So we point to it and serve it in bite-sized morsels: a sack of groceries, a piece of fish, a sympathetic ear, a sliver of bread, a half shot of grape juice or wine, a helping hand, a friendly face in the courtroom or the waiting room, a note, a simple prayer, a wink, a smile.

Begin in Jerusalem.

Begin where you are right now.

Begin with the other faces in the room, the names in your phone, the person right next to you, by which I mean six feet away.

The fears and the doubts are so many, so big, so heavy, so overwhelming.

And the hope of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, the love of God is vastly bigger.

Maybe that is what truly frightens us.

It's okay to take baby steps.

Scale it down from the cosmic peace of Christ to a piece of fish.

That's actually who Christ is—the love of God scaled all the way down into a human face and a specific story, in which he condensed salvation into a handful of bread and a swig of wine.

God's love is enormous enough to be tiny, strong enough to be weak, deep and resilient enough to be crucified and come back with open hands.

Our fears and doubts are no match for the inevitable, inexhaustible grace that Jesus is trying to show and teach us.

What's lost is nothing to what's found, Frederick Buechner wrote, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.

We are witnesses to these things.

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