April 19, 2015 “ 3 Easter B
Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
The priest takes the bread, breaks it, and says, Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. And we respond, Therefore let us keep the Feast. Alleluia.
Jesus Christ comes to us in the feast of the Eucharist. He comes to us as our daily bread that we need so desperately and pray for so fervently. It is no accident that most of his resurrection appearances are involved with eating, usually when the disciples are gathered to break bread. In today’s gospel lesson we see Jesus himself doing the eating so that the disciples will know of his physical resurrection but usually it is the disciples who are eating the sacramental feast as Jesus appears. And it is as we gather to eat the sacramental feast that Jesus appears to us. Jesus becomes our daily bread that we require and pray for. Easter is the primary feast occasion of the people of the resurrection. But there are some spiritual eating disorders that may befall us.
When Mary Ward and I were first married we lived in Spartanburg, South Carolina. There was a fish camp outside of town called the Old Mill Stream. We didn’t go there all that often but every several months we would get a hankering and make the 30 minute drive to the Old Mill Stream. They had a bunch of good stuff to eat but I always got the same thing: the all-you-could-eat black bass. There I would gorge myself on fish, French fries, hushpuppies, and coleslaw. The first time we went I ate 13 black bass and so it was expected every other time that I eat the same amount. Also part of the excursion involved stopping at Baskin Robbins on the way back into town where I would get a brownie cake delight, an ice cream sundae with hot fudge and a big brownie at the bottom. Then I would go home and feel horrible for the rest of the night, having to sleep on my side because lying on my stomach or my back seemed to make the weight of all the food unbearable. I think I still have an apron that Mary Ward made for me for Christmas one year. On it are painted 13 black bass.
The Easter Feast is here and we are invited to partake but how shall we do that? Shall we approach the feast as daily sustenance provided by a gracious God or shall we approach it as a one-time chance to get it all? Shall we allow the holy meal to feed our souls or shall we just let it pass on through without gaining the nourishment it offers? Shall we eat in abiding peace or shall we gorge in desperate anxiety? Shall we feed on the bread of heaven or shall we feed on our accomplishments?
Repeatedly in his ministry, Jesus’s disciples come to him and want to know it all right then. And repeatedly Jesus tells them, You will be given understanding when it is time. Take what is given to you today and trust that it will lead to understanding. I can’t give you everything you think you want all at once because you can’t take it all in at one sitting.
In the gospel lesson, Jesus comes and opens for the disciples the understanding of scripture. Today they are ready for more and it comes. Now it makes more sense to them. This feeding on God’s grace, this feeding on the bread of heaven, this gaining of understanding comes in its own time. The power is in the food offered by God, not our ability to take it in. The power is the feast, not our accomplishment of eating the feast. Jesus gives them understanding in this lesson and later they will need more. Always they will need more and it will come. Later the Holy Spirit is given but neither is that given in one inoculation but as a pouring forth. God’s grace comes to us, over time, as we are ready for it. We can’t take it all in at one time. We are to be faithful in our feasting, in our openness to grace. It’s not about the exhilarating high of a one-time experience. It’s about the deep abiding peace of God that comes a little at a time.
It’s still Easter. We’re not even half-way through with Easter which lasts for 50 days but sometimes we treat Easter as a one-sitting-all-you-eat-event. Some folks got their 13 black bass a couple of weeks ago and think that will sustain them for a long time. But a regular and faithful feasting is so much healthier. Typically we are all better in our Lenten disciplines than our Easter disciplines. We become pretty good about a discipline of preparation but we don’t do quite so well in a discipline of taking in grace and forgiveness. Grace and forgiveness are such that they can’t be taken in at one sitting. Today you get a taste and tomorrow you get another. We don’t sit down and consume grace. We put ourselves in its presence and allow it to consume us over time. This is not something we master but something we allow to master us.
The Eucharist is our Easter Feast and, as we trust its ability to feed us over time, we will be brought forward in grace. If we approach it as if it were something we have to take in all at once, we miss the point. The events in our lives, all of them together, serve as an Easter Feast. Each will give us a portion of the food of understanding we seek but, if we approach any one event as something which has to give us all we desire, we miss the point. Sometimes we are guilty of going through life just hoping for the next event which will give it all to us rather than simply trusting that God will use each event to give us the portion we can handle for the time.
The Easter Feast is here and it will continue. Take your time with it. Relish it. Taste it and let it consume you. Give yourself to it and let it master you. God will come to you today and will give you understanding, as much as you are ready to receive but no more than you are ready to receive. He will come again and again to lead you forward. In time more understanding will be opened for you. Come to the feast faithfully and regularly and humbly and God will feed you with his grace. Always put your trust, not in you your ability to take it all in, but in God’s power to give the grace you need for the day. Take the portion God gives you this day. It is enough. Always what God gives us is enough.