During this Easter season, the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, the Church asks us to reflect: Have we been changed by this Lenten journey and this Easter experience? We have again encountered, in a dramatic way, Jesus-Servant, Jesus-crucified, and Jesus-risen, and are we spiritually healthier after this Holy Week journey? Easter changes everything, but has Easter changed us? Has the dying and rising of Jesus made any difference in our lives?
The Easter experience had a powerful impact upon the early Christian community, allowing them to attracted many people. They were “of one heart and mind” among themselves despite their differences. Barriers such as gender, race, ethnic background, and socio-economic status that once caused friction and separation, were erased in light of Easter. Those first believers were transformed by Jesus’ resurrection, and they in turn changed the lives of many others.
In today’s gospel two disciples recounted what had taken place on the road as a stranger joined them and explained the importance of the recent events in Jerusalem. They finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Last week we encountered doubting Thomas who demanded to see and touch in order to believe. Jesus complied and Thomas believed. We are heirs of Thomas’ doubt and often fail to recognize Jesus in our midst. We cannot encounter the risen Jesus nor touch his wounds, but we can see and touch the risen Jesus if we can see him in the faces of our suffering and needy brothers and sisters wherever we find them. Our belief in the resurrected Jesus impels us to offer that same experience to others.
We come to recognize that the sending-out of the disciples by Jesus is parallel to the Father’s sending Jesus to us. We understand that the relationship between Father and Son hinged on Jesus’ love and obedience. Jesus was his Father’s messenger, the perfect revelation of God, obedient and loving during his earthly journey. We also come to realize that our ability to continue his mission of peace and forgiveness rests upon our becoming as loving and obedient to the Father’s call as was Jesus. When that occurs, we shape a community of disciples eager to spread peace and love to a broken world.
We recall the ideal community of the early church sustained by the spirit of Jesus, and we believe that our Easter experience can forge another such gathering that can change our world. That community will promote peace not war, faith in place of doubt, and forgiveness rather than revenge. As members of that community, we refuse to erect barriers and embrace victims of hunger and disease whether they are neighbors across the street or across the world. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian executed by Nazi Germany in 1945, reminded his world: “…The fact that we are brothers and sisters through Christ is of immeasurable significance. Only in a communion found in Christ can we overlook differences, survive crises, bear with bad habits, insecurities, idiosyncrasies and other such annoyances, and still love and respect one another.”
With renewed energy and grace, we begin again to renew the earth…one heart, one mind, and one spirit at a time. We are Easter people. We know that Easter changes everything because Easter has changed us. Jesus is risen. Alleluia! ----Deacon Wilson Shierk