The Third Sunday of Easter

“Openness Brings Understanding”

Sermon from guest preacher, Rev, Charles Kamano

I greet you ALL in the words of our Risen Lord JC: “Peace be with you!” Yes, Peace be with you as you join us now via zoom. Also to those of you who made it in church this morning, “Peace be with you!

Driving from East Haven this morning to Christ Church in Trumbull, I felt like being on the road to Emmaus… Our Easter experience continues (death and resurrection of JC). And make no mistake folks, we are Easter People in the context of this troubled world.

The past year 2020, has been extremely devastating and challenging in so many ways: Covid-19 pandemic (with half a million deaths), the sad reality of gun violence in our communities, ongoing political divisions, racism, immigration. Yet, I believe that the past year has also taught us in varying degrees a new way of following Jesus and being the church.

In fact, in today’s gospel, the word “understand” caught my attention. Understanding is not simply possessing knowledge. As one author puts it, understanding requires an “ability to think and act decisively with what one knows.

Just before the episode began, two disciples were telling the other disciples that they saw Jesus while eating with a stranger. Then, the first thing that happened in the gospel was that the embodied Jesus frightened the disciples. They thought he was a Ghost. In response, Jesus gave them a greeting of peace. Then, Jesus used the disciple’s senses to calm their fears by commanding them to look, telling them to touch him, and allowing them to witness him eating. Finally, after Jesus eased their fears and confusion then, and only then, Jesus opened them to understanding.

I wish that our society could embrace Jesus’s process of bringing understanding. I think that far too often we want to instill our so “called-knowledge” (our own opinion) in other people to force understanding. We spend time responding instead of truly listening to another. We quickly jump to console instead of holding space in the pain and fear of another. That’s exactly what we, as chaplains (for example, Jane and I) are trained to do, particularly in the clinical context. Holding the space and sometimes, a gentle touch, and not talking can make a positive impact.

And so, in today’s gospel, Jesus began by meeting the disciples where they were, in a place of confusion and fear.  Jesus engaged with what they held in common. He talked to them about familiar viewpoints (Moses, the prophets, and the psalms). He engaged with them around shared human needs (food, friendship, relationality, security). Then, after rooting their relationships in the things he knew they held in common, he opened their minds to something new.

Today, Jesus calls us to be authentic in our life and in our relationship with Him and with one another. You see, for the disciples to understand the scriptures they needed an open-mind. Openness was a condition for understanding. Understanding, then, brought about resurrection. Openness brought understanding, and understanding brought resurrection.

Sometimes, I wonder if our world today look at things with open-mind. How often do we walk into situations with an open-mind willing to listen and engage?

More often we fall into the temptation of nurturing preconceived notions about God that are not helpful to the church and our world. We’ve let television, movies, and pop culture create our inflexible belief structure, so that by the time we get here we are so close-minded that resurrection is the furthest thing from possible.

Let me therefore close today’s meditation with this prayer:

Risen Lord, open our minds to understand the Scriptures that we may fully comprehend the truth of your word; open our eyes to see you and open our ears to hear you. Help us to reach out and touch you as we touch the body of Christ in brothers and sisters, and bread and wine. Strengthen us to breathe the fragrance of your faithfulness and smell the sweetness of your presence. Bring us to taste your goodness at the altar and in every place where there are two or three gathered in your name and you are in the midst of us. Amen.