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LUKE 24:36b-48

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 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, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

 

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER:  April 19, 2015

The Baptism of Victoria Adina Lindstrom

Sermon by Revd. Dr. Gary C. LeCroy, Jr.

 

We have a baptism today.  Babies make good props for a sermon; good witnesses, not so much!  For instance, I can look into Victoria’s face and ask her, “Who’s the best-looking Pastor in the world?” and I would get the same expression as if I told her that there would be mandatory root canals after worship. 

Children in general don’t make good witnesses.  There was a time (hopefully things have changed) when it was believed that women did not make good witnesses.  In fact, there was a prohibition in first-century Palestine against using women as witnesses in any legal procedure.  Such prejudices of course have lasted into our time as well; it has only been recently that women have been allowed to vote or serve on juries.

Odd, then…..no, downright bizarre that the first witnesses of the Resurrection were (drumroll, please)….women.  If the point of the story was to prove the Resurrection, women would NOT have been the first people to call as witnesses. 

Equally outrageous would be the men as witnesses; known liars, all of them, denying and lying about their relationship with Jesus before the authorities as Jesus was hauled into court, and then hauled up a cross.

As if their character needed further assassination, we are told that they were now living in fear, behind locked doors and closed hearts.  Cowardly Liars!  Furthermore, in John’s account of things, Jesus frequently calls his friends “little children” (not exactly a compliment when you consider that children are notoriously childish.)

We read in verse 8 of today’s Gospel “You are witnesses of these things.”  “You are witnesses” the now-living Jesus stands among them and says.  The readers of the first-century texts must have thought, you better have a darn good lawyer because you aren’t getting anywhere with THESE witnesses.

So what is it that they were called to be witnesses about?  If we look closely at the text, there is Jesus explaining things about his crucifixion, the theology of the Messiah, and all that he has taught.  But what he is really driving at is that they are to be witnesses though they are poor witnesses.

Here’s the difference….While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stands among them and says to them, “Peace Be With You!”  In every instance of scripture Jesus comes to those who are in doubt, in mourning and in fear.  The woman at the tomb, concerned with taking care of the dead; the disciples, concerned with taking care of their own skins.  Poor witnesses, all of them.  What they can tell first hand that no hearer will doubt is that they are poor witnesses of little faith and even less courage.  They did not understand what had happened, what was happening, or what was going to happen.

Now back to our baby, Victoria Adina.  Let’s try out my test.  “Victoria Adina, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…..”  She has no idea about what this means today.  She has no idea about the theology or the teaching of the church, the creeds, the scriptures, all in the string of things important to her, comes far behind the importance of a midnight feeding and a clean diaper. 

Now you are witnesses to these words of baptism.  As with the first witnesses, in life our knowledge is often lacking, our understanding is broken, our courage falters, God still stands with us.  Mary Magdalene goes to the empty tomb and speaks to who she thinks is the gardener.  Jesus says one word “Mary!” and her eyes are opened.  The disciples are behind locked doors and closed hearts and Jesus who they see as a ghost says “Peace Be With You!”

The translation we have of verse 45 is “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” which as theologian D. Mark Davis points out, does not really tell the story.  The Greek (τότε διήνοιξεν αὐτῶν τὸν νοῦν τοῦ συνιέναι τὰς γραφάς) would more properly be translated in our own times as “Then he blew their minds.”  Jesus stands among them and convinces them that he is not a ghost, but the risen Christ.

If this were the opportunity to close with an R&B classic, we could start singing “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind” by the Delfonics.  Because that is what Jesus’ presence here with Victoria Adina, and with us, in making us all witnesses to the risen Lord.

Let God Blow Our Minds!