Our reading for this morning has a humorous bit—not laugh out loud funny, but smile funny.
We are back on the day of the resurrection itself. Jesus has just appeared to two disciples as they were walking towards a little town called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
When Jesus leaves them, the two disciples immediately return to Jerusalem. Our reading picks up just as they rejoin the others. The whole group is swapping stories about Jesus’ appearances when suddenly Jesus himself is in their midst.
They are startled and terrified, of course—who wouldn’t be? One reason they are terrified is that they still don’t understand the whole resurrection concept even though Jesus has now appeared a handful of times. They think Jesus must be a ghost.
Jesus invites the disciples to touch him so they can know that he is not an apparition, that he has a real body, that he is truly risen from the dead.
Then comes the line that strikes me as funny. Jesus asks them if they have anything to eat.
In context, this is another way for Jesus to show the disciples that he is not a ghost.
But I like to think that Jesus also wanted a snack after a busy day of resurrection appearances.
As I picture the scene, the disciples don’t react at first. They are all too shocked that Jesus is actually there. After a bit, one hesitantly offers Jesus a broiled fish. Jesus sits down to enjoy his meal, while the disciples stand around, open-mouthed, watching him eat. I picture Jesus eating with great gusto, and maybe reminding the disciples as a little joke that he hasn’t eaten in three days. If Jesus did make a joke, I am sure the disciples didn’t get it.
After Jesus finishes his meal, Jesus gets down to business. Jesus explains to the disciples that the whole Bible has pointed to this exact moment. Now, going forward, the disciples are witnesses of the resurrection of their Lord and charged with sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with all nations.
But I am hung up on that fish.
That resurrection fish is a reminder of how central food was to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ first miracle occurred at a wedding banquet. Jesus twice miraculously fed multitudes. Jesus was focused enough on food that some opponents called him a glutton and a drunkard. Jesus taught while participating in a festive meal a few times, most importantly at the Last Supper. Jesus left us with the command to share a ritual meal as our way of remembering him. We’ll do that in just a minute.
As best I can tell, Churches have been all about food ever since. I suspect the Church potluck was invented within weeks of the resurrection. Clearly Church people were gathering for meals by the time the Apostle Paul got around to writing his letters because Paul frets about things getting out of hand at some of them.
What was true about Jesus’ ministry is just as true about us, the people of Saint David’s.
I think, for example, about our community suppers, and about the many special meals we have shared like pancake suppers and breakfasts with Santa. I think about our outreach through the Parish Cupboard, at Church without walls in West Springfield and now also in Springfield, and our Veterans’ lunches, which we plan to start back up next month.
For us, food has long been good news, a way for us to come together as the body of Christ for fun and fellowship as well as a way for us to share the good news with our neighbors.
Now the Diocese is getting in on the action with the Good News Garden program. The basic idea is simple: growing food can be a way of practicing our faith.
We anticipated the Diocese on this one. For the last couple of years, we have had a small vegetable garden in our back yard, on the other side of the parking lot and near the labyrinth.
But we wanted to do more with our little garden, so this year we got a diocesan grant to expand the garden without straining our budget and, all going well, to use the garden for our ministries under the umbrella of the Good News Gardens program.
This is yet another area where I personally do not bring a lot to the table. We didn’t do much gardening at my house when I was a child. At least I didn’t, and I didn’t pay attention to what my parents were doing.
But one year I gave it a shot as part of earning a merit badge for Boy Scouts. The result was not impressive. I grew one head of lettuce. As it happened, I didn’t even like lettuce.
But I was thrilled to watch something that I had planted actually come up. Along the way, I learned a bit about the seasons, and the water cycle, and the care that goes into producing our food. We could offer that to our children. To adults, too.
And, hopefully, we would have produce to show for our efforts.
Just this week, we made a donation to the Senior Farm Shares program of Communities in Support of Agriculture, aka CISA. A farm share, as many of you probably know, is a regular share of the produce of a local farm. Carrie and I have purchased farm shares for years, and we love it.
I am not one to throw away food, so I eat virtually anything that comes into our house. When we first got a farm share, what came into our house was a lot of fresh vegetables that changed as the season wore on. I had never heard of about half of them. But it was fun to figure out how to cook things like Swiss Chard, which has now become one of my favorite vegetables.
CISA encourages everyone to get farm shares, and subsidizes needy seniors who might not otherwise be able to afford one. For the last few years, Saint David’s has made a donation to the program after Lent. My contribution is the embarrassingly large amount of money I owe as part of the Complaint Challenge.
As I say, we just sent in our donation.
But if our vegetable garden is successful, we could help people more directly. Presumably we would first make the produce available to those who worked on it and to other parishioners. We could invite folks from Brady Village to take some. We could donate vegetables to the Parish Cupboard. No doubt there are other opportunities as well.
The point is to use the garden to share God’s love with each other and with our neighbors.
It being the Easter season, we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Mostly we don’t get to see Christ in bodily form, like the disciples did in our Gospel reading for this morning.
But Christ is with us, and anything is possible. Christ could appear to us in bodily form.
If Christ appeared to me, I am sure I would be both startled and terrified, just like the disciples in our reading. I picture Christ trying to set me at ease by asking for something to eat. And I’d like to think that Christ would smile if I could offer him a little lettuce fresh grown from our very own Church vegetable garden.
And so, on this third Sunday of Easter, I give thanks to God for the good news of Jesus Christ that we can enjoy and share through food. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan