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April 15, 2018

“A Theology of Kindness: Peace”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

Psalm 90

Luke 24.36-48

April 15, 2018

                A woman was traveling to Europe with her spouse and was excited to see the sites and explore different cultures. She had been warned that she should be careful as she traveled through Spain. An experienced tour guide had told her horror stories about people trying to trick tourists and scam them. So, she kept her purse close by and was alert and aware, even in the cathedrals she visited. During her trip to a cathedral she was startled by a woman who reached out to her and spoke to her in Spanish. It appeared that the woman was grabbing for her bag, and she was worried, and stepped backward, afraid she would be attacked. A few moments later she thought about the woman, replayed the words in her head, and realized the woman was not grabbing for her bag, but actually looking to shake her hand, and had said: “La paz de Dios.” The peace of God.[1] The woman responded out of fear, and missed out on this woman’s offering of peace.

            We are living in a world full of fear. Our fears come from different places – the unknown, the different, concerns of health, death, illness, and different cultures. Essentially, we fear what we do not know or understand. Often when we are fearful we have the fight or flight response – either we put up our guard and push back, or we isolate ourselves – or others – and become paralyzed. When we are frozen with paralysis from fear we can’t follow our calling in the world.

            Jesus shares a simple word of peace and breaks through the disciples’ fear in the Gospel reading. Directly before our passage today Jesus met two people on the road to Emmaus. He appeared before them, broke bread, and then vanished nearly as soon as they recognized Jesus. The two have rushed back to Jerusalem and told the disciples about the encounter, and others are beginning to talk about his appearance, too. Word on the street is that Jesus is back and people are worried. The disciples are hiding behind closed doors rather than going out, looking to see if this is true.

            No matter – Jesus appears to them even behind locked doors. If it was possible, the disciples are now even more frightened. Before, they were concerned that they might be arrested because the authorities were not keen on their preaching, but now Jesus is here – in the flesh – but maybe he’s a ghost? They are worried and cannot even seem to find the words to form sentences to ask Jesus what is going on. He senses this and asks them why they are so frightened.

            Jesus meets them where they are and tries to understand their fears, but also loves them enough to challenge them.[2] He will not let them be afraid or stay behind closed doors. He offers them simple words of peace to ease them into this conversation. These words are familiar to them and also welcoming. Jesus greets them with a word that cannot be misinterpreted. When someone states a word of peace you don’t wonder if you’re using the wrong definition – there is only one definition of peace. There are many different methods and means of peace, but we can agree that peace is a positive thing. Peace is something yearned for by nearly all humans – the trouble comes when we try to define what peace looks like to us.

            After this greeting, Jesus jumps right in by asking, “Have you anything to eat?” Like a teenager walking into the kitchen after school, trying to find a snack: “Don’t you have anything to eat?”[3] Last week we discussed needs: that psychologist Abraham Maslow argued that base needs should be met first – like the need for sustenance – but that we also have spiritual needs. Perhaps Jesus meets two needs at once here. He is starving, because three days in a tomb without food and water will do that to a guy, but also he is proving the physical resurrection by eating food and not having the food fall out of him after it enters his stomach. As the scripture passage alludes, the disciples thought he was a ghost! If he was merely a spirit, was he actually resurrected? Is this some kind of trick?

            With both his greeting of peace and his eating of food Jesus is able to allay their fears. He not only comforts them, but frees them of the anxiety.[4] Our world needs to be freed from the anxiety. We cannot constantly worry about the next war or what will be said next or what national tragedy will happen in the next hour. We have to find a way to break the cycle of violence and break the cycle of anxiety – which likely goes hand in hand in some cases. We cannot truly move forward and worship the living Christ if we are stuck in a fearful mode. The living Christ shakes away our doubts and fears and transforms us into a new creature – reminding us that there is hope for new creation everywhere in the world.

            The sign of peace and the symbolism of food are means of kindness in this passage. Right after Easter we began the Kindness Challenge with the community. The Kindness Challenge encourages the community to do one kind thing per day for forty days. There are many ways that you can show kindness and connect to kindness in the world. Sharing a meal and sharing words of encouragement are ways of showing kindness. In fact, our faith is based on both of those things – the Word, and the Table.[5] We center our faith around the breaking of bread and the read and spoken word. The Living Christ, the Christ of resurrection is the embodiment of the Word and the Table.

            He begins with the word of peace. In a world so filled with hate, where words jolt us because they can be so unkind, it is helpful to know you are surrounded by friends. One way to show that friendship, is through a word of peace. When we greet each other with peace we can relieve some of that tension, put down our guards, and trust. Then, Jesus eats with the disciples. He eats the fish and is shown kindness through this act of hospitality. When we eat communion together we are shown the kindness and love of Christ.

            How do we live in peace? Last week we discussed intentionality. We sometimes have to be intentional about showing kindness because it is easier to become impatient when highway fifty-six is down to one lane and you have to wait for ten minutes just to go a quarter of a mile. The psalm is one that looks at the end of life and the way that time passes by so quickly. If we are not intentional about how we spend our days, our minutes, our seconds, our life can slip by us. “Teach us to count our days,” the psalmist says. In other words, teach us to be mindful. Teach us to be intentional about kindness and peace and sitting down together with loved ones to break bread. Judson Brewer says: “Mindfulness is about seeing the world more clearly.”[6] We need to take the time to see the world around us more clearly. God is the One who reminds us to be mindful – who teaches us to appreciate the beauty around us.

            God is our dwelling place – the One who puts our lives into perspective, and who teaches us to value time and to value our interactions. This week, be intentional about your peace and sharing of meals. Perhaps sit with someone new at a meal or ask a friend to eat with you. If you need some kindness ideas, this wall is here for inspiration, as well as encouragement below. I’ve also added sticky-notes for you to write your kindness stories and ideas.

            Be encouraged. Be kind. Be the hands and feet of Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

[1] Diane Roth, “Reflections on the lectionary” in Christian Century, March 14, 2018, Vol. 135, No. 6, p. 23.

[2] Nancy R. Blakely, “Luke 24.36b-48” in Feasting on the Word: Year B, Vol. 1 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 424.

[3] Peter W. Marty, “Living By the Word” in Christian Century, March28, 2018, Vol. 135, No. 7, p. 24.

[4] Blakely, 424.

[5] Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: B (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993), 236.

[6] Judson Brewer, The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Live – Why We Get Hooked & How We Can Break Bad Habits (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 13.