Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com's Mark Kurowski reflects on Sidney Portier, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracey and Jesus. How is an African American man in a movie in the 1960s like Jesus and vice versa. These questions and more are answered in this audio. Please read Luke 24:36-48.
For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/22/2012The 3rd Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 24:36-48.
Did you realize that Easter is fifty days long? What do we call the Fiftieth Day after Easter? We call the fiftieth day after Easter “Pentecost,” which literally means “fifty days.” Yet, between the First Sunday of Easter and Pentecost there is a period where Jesus appeared to his disciples before he ascended to sit at the Right Hand of God, “from which he will come to judge the living and the dead.”
During this time of the Christian calendar, the scripture readings during worship are filled with the accounts of these appearances. It is fun to take a close look at these things. They remind me of one of my favorite movies, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
There is no one who had more class, flair and was more alluring in his day than Sidney Portier. He was handsome, well spoken and carried himself with grace then, and he does now. There is, I think, no role which he played in his acting career that shows all of these characteristics than his role in this movie. Each time I watch it, I notice something new. Each time he is the same, rock solid. But it is the reaction of the people around him that catches my attention.
For those of you who do not know, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” is about a young attractive couple who are going to get married. It is set in the 1960s. The young lady is an attractive happy-go-lucky young woman who is bringing her fiancé home for dinner. He just happens to be a black man and she just happens to be a white woman. The entire movie centers around how everyone reacts to Portier, who plays the young man.
Portier’s parents are stunned that he would even entertain the idea because he “is the product of all the family has worked hard to make.” Spencer Tracy, who plays the young girl’s father, focuses on Portier as an object of his social class’ dread. All parties involved must come to terms with the fact that this young black man is articulate, intelligent and worthy of the hand of the young lady. All of this in a day and age when the marriage of a young white girl to a dark black man was unthinkable. Everyone is reacting to this suave and debonair African American man.
In our passage from the text today, Jesus comes, resurrected body and all, and appears to the disciples. What is there response? They think that he is a ghost. He says, “touch my hands and my feet and see that I am he; touch me and see that a spirit does not have flesh and bones as I have.” This puts to rest any notion that this is a reincarnation or a spiritual apparition. It is truly the same Christ, the same body.
Now, as if we needed any more proof, Jesus then says something that is very important. I bet you have quoted this scripture a million times and didn’t even know it. Jesus says, “You got anything to eat in this place?”
What more could prove that he is not a spirit, but a living Lord who must be acknowledged than to take and eat after he should be dead. All throughout the appearances after his resurrection, Jesus eats with his disciples. Just like everyone in the story reacts to this black man who breaks all the negative stereotypes, the disciples react to Jesus with fear and amazement. He cannot be what they are seeing. This is exactly the same response that Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn have to Sidney Portier. A young African American man cannot be what they are seeing!
The disciples react with fear and amazement because Jesus is really present among them. Jesus takes a common human body and transforms it into a resurrected body–a prototype of the ones we will have after “he comes again.” He takes a simple action, a meal, and transforms that meal into an experience of a life time. He takes common food and transforms it into proof that he is the One who fulfills the scriptures. He is the One who suffered and died. He is the One who was raised from the dead on the third day. He is the One in whose name repentance and the forgiveness of sins is preached to this day.
The question remains, how does Jesus appear to us today?
I went on a retreat one weekend. The directors had us go on a guided night walk. And as we were going, they said, “look for the face of Christ.” As I walked, the path led me to a room filled with people who were singing the praises of God. As I entered the room, they hugged me and gave me unconditional acceptance. I knew the face of Christ was there in that place on that night. Yes, Christ encounters us in the loving action of others.
During a Lent a few years ago, I was working in a parish and was examining liturgies with a committee. We watched a video tape about worship and how people who lead worship should do their thing. The liturgies were broken into six sections so that we could have commentary about what each part of being a worshiping community meant. Then, after the commentary, we would see an actual worship service. We, the study group, were all amazed at how joyful and intentional people were with their praise and confession. We know that Christ encounters us in our liturgies.
But the accounts of Jesus’ appearances in the scripture after Easter all have one thing in common. In almost all of them, the disciples encounter Him in the breaking of bread or in a meal in general. We, too take that two thousand year old belief and relive it every Sunday. Jesus, we believe, encounters us in the breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup.
Just like Jesus who offered up a common human body, we offer up, during the offering, unleavened bread like that which is eaten at Passover, a common thing. We offer up common wine. Just as Jesus transformed his body into one that defied physics, he takes these common elements and He transforms them into a means through which he gives himself to us. So, Jesus appears to us in the bread and the cup of Holy Communion.
I find it is all the more special when we eat at the Eucharist during Easter. It is because in the Eucharist, Jesus appears to us just like he appeared to the disciples after he had risen from the dead.
The disciples reacted to him by going out and preaching the good news that sins are forgiven for all who repent in the name of Jesus. It is because they reacted with action to his appearing that we now sit here in worship and believe. It is from their faith that we draw our example and strength.
First, they doubted, and we may doubt. Then they were amazed and joyful, and we may be confused with joy and amazement at Christ. They then ate with him and were comforted and we too, today can eat with him and be comforted. It is a great and joyous day. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
Then after they ate with him they were called to action. To what action is your encounter with Jesus calling you? You know he is appearing to us. You know he is giving himself to us. He is empowering us to go forth and make a difference in the world.
So, guess who is coming to dinner? It is Jesus. The world must react to him. How do you react to him? Amen? Amen.
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