ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
Preacher: Alleluia. Christ is risen.
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Are there cat people among us today? Some years ago I had a cat named Scootch. Or maybe Scootch had me. With a cat it’s hard to tell exactly who’s in charge.
You know what they say. Dogs have masters. Cats have staff. All that aside, Scootch was my buddy. He was a great cat, and I miss him even today.
Anyway, I once had a dream about Scootch. He was missing and I was frantic. I searched all over the neighborhood. No luck. Then I saw a cat that looked a lot like Scootch, and I chased after it. But as I got closer I realized it wasn’t Scootch. This happened two or three times with two or three different cats.
Finally I noticed a veterinarian’s office, and I wondered if Scootch might be inside. When I opened the door, I saw a cat on a grooming table. The cat wore a collar. The collar was attached to a chain. The chain was attached to the grooming table. This cat looked just like my Scootch. I was greatly relieved and very happy.
“Scootch,” I cried out, “is that you?”
The cat on the table turned and looked at me, and with more than a little disdain he dryly stated, “Yes. It’s Scootch. Now, get me outta here!”
I miss that little guy.
“Scootch, is that you?” reminds me of the disciples in today’s gospel. Luke tells us they were gathered. That a good thing. They were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. That’s a very good thing. Then Jesus himself appeared among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. (We’ve heard that before. Remember last Sunday?)
Once again, the disciples were afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.
Jesus, is that you? Is that really you? they wondered.
So Jesus set about to convince them. “Look at my hands and my feet.” (He still bore signs of his crucifixion.) “Touch me and see.” (You can’t feel a ghost, right?)
The disciples were happy, but still disbelieving and wondering about all this.
Jesus, is that really you?
Finally, Jesus asked: “What have you got to eat around here?” They gave him some broiled fish, and he ate it in front of them. (By the way, we know the disciples were from the northern regions because their fish was broiled. If they were from the south it would have been fried.)
Jesus, is that really and truly you? Or are you just a ghost after all?
Then there’s a shift in the narrative. Jesus turns to the scriptures.
Question: When’s the last time you turned to the scriptures?
He said: “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.”
And as far as I’m concerned, here’s the clincher: “Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. That’s when they finally got it. That’s how they finally recognized Jesus, when he turned to the scriptures.
And here’s how that works today. When we turn to the scriptures, the Spirit of God opens our minds and we recognize Jesus among us. Like Jesus said, when two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them.
But what does it mean to be gathered in Jesus’ name? It means several things. It means to be focused, to be intentional, and to have an open mind: a mind open to the Spirit of God
It means to be present, both physically and mentally; to live not in the past or in the future, but in the present moment; and perhaps most importantly, it means to be at peace.
When we gather in Jesus’ name we don’t multitask. When scriptures are read we demonstrate respect for them by listening. We don’t reach for the hymnal and search for the next hymn. We don’t pull out our checkbook and write a check for the offering plate, not while the scriptures are read. We don’t look around to see who’s there that Sunday, who’s missing, or what people are wearing. Not while the scriptures are read. Because if we do these things, we unknowingly dishonor God’s holy word.
When we gather, we gather in Jesus’ name. Some days it’s not easy, but we do our best to focus, to be intentional, to live in the present moment, and to be at peace. When we do these things, something wondrous happens. The Spirit of God opens our minds to understand the scriptures, and like the disciples long ago, we recognize Jesus among us.
Jesus, that is you after all.
Alleluia. Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
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