Today is the 3rd Sunday of the Season of Easter---Happy Easter y'all! Hey, and guess what? Christ has still risen!
The passage of Scripture that we'll be exploring today takes us into a meal that the Resurrected Jesus has with his followers... and a moment when they realize that everything has changed.
But first, let me ask you a question...
What's the best meal you've ever had... and why was it the best meal you ever had?
I did a little survey this week on social media, asking people that question and I'm going to share some of those in a moment, but before I do that, let me share with you my favorite meal...
I got to thinking about why we remember these "best meals," and what that might mean.
Charles Spence is the head of the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University, a lab that looks into how our senses interact. Spence did a TED talk a few years ago where he explained why our best meals, are our best meals.
He said that the way our brain works when it comes to taste is complicated. But the bottom line is, HOW you experience your food is more than the ingredients.
Your state of mind, the company that you are dining with, the environment... all of those things are the major factors that play into memorable meals. When you experience joy---food tastes better.
Maybe you were on vacation and had a bottle of wine for dinner, and it was while you were sitting outside watching the sunset, and you were relaxed and happy and feeling amazing. The wine tasted unbelievable, so you bought like three bottles and took them home with you.
Only your friend that you shared it with--the one you told that you had the best bottle of wine you've ever had in your life--thought it tasted awful and cheap.
And as Spencer said, no one remembers a meal as their favorite if they were fighting with family members when they ate it.
In the 2 Star Michelin restaurant Denis in Switzerland, everyone is seated at the same time for dinner, and then led to their tables, which are devoid of everything except a little toy cow that when turned over makes a mooing sound.
Everyone is left to sit there until someone finally turns over one of the toys and makes it moo. Every single other table does the same because that's what we do, right? And pretty soon the whole restaurant is mooing, people are laughing and experiencing joy.
At that moment, the first dish comes out of the kitchen to all of the tables. The chef knows that the food is just going to taste better when people are in a good mood.
Let me share some of the things that people shared with me about their favorite meal:
Ella Glass: Best waffles - Bruges, Belgium. They were the bomb!! Crispy, soft, perfectly sweet with a mount of whipped chantilly cream. And the street window was in the middle of the chocolate road (the one street in Bruges that sells chocolate pralines in every other store).
Lucy Jordan: I ate this stir fry in Denmark and it was the best bc it reminded me of my childhood (I guess bc of the flavor)
Heather Petruzzini: My mom made me a turkey sandwich for a field trip in 4th grade. I still think about that sandwich. For real.
Neil McKown: One of my favorites: Smoked Sirloin and Prime Rib from Cooper’s BBQ in Llano, TX. Where I went every time I headed to Mo-Ranch for summer conferences. Nostalgic and delicious.
Linda Duke: Just caught fried crappie and fried potatoes with fresh green beans. Back in my camping days!
Stefan Haag: My mother-in-law's ham loaf, potato salad, and fresh garden vegetables. It was her Ohio dish reserved for special occasions.
Amy Slaughter: Les Refuge des Fondus in Paris. In 2008 when we went the plate was like 20 euro everything included. They also serve wine in baby bottles to avoid charging open container tariffs (supposedly)
What these all have in common are these two things: The materiality of eating something at just the right moment. And what do you get when you put those two things together? Something eternal.
It's a moment when heaven meets earth. And you want it to last forever. It feels closer, doesn't it? It feels more real, purer, more... divine.
Today we are going to be taking a look at a story of the post-Resurrected Jesus and his disciples when they ate something together at just the right moment, and the disciples learned something incredible about resurrection...
Resurrection happens up close.
It's not far away, distant, trapped in dusty pages, or some abstract idea... it happens up close, and it happens... all the time.
Put yourself in the shoes of the disciples for a moment here. It had to be startling to experience the sudden appearance of Jesus---even if they had already been talking about the experiences of the disciples who had seen him already.
Suddenly, it's no longer a rumor, even though they all believe at first that he's some kind of ghost.
He proves it to them, though. He shows his hands and feet, indicating that he was showing them the scars where the nails had gone to place him on the Cross. These indicators are a sermon all to themselves, but suffice to say it showed the disciples that there was substance to him, and the substance had memory.
But still, they did not believe "because of joy and amazement." Sounds kind of odd, right? But we've all been there before in those kinds of moments. We've all been at a place where something happens and it feels too good to be true. Now maybe it wasn't as dramatic as someone who was dead appearing in a body in front of you, but still...
Then they eat together--Jesus wants to show them something important. He eats some broiled fish, which they'd obviously prepared for their meal. And suddenly, there you have it. Materiality. Incarnation. Presence. The Resurrection is made real to them because they experience it up close.
And then all of the teachings that Jesus shared with them over the years finally make sense. Jesus "opened up their minds" and they were able to understand at last all of the things that Jesus had taught them that they were confused about. It all makes sense because there is materiality, incarnation, presence... and a meal they never forgot...
This passage teaches us something profound: You can't experience Resurrection from a distance--it's personal, tangible, material, and soaked with eternity.
Let me explain this in practical terms... We get this in ways we probably never would have before because of what we've been through over the past year.
As we begin to return to being together, hugging our loved ones, eating lunch with a friend, and eventually even doing things like coming back to church in-person... we are acutely aware of the memories of when we were last able to do all these things.
The loss of materiality, touch, closeness all of this is very real and has taken a toll on all of us. But now as we start to experience these things again---it feels amazing. We realize how much we took for granted. We see our world coming back to life.
The power of Resurrection is the power to bring Eternity to us... to bring heaven here to earth. What does that look like for you? I mean beyond COVID and quarantines...
Could it look like a new lease on life and feelings of hope for the future after a long hard struggle with depression?
Could it look like a restored relationship with someone you were close to, but drifted apart?
Could it look like financial freedom after constantly worrying about where your next paycheck would come from or if it would cover your bills?
Could it look like healing when you thought healing wasn't possible?
Could it look like finding faith again when you were sure you lost it?
Or maybe you cast a wider net for peace in our troubled world...
A return to a life without the dread of COVID...
Let me ask you, how close does it need to come before you see it?
Are you spending so much of your time and energy just trying to get through to the next thing---whatever the next thing is, that you are missing all of the ways that God is raising the dead all around you?
Because God is. This is what God does. This is what God has always done.
The reason why the meal of broiled fish got into the story isn't just because it shows the materiality of the post-Resurrected Jesus---even though that's important. The reason why the meal of broiled fish got into the story is because whenever those followers of Jesus would gather together afterward and eat broiled fish, you know they were saying something like:
This is good, but it's not as good as the fish we ate with Jesus.
Because that meal was eaten in a moment they would never forget--a moment when they stopped trying to find explanations for their fear... when they quit worrying about what was going to happen to them... and they just experienced the joy of Jesus' presence.
Beloved, look around you. There is new life everywhere if you are willing to look for it, and most of the time you don't have to look very far.
Resurrection happens up close.
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