Luke 24:35-48, Confirmations & Admission to Holy Communion
…and that Holy Spirit will be given to you, that you may be witnesses, that you will have the strength and the confidence and the gifts that you need to go out into the world and to be ambassadors and evangelists for the Risen Christ.
So brothers and sisters, as we said at the beginning of our celebration this morning, we are here on the third Sunday of Eastertide. We’re still very near the beginning of this great 50 day season of rejoicing and celebration as we keep the resurrection of our lord in the forefront of our minds and hearts. But the gospel reading that we’ve just heard takes us back to Easter day itself to the evening of the very first Easter day. And it follows on from the reading that we had last Sunday, the story of the disciples walking on the way to Emmaus where, if you remember, they are accompanied by a mysterious stranger who walks with them and unfolds to them, explains to them all that has happened in the light of the scriptures when they reach Emmaus the two invite the stranger to come and eat with them.
And in the breaking of the bread, they realise and recognise that it is the risen Lord.
And unsurprisingly, those two disciples, Cleopas and his companion, are so full of excitement and full of the wonderful thing that they have experienced that they head straight back to Jerusalem to tell the others. And that’s where today’s gospel picks up the story. Because when those two who had met the risen lord on the road to Emmaus, when they are reunited with the other disciples in Jerusalem later on that same evening, what happens? Jesus is once again in their midst.
The risen lord appears beside them and among them and speaks to them the words with which we began this mass this morning, Jesus says, Peace be with you. Peace be with you. The greeting of the risen Lord to the disciples on the first Easter day. Peace be with you. The words which bring us together as the people of God for this mass and in this place and Jesus then goes on to say to them, It is I, it is I.
Because unsurprisingly, the disciples are unbelieving and astonished that the Lord is with them once again.
St. Luke then takes us through this little conversation, this little exchange between our risen Lord and the disciples. And the point of the conversation is to demonstrate, to prove, if you like, that this is no ghost. It’s not just a spectre or a Spirit standing with the disciples. It is the Lord in the flesh, bearing the wounds of the cross and yet transformed, transfigured living already the life of heaven.
This is very important for us as Christians, because as we try to comprehend the mystery of the resurrection, the mystery of Easter, we need to understand that this is not just about a corpse being resuscitated. It’s not about, as we’ve heard this morning, the appearance of a spirit or a ghost.
It is about Jesus Christ who was dead and who is now alive, alive with the life of heaven that transformed, that transfigured humanity, which is the gift to us of the gospel, which is the gift to us of the new life in Christ, which we begin when we are baptised.
And as he did when he was walking along on the road to Emmaus with those two disciples, Jesus does something very important. He explains again to the disciples that all they had read in the scriptures, in the prophets, in what we call our Old Testament, everything in the in the writings of the people of God had all been to prepare the way for him to prepare for his coming, for his suffering and for his resurrection.
So I wonder if you noticed there and think back again to that house in a mass. I wonder if you notice what Saint Luke is very, very skilfully doing for us. We have the presence of the risen Lord. We have food in this case. It’s a piece of grilled fish and we have teaching and the exposition of the scriptures. Does it sound familiar? Hearing and understanding the scriptures, eating and drinking together in the presence of the risen. Lord Jesus here with us now, it’s a little description, isn’t it, of the Eucharist, of the Mass.
It tells us that we are doing what those first disciples did. We are meeting with the Risen Christ as we take bread and wine together, which are his body and blood, and as we listen to the word of God in the scriptures and seek to understand God’s purposes, speaking through us, through his living word, this brothers and sisters is the Easter experience. We are the Easter people and we are living today the mystery of the risen Lord appearing to those first disciples.
But of course, it doesn’t just end there.
And this is where things become so important in the light of the confirmation today. This morning, the risen lord says to those disciples on that first Easter evening, you are witnesses. You are my witnesses. You are witnesses to all this. You are witnesses to my suffering, death and resurrection.
And so what we learn from that is that the encounter with the risen Lord, the encounter with the presence of Jesus through word and sacrament always has consequences. We’re not simply to say that we have met Christ, that we know about Christ, that we’ve read about him in the Bible. We’re not even simply to say that we adore him in the Blessed Sacrament. We are to be his witnesses. Witnesses are people who tell the truth. Yes. So we have to speak about what we have seen and heard and what we believe as a witness in a trial will be there to speak the truth.
But it’s more even than that. We are to be witnesses by the lives that we lead as the people of God, as the church. We are to be witnesses for the truth of the resurrection, witnesses for the power and the presence of the risen Christ by our examples, by what we say, by what we do, by how we serve in the name of the Lord. And this brings us, as I’ve said to Confirmation when you come forward today, candidates to receive this great sacrament, the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit, who came upon the first disciples at Pentecost, will be given to you to strengthen you, to enable you to become mature disciples of the risen Lord, to enable you to take your place, your full place in the body of Christ, which is his church.
And that Holy Spirit will be given to you, that you may be witnesses, that you will have the strength and the confidence and the gifts that you need to go out into the world and to be ambassadors and evangelists for the Risen Christ. Confirmation is often called the sacrament of Pentecost because it’s all about being strengthened to be sent, to be sent into the world, to be the people of God. That is, of course, the vocation of the whole church.
It’s the vocation of all of you here today. It’s a special moment for those being Confirmed. But all of you here today are called in order to be sent to go out into the world and tell others about what you believe and about what you have received. It’s marvellous to be sitting here today and to see so many people in this church, a sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed at work here. And my prayer is that those of you who are newly Confirmed, but all of you will come here to listen to the word of God and be nourished by it to meet Christ in the sacrament and be strengthened by that encounter, to know that the risen Lord is with you and in the midst of you.
But above all, then to be sent back through that door where the sunshine is pouring in to be Christ for the people of this parish and this community. So may you be strengthened by these Easter sacraments to be an Easter people.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.