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Tears

Luke 24:36b-48

The Rev. Jon Roberts

29 April

2012

Grace Episcopal Church

Monroe, LA

36 As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. 37 But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.”[b] 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

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Christ Jesus, The Good Shepherd, 3rd C. fresco,
catacombs of St. Callixtus, Rome

Where streams of living water flow,
One will find the King of love;
His goodness faileth never.[1]

Easter is a time for rejoicing. It is a time for healing, and it is a time for loving. Here beside the rocky banks of life, lies a season of peace. It is a place that is fertile and rich. It is a green pasture in which we grow.
A stream of living water once flowed along the rocky bank of a small town in West Virginia;
back in a time when war had been waged across the sea.
back in a time when the economy was poor.
back in a time when families were struggling.

Many of the children who grew up in this time and place had to grow up quick. They had to be tough. The boys often got into fights with each other, but all in all, they worked out their problems on the sandlot. Fists eventually turned into handshakes. When the summer was over they all returned to school. On the first day, to their surprise, they learned they were going to have a new teacher. One right out of college, no less. He was young. He was inexperienced, so they thought and most importantly he was all theirs to do with what they wanted. To them, he was just a rookie.

The young teacher stood by his desk, watching as most of the boys took their seat. Before he could say, “Hello, my name is…” three boys strolled in, walked by him and gave him a nasty look. They were tough on the outside and took their time. When he saw they were ready he said, “Let’s get started.” “First of all”, he said, “we need to establish some rules.” “Oh this should be good”, muttered one of the boys in the back. “OK, what are they?” the teacher asked. This stunned the classroom and one student raised his hand and asked, “What do you mean?” “Well, I can’t teach a class without proper rules in place, and seeing that you have little respect for me, by the way you greeted me, I assume you want to make the rules yourself.” There was shifting in the seats. Some didn’t know what to say. Slowly, one boy raised his hand, “How about longer recess.” With that reply all the classroom nodded with deep satisfaction. The teacher, wrote it up on the chalkboard. Another hand went up. “No kicking others on the playing field.” It went on the board. “No spitting in someone’s face; “No stealing”; the list grew. The teacher then interjected, “What about consequences? What do you do if someone breaks the rules? How will they be punished?” Blurting it out quickly, one boy said, “Ten lashes with the belt.” He felt the stares, of those who knew he spoke out of personal experience. “Ok,” said the teacher, “ten lashes with the belt.”

It seemed to be working for the first couple of weeks. The boys stayed within the boundaries of the rules in fear of being the first one to be humiliated by the punishment. And then it happened. Returning from an extended recess, one declared, “Someone stole my lunch. “It was in my desk and now it’s gone.” After a thorough search, the brown paper bag indeed was discovered. It was balled up and pushed back in the desk belonging to the youngest. It was then placed on the desk for the perpetrator to observe with all the rest. The desk belonged to little Matthew. He sat there quietly, looking down at the bag and then to the floor. What were they to do? He was the smallest of them all. He was the poorest of them all and they all knew the reason why he took it; because each day he was never given anything to eat. His hunger was something they could all relate, and try as they may, they couldn’t overlook the rule. As the teacher asked him to come forward, they began to shake their heads in disapproval.

That’s when the biggest and the toughest boy in the class, whom they called, “King”, spoke out. “This isn’t right. Can’t we let it go,” he asked the teacher? The teacher reminded them that the rule must be followed. There must be punishment. The teacher reminded them further that they made the rule and had to live by it or else none of the rules would stand in the future. It was a solemn procession, as Matthew walked before his peers to the front of the class. He stopped briefly to hand the balled up lunch bag to the boy whom he had stolen it from. Facing the rest of the class, he grabbed hold of the front desk, and bent over, assuming the position. The teacher took the belt in hand, and was about to proceed, when “King”, spoke up again: “Wait a minute.” He walked over to Matthew and said, “I can’t let you do this alone.” He stood behind him shielding his body and grabbed his hands. He then looked back and nodded to the teacher.
Years later, those boys became men and when they did, they remembered the best beating they ever saw. It was when one laid down their life for another. Tears were shed as a symbol of strength. They flowed down, from Matthew who deserved it, from King who took it, and from the Teacher who gave it. It was a time and place, in their memory, where streams of living water flowed.

It is not the intention of Easter to make you cry, or to make you sad. Instead it is a time when we are like those children who grew up and remembered that day and how it related to the one who suffered for all.[2] The tears that were streams of living water, reminding them of the goodness that comes from another. To rejoice, to heal, and to love, comes with those Easter tears; joyful tears. Through them, we know the one who laid down his life for us. We know Jesus watches over us in difficult times and that he came long ago so that he would know his own forever. Within the rules, within the wrongdoing, within the punishment, He has been not only the teacher, but also the king who took our place. Jesus shepherds us into his own and our hope is in his resurrection, where every day streams of living water flow. This is Good Shepherd Sunday when we discover who the King of love my shepherd is. Where streams of living water flow, along the rocky banks of our soul, let this Easter be your time to grow and most importantly, feel free to shed those tears.

[1] Adapted from “The King of Love my Shepherd is,” 1982 Hymnal #645.
[2] Luke 24:46

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