Rev Philip Liebelt came to St John’s as minister in November 2014. A South Australian, Philip studied there and was ordained in 1990. Previously he had been a teacher, a specialist in Drama, teaching in country and city, public and private schools, including two years as Principal of a Christian School at Kerang in Victoria. Philip has had ministerial placements in city and country Uniting Churches, mainly in Victoria, although his first placement was in Canberra. He has also had two regional education positions.
He came to Elsternwick, after 7 years as Presbytery Minister: Mission and Education in the Presbytery of Gippsland.
Philip has a passion for community development, education and helping churches explore new ways of being church. One of his primary tools in ministry is storytelling. Whilst he tells stories of all types, he has particular experience as a Biblical Storyteller: since 1998 he has told 90 minutes of stories from Luke’s gospel; for 12 years he was national co-ordinator of the Network of Biblical Storytellers Australia; he has had a study book published using storytelling to explore parables in Luke’s gospel; and his M.Ed. thesis was on Biblical Storytelling as a transformational pedagogy of Faith Education in a Post-Literate age.
“Eating with Jesus at Easter Time”
Jesus spent his final hours, before his arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial, eating a meal with his disciples. He celebrated the Jewish Passover with them, but turned it into a remembrance of him, and a command to them to continue to break bread and drink wine in memory of him.
Christians today often celebrate the Thursday before Good Friday (Maundy Thursday) with a meal, sometimes a Seder meal or even a Passover, but with the communion as part of it.
During his ministry a lot was achieved by Jesus at meal tables, which he shared with all manner of people – sinners and outcasts, women, Pharisees and other religious leaders, and of course his disciples and other followers. These meal times were often times of teaching, healing, forgiveness, challenge and conflict.
A number of these elements were present at the Last Supper, as denial, betrayal, desertion, challenge about seeking greatness, and the future were in the conversation amongst the dinner guests.
After Jesus’ resurrection, meals again featured in the occasions that the risen Jesus revealed himself to his followers. Think of the revelation of Jesus to the two on the road to Emmaus, at their home when they reached their destination. It was only in the breaking of bread that they recognised him – not in his appearance, and not in his stories of prophecy from the Hebrew scriptures.
When he gathered with the disciples behind closed doors, the risen Lord asked for food to eat, to indicate that they were not seeing a ghost.
Another mealtime resurrection appearance was on the beach at Galilee, when he beckoned them in from the boat and had a barbecue fish breakfast waiting for them. (There is something very Australian about that idea, given how we love to camp at Easter time.) On that occasion Peter was the first to recognise, from the boat, that it was Jesus on the shore. It was also the occasion that Jesus reminded Peter that he had denied him three times before his crucifixion. But gently, Jesus gave Peter the commission – “feed my sheep.” Peter would go on to be a leader of the early church, after Jesus went back into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to equip his followers for their new task.
It is interesting that the one way many people will be remotely connected with the Easter story at this time, is through eating. They may have some vague notion that they are having four days off work because of the Christian celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection – whatever these mean. They will cheerfully eat a hot cross bun (which they have been doing since the day after Christmas, one might add), hardly giving a moment’s thought to why there is a cross on the bun. (We eat the same bun for nine months of the year, without a cross on it.)
Enjoying an Easter egg, is probably less likely to provide any sort of connection for them. A symbol of new life, the egg may also remind us of the empty tomb; but probably not for most people. Add a rabbit into the mix, and there is no hope of people understanding the connection with the first Easter events.
At least may I encourage you as you munch on a bakery delight, or get messy with chocolate, to pause and reflect on what difference Jesus’ death and resurrection does or might mean to you today. Knowing how much Jesus enjoyed eating, I am sure he is happy to see us getting pleasure at of such food.
If you have the opportunity to celebrate Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday or Easter Sunday, may it truly be a moment of remembrance for you. Remembrance of what Jesus had done for you. You might offer a prayer too that the world might also come to the realisation that the Easter events can make a big difference to the way we live our lives.