See the Presence of the Resurrection Promise

A Sermon for Easter 3: Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17, 1 Peter 1:17 23, Luke 24:13-35

For 60 years, a mysterious unnamed monk has wandered around the world protecting an ancient scroll that holds the key to unlimited power. It is time for the Monk to find a new scroll keeper. The unnamed monk is inadvertently saved by Kar, a streetwise young man whose only interest is himself. They become reluctant partners as they and an equally hesitant Russian mob princess, known as Bad Girl, struggle to find, face, and fight the ultimate enemy, in a harrowing effort to save the world from the scroll’s most avid pursuer (IMDB). At the heart of the story is an ancient prophecy that the protector of the scroll is revealed as one fighting for justice while cranes circled overhead, fighting for love under a palace of jade, and rescuing friends he never met with family he never knew he had.

The Monk is looking for a situation that was the same as when he became the scroll’s guardian 60 years ago when his mentor is killed, by the evil man who pursues the scroll today. He realizes fulfilling the prophecy will be different when he recognizes that the Palace of Jade is Jade, otherwise known as Bad Girl; that the cranes overhead are the construction cranes above the site of the final battle for control of the scroll where Kar defeats the evil man seeking the scroll to use its power for selfish purposes, while Jade frees other monks who were imprisoned and left to die by the scroll’s ultimate enemy, thus rescuing friends with family she never knew. The Nameless Monk sees that the prophecy is being fulfilled, just in ways that he could never have imagined, and he passes along the scroll’s hidden secret and its guardianship to Kar and Jade (Wikipedia).

Jesus is dead; crucified by the Romans at the behest of Jewish officials. The same day that Mary discovers the empty tomb, two of Jesus’ disciples (or should we say former disciples) are walking to Emmaus. They walked through the valley of death. Their lives and hopes are in utter shambles (Hoch). Along the way, they meet a stranger. We will always wonder if they did not recognize him because they were so busy looking elsewhere, or if their eyes, like Pharaoh’s heart, were hardened (Ellingsen). Everything they had experienced or been taught made it almost impossible for them to imagine God’s work in Jesus crucified (Lose).

The stranger doesn’t know about Jesus’ death. Cleopas and his traveling partner wonder how was it possible that there is anyone who didn’t know what had happened to Jesus. That his followers, had not just lost the one they loved, but also the one who was going to restore David’s Kingdom, throw the Romans out and make life worth living (Whitley). To Jesus’ disciples, this was headline news. But to most of the people, it might have been casual news. It was really nothing more than another Roman crucifixion. And those happen all the time (Hoezee). Regardless of their questions, they share all of their story. A story that reveals that their expectations were that Jesus was the hoped for a prophet; Moses’ successor (Luke 24:19) (Harrelson). Their expectations show us their lack of awareness of who Jesus’ really was. When their story is over, Jesus shares with them a summary of the whole of Jewish history and religious thought. His teaching offered them a new lens for engaging Scripture, although they could not recognize it; at least not yet (Gaventa and Petersen).

At the end of their journey, the disciples offer the traditional but not expected hospitality, and invite Jesus to stay. At dinner, Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and gives to them. The disciples remember the taking, giving thanks, breaking and giving bread and fish when Jesus feed 5000 out in the country (Luke 9:16). They remember Jesus taking, giving thanks, breaking and giving the bread at the last Passover meal (Luke 22:17) (Hoezee). Jesus’ actions at the dinner table in at Emmaus provokes powerful memories. The guest becomes the host (Culpepper). Luke tells us that these words and gestures open their eyes and that they recognized Jesus (Gaventa and Petersen; Whitley). Allan Culpepper notes that Aristotle taught that recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge; it can lead to either to friendliness or to hostility; recognition determines the direction for good or ill the futures of those involved (Culpepper). For the disciples recognizing Jesus allows then to see a whole new future.

Immediately after this, Jesus disappears. Dinner is over. The inspired disciples head back to Jerusalem.

You know all about this Emmaus journey (Epperly). Every day, you walk some form a road that you are uncertain about. You wonder about your destinations or are perhaps you are concerned about your future, about our future. You know from the Emmaus story that every day Jesus meets you on your road, in the ordinary places and experiences of your lives, in the in-between moments of your lives, and in the places where you retreat to when life is just too much (Culpepper). The question is: Are our hearts, ears, and eyes open? Can we see the world not constrained by our presumptions? Will we be able to see beyond the limits of our betweenness (Lewis, Betweenness) Will we be able to find composure when we are distraught? Will we be able to be calm when we are frantic? Will we be able to recognize safety and hope when we are desperate? Will we be assured or re-assured when we are distracted, (Hoezee)? The deepest question is: Do we trust our faith stories enough to be really honest with ourselves and name our pains, our grief, our losses. Do we trust our faith stories enough, to know that naming our pains, our grief, and our losses allows God/Jesus/Spirit to empower us to transcend them so that they can no longer define us (Lose)?

The disciples knew their faith stories of Moses and the prophets. You know your faith story and the promise that you are heirs to Jesus’ resurrection. The disciples saw Jesus take, bless, break, and share when he feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish (Luke 9:16). They saw Jesus take, bless, break and give at their last Passover supper (Luke 22:17). You share in taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing, in every Eucharist. You have everything going for you, that the disciples had going for them.

Actually, you have more, because our faith story is very clear that God is not static, not bound by yesterday’s revelations or the church’s creeds, scriptures and structures.
God is alive, on the move, doing new things and sharing new insights with people, with us all the time (Epperly).

The unnamed monk knew the possibilities of his guiding prophecy through ancient traditions. That knowledge shaped how he saw the world. Only when he is able to let go of what he thought, he is able to see that the prophecy is different in today’s world and then he is able to recognize cranes over the fight for justice, the house of Jade, and the one rescuing unknown friends with undiscovered family. Only when the disciples were able to let go of Moses, and the prophets are they were able to see that take, bless, break and give reveals the new hope. It is only when we are able to let go of what we were, or think we were, that we will be able to see the presence of the resurrection promise, in this moment, that offers new life and new hope.


References

Culpepper, R. Alan. New Interpreter’s Bible Luke. Vol. 8. Abbington, 2015. 12 vols. Olive Tree App.

Ellingsen, Mark. Lectionary Scripture Notes. 30 4 2017. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.

Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 30 4 2017. 12. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.

Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.

Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.

Hoch, Robert. Commentary on Luke 24:1335. 30 4 2017. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.

Hoezee, Scott. Easter 3A Luke 24:13-35 . 30 4 2017. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/advent-3c/?type=the_lectionary_gospel&gt;.

IMDB. Bulletproof Monk. n.d. 28 4 2017. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245803/&gt;.

Lewis, Karoline. “Dear Working Preacher Betweenness.” 23 4 2017. Working preacher.

—. Dear Working Preacher What Things? 30 4 2017. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4706 1/3>.

Lose, David. Easter 3 A: Dashed Hopes and Surprising Grace. 30 4 2017.

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

Whitley, Katerina. Seeing through Doubt, Easter 3(A). 30 4 2017. <http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/&gt;.

Wikipedia. Bulletproof Monk. n.d. 28 4 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulletproof_Monk&gt;.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despair, recognition, sacrament

A sermon for Easter 3 

Acts 2:14a, 36-41, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35, Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

 

It was done, finished. Months of hard work, disparu; weeks of carefully crafted questions, and assiduous listening, kaput; days of creative endeavor vanished; hours of negotiation within the company and with the customer extinct. Walking in the door he noticed unfamiliar workmen, running far too familiar cable. The simple question “What’s going on?” lead to the customer revealing they’d decided his company wasn’t delivering as promised; and they’d moved on. In a week, they’d be returning his company’s system as the contract allowed. He had hoped, everyone had hoped, this would be the break into a heretofore inaccessible market. Not now. It was done, finished. And he does, as I have done, as I expect you have done, when all is lost, he leaves, and heads back down the road, from whence he came. 

And so to the disciples, are heading back down the road from whence they’d come sometime ago. As had so many others, they had hoped this intenerate rabbi would be the longed hoped for, prayed for, messiah, who would drive the Romans out, and reestablish David’s throne. But Friday he was crucified; and now all that’s gone. 

So they are head back down the road. Perhaps they hoped leaving it all behind, and staying away from the places they seen and heard Jesus would mitigate their grief. So far, not so much, their grief was everywhere [i] or at least their experiences kept popping up, and so they talked about everything. Perhaps in time they would return to Jerusalem, perhaps they could follow the psalmist lead and go to the Temple, the home of God on earth, to pray and offer sacrifice that God would hear the distressed cry of his chosen people. [ii] For now, they talked. 

Then there is this stranger with them. He asks what they are talking about, and with some incongruity they wonder where he’s been but recount the last several days including Jesus’ death, and tales of an empty tomb. “Foolish” he replies, and then continues to speak with wisdom they never heard, but rings of truth so vaguely familiar. We’ve no idea how long the conversation goes on. But when the disciples get to where they are going the stranger continues, it’s an act of politeness, you never impose yourself. [iii] In a reciprocating act of hospitality the disciples invite the stranger to stay with them, and to share dinner. At dinner the stranger becomes the host he reaches for the bread: takes it, gives thanks, breaks it, and give it to them. Then nearly simultaneously

      • they recognize Jesus,
      • they wondered why they didn’t on the road as he spoke with such revealing wisdom,
      • Jesus vanishes, and
      • they get up and sprint back to Jerusalem; [iv] covering that dark and dangerous road in a whole new light.

When they get there before customary greetings can be exchanged, before they can say anything, the other disciples blurt out: Jesus appeared to Simon; and in reply they share: He revealed himself to us in the breaking of the bread.

In the opening gambit, I referred to C.S Lewis’ effort to escape grief by staying away from things that remind you of your grief, only to discover grief is everywhere. Fredrick Buechner wrote:

Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred.

There is great hope in knowing that Jesus comes to us on our Emmaus roads, no matter our grief, Jesus is there, Jesus is everywhere.

And there is a lot to be learned about in this story:

      • strength that comes from sharing similar experiences; [v]
      • how divine presence, divine transcendence is always fleeting, always at the edge of our perception; [vi]
      • about the primacy to go, and
      • how all this is made known to those of us who are not first-hand witnesses, which is pretty much everyone not 2000 years old.

But this morning I’m intrigued by the stranger.

From cultures all over the world there are stories of people “entertaining angles unawares.” [vii] In scripture Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and others all are unknowingly in God’s presence, [viii] so the disciples are in good company. This divine stranger theme teaches us that God’s or Jesus’ or the Spirit’s presence is never coerced. Our coming to recognize the divine, our moving from ignorance to knowledge, from unawares to perception, [ix] is always through revelation. [x] Fred Craddock writes:

[It’s] After instruction in Scripture [that’s Jesus talking on the road] and the Lord’s Supper, the two disciples recognize Jesus. Christ [always] appears to disciples, not to unbelievers. [xi]

He continues:

The meal begins with an act of hospitality, an invitation to a stranger [Jesus]  …  it is the presence of Christ at a table opened to a stranger which transforms an ordinary supper into the sacrament.  [xii]

 The psalm speaks about going to the Temple to be in God’s presence. Though it always been an element in scripture, the Emmaus road story tells us we can meet Jesus, we can be in Jesus’ presence anywhere,  any ordinary, or out of the way place, in the guise of any stranger, perhaps every stranger, perhaps anyone.

You are used to hearing me transition from the offering to communion saying:

This is the Lord’s Table; all those so called are welcome to encounter our risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.

In part I am inviting the stranger to table with us, just as the disciples invite the stranger to table with them. But I never know who in the congregation Jesus is. I never know who transforms our simple gathering into a sacrament.

All of this is reshaping my thinking about evangelism just a bit. For while it is about sharing our experience, evangelism is also about hearing the other’s experience of the divine. Such an exchange strengthens, perhaps transforms our relationship with God. Evangelism is about always seeking our risen, living, though transitory Lord and God.

For, we never know who

      • takes us into their heart
      • thanks God for us
      • breaks us away from corruption of worldly ways of death and
      • gives us to a hurting and longing world.

 


 

[i]Scott Hoezee,  cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php, This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Next sunday is May 04, 2014 Luke 24:13-35
[ii] Author: Doug Bratt , cep.calvinseminary.edu http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php, This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching Next sunday is May 04, 2014 Psalm 116: 1-4, 12-19 
[iii] R. ALAN CULPEPPER, The New Interpreter’s Bible, THE GOSPEL OF LUKE INTRODUCTION, COMMENTARY, AND EFLECTIONS
[iv] Fred B. Craddock, Interpretation,  LUKE, A BIBLE COMMENTARY FOR TEACHING AND PREACHING, James Luther Mays, Editor,  Patrick D. Miller, Jr., Old Testament Editor, Paul J. Achtemeier, New Testament Editor
[v] Richard Swanson Luke 24:13-35 Commentary by Richard Swanson – Working Preacher – Preaching This Week (RCL), http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1992 1/3, RCL|Narrative|Evangelio|Index, Commentary on Luke 24:13-35, 4/28/2014 
[vi] Culpper, IBID 
[vii] Hebrews 13:2 
[viii] Culpepper, ibid 
[ix] ibid 
[x] Craddock, ibid
[xi] ibid
[xii] ibid

Emmaus

I am intrigued by the Emmaus road story. It’s full of all kinds of potential. So I had the brilliant idea to google “walking down the road” for lyrics as a place to begin, plenty of choices, none particularly good starting place; so I tried “walking down the street” more opportunities, no better starting points. So I’m going back to stumble forward.

Last Sunday’s Gospel was another Gospel lesson from John, what’s that 4 of the last 5, in a year of Matthew? Oh well.  When you peel away all the doubting stuff, you find a journey story, as the disciples move from unbelief to belief, and later Thomas moves from unbelief to belief. In effect it’s a road trip story. Sunday’s Gospel from Luke (are ever going to get to Matthew?) is also a road trip story, a journey down the road, also a journey from unbelief to belief.

In years past I’ve focused on Jesus being made known in the breaking of the bread, and the importance that has for Eucharist centered churches. A part of that story is the intimacy of the table and potential such intimacy imbues.  This morning I am draw to a similar potential imbued by intimacy unique to long journeys.

On several occasions on a road trip of a few to several hours I‘ve experienced space and time in which all (well for safety sake most) of the world fades away and you are in singular relationship with a traveling partner. On one such occasion my wife and I got into a fierce discussion about different wall in different houses my parents lived in; on other occasions discussions lead to inspired realization, mostly about myself, born risk only possible in singular intimacy.

It’s the first day of the week, everything that has happened is either exuberant rumor, Jesus is risen, or raw truth, Jesus is crucified. To discuss either is full of risk. Nonetheless when a stranger joins these two disciples, they engage in risky conversation. As a result they come to inspired realizations. My sense is those realizations inspired them to take more risk and invite a stranger to join them at table where they come to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

I am sure you trust in the transforming power of sharing Eucharist. I am sure you invite others to join you. But I wonder if we are willing to engage strangers on the intimate journey that give rise to inspired realization?

Emmaus is a story of coming to know Jesus. It’s also a calling to walk with another sharing the Good News of our risen Lord and God.