Saturday, June 21, 2014

According To Luke: Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35    (NRSV)
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Movies are a funny thing --- or at least movie releases are.

Ideas seem to run in cycles and Hollywood proceeds to run that cycle to death.

Right now we seem to be in another Superhero cycle.

Superhero's seem to be the rage with the new Spiderman movie being released this weekend.

And who is not intrigued by supernatural powers?

Children and adults are fascinated with the idea of tapping into something beyond ourselves ---
          something greater
          something more powerful
          something beyond the ordinary

For some of you --- who are a little older than me --- it was Little Orphan Annie's secret decoder ring

For me it was Star Trek and then Star Wars

And even as adults --- we seem to want to believe that there is more --- maybe something hidden --- in life and if we can just tap into it --- it will help us fulfill our destiny.

Think of the things that fascinate us
          The ability to communicate with our deceased loved ones

Who of us can't claim to have some experience where we are able to communicate with someone mysteriously?

My mother has told the story of waking up one night and being visited by Jim King --- the name means nothing to you --- but Jim was the friend of my parents who --- when my dad was debating whether to marry my mom, sat him down and told him to do it.

My mother says she was awoken one night and Jim was there.  He said he came to say goodbye --- the strange thing was --- my parents got a call the next morning that Jim had died that evening.

Around the time my brother died I had numerous bizarre --- yet comforting experiences.

Experiences that strengthened my trust in God and God's goodness --- but they were clearly experiences that were supernatural.

There is a great story about a man who had asked his wife to balance the checkbook ---- He came home after she had worked all day making sure everything was in order in the check register.

Everything was neatly recorded
          Grocery story
          Church tithe
          and many, many others
But what caught his attention was one entry that was listed simply as ESP $24.21

He asked her what ESP was
          "Error some place" she replied

I am sure that we all have a hope that there is something out there
          a force
          a power
something that is there that is trying to help improve our lives.

Isn't that one of the main reasons that we participate in a church?

But unfortunately ---- I think that for most of the world today they see the church as the last place to find that mysterious power.
So instead they turn to "Palm Readers", Tarot Cards or other spiritualists who will guide them on their journey.

But Easter is the story that there is something more.

That is the message of the Emmaus Road story.

I find all of the resurrection stories difficult and perplexing --- when I try to understand it rationally --- I get stuck.

Think about the stories for a second

Shari did a great job last week sharing the story of the first Easter according to John.

In John's Gospel
          Mary & women come to tomb --- don't recognize Jesus
          Jesus shows himself to all the disciples (but Thomas is not there)
          Thomas won't believe Jesus is alive until he sees the holes in his body
          Disciples go back to the Galilee
                   Out fishing all night
                             stranger appears on shore
                   None of the disciples recognize Jesus

I am saying to myself --- they just SAW him in Jerusalem --- how in the world could they not recognize him when he meets them on the shore.

I don't understand??

Our story in Luke is equally perplexing.

Two weeks ago we shared the story of Easter morning According to Luke.

Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women came to the tomb early in the morning to prepare the body for proper burial --- because in their minds --- JESUS WAS DEAD

When they get to the tomb they find that they tomb was open --- the stone blocking the entrance had been rolled away.

But they did not find the body of Jesus.

Instead they encountered "two men in dazzling clothes".

They have no idea who the men are --- angels? maybe?

And they tell the women:
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

Remembering what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection they ran back to tell all the others --- but Luke tells us that they thought that they women were crazy.

Right after this we get our story this morning.

Two people --- obviously followers of Jesus --- are walking away from Jerusalem --- but we do not know who they are. 

One of them is named: Cleopas --- the other is often presumed to be his wife ---- but we really don't know.

They were involved in a very serious conversation about all that had been taking place the last few days.
The Greek word implies that it was a rather hot conversation.

And in the middle of this conversation suddenly a stranger appears.
And to me this is the curious thing --- they have NO IDEA who it is

The conversation continues with this stranger and they share with him all that has taken place --- even saying that there are rumors that Jesus might be alive

Then this stranger begins to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures to show how Jesus had to suffer before he could enter into his glory.

They invite the stranger to stay with them and eat the evening meal.

And as they share in table hospitality the recognize Jesus --- and as soon as he does he vanishes from them.

If that isn't a weird story --- I don't know what is

But the question is ---- what is the point?

Why do we have this story in our Bible?

A couple of things come to mind

1.       Easter cannot be reduced to a creed or philosophy (despite the fact that we try desperately to do just that)

The church for 2,000 years has told us to just believe --- but that is not the point of this encounter with Jesus

Easter isn't something that we are just supposed to BELIEVE.

Easter is an invitation for us to meet the resurrected Jesus.

We move from saying I believe in Jesus to saying I have met the risen Jesus and he is STILL ALIVE!

The second thing this story wants us to do is to move our faith into the present tense.

Two persons were walking along the road sharing all that had just happened.  They are saying to themselves: "We HAD hoped . . ."

But Jesus comes to them in the present.

Do you remember the 1990's fad bracelets among youth that featured prominately the initials W.W.J.D.

It stood for What Would Jesus Do and the phrase actually comes from Charles Sheldon's 1896 novel In His Steps.

The novel was based on a series of sermons that Sheldon had delivered to his Congregationalist Church in Topeka Kansas.

It is the story of a church transformed when people began to ask: "What would Jesus do?" because the people wanted to do what they believed Jesus would do if he were there.

It's an interesting question --- but it is the wrong question.

The question should not be: "What would Jesus do IF he were here?"

We are an Easter people --- we have met the risen Christ and we KNOW that he is here!

Jesus is that guiding force in our lives if only we would pay attention and listen.

The question that we need to be asking today is: WHAT ARE YOU DOING JESUS?, AND HOW CAN I BE A PART OF IT?"

If we began asking that question --- and were willing to live accordingly it would change the world --- it surely would change each of us!

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