by Daniel T. Kerr
Grace and peace be with you.
Standing here, reading this passage reminds me that our expectations are not always our realities. That sometimes what we think we know ain’t necessarily so. That many times what we have learned has to be relearned in order for us to grow in our own faith journeys. And I’m also reminded that sometimes our own histories of relationships and fears and memories can keep us from seeing what is evidently right in front of our noses. You know the proverbial forest for the trees?
So, this passage from Luke, which follows the road to Emmaus story, shows us that the disciple’s view of their own reality really didn’t match what was right in front of them or was assured to them by Jesus before the passion. Now, do we allow our own selves to get caught in that same mode of thinking and living as those in biblical times?
You know? Jesus promised the disciples that He would be with them always. He promised them that He would return. He says it when He speaks about the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. He says it right here.
But we have a hard time; most of the time, in letting this message come through, don’t we?
Amid all the debates about what’s going on in our own little city, amid all the fighting that has gone on in the life of this denomination over the past couple of years, and amid all the times that we’ve heard the news about what’s been happening inWisconsin. It seems that the amount of rhetoric keeps getting more and more and louder and louder and more polarizing by the day. And all this in areas where we have little, if any control, over the outcomes. We sure do have a hard time listening to the quiet voice of Jesus in that upper room talking with His 11 disciples. I don’t know about you but I have a hard enough time with just what’s right in front of me. A schedule that could choke a horse. Papers to numerous to mention. Worries about what’s comin' next. I know some of you will be going to CPE, or MIC, or internship, or to your next call. That’s gotta be pretty anxious. Some of you are just worrying about getting the work done that needs to get done before more is put on your desk. Kinda makes it hard to sit and just listen. Hard to just put our trust in the words that are promised by Jesus.
But I think that sometimes we let our own worldview intrude on the world that Jesus is talkin’ about. We have a hard time filtering all out the worldviews in lieu of the views that Jesus is talkin’ about. A worldview that says buy this, and you’ll be happy. A worldview that says be this, and people will like you. A worldview that says do this, and you can live a life of ease. A worldview that says be sure and accommodate everyone’s opinion so no one gets offended. A worldview that puts the things of this world over and above the things of God. You know, it reminds me of a cartoon I saw the other day that requested changing the word “sinner” to – “Person who is morally challenged.” But Jesus says to trust Him and what He says. Jesus says that His words are true, are pure.
But, trust is a hard thing to do. We say we have it but I’m beginning to think that once we reach a certain age, trust in Christ is changed to “Trust but verify.” It reminds me of a car trip I once had with my two girls. They were pretty young, probably about 5 and 6. This was back in the days before car seats so they sat right up there in front with me. So I said to them, “Watch this” and I snapped my fingers and the windshield wipers turned on. Then I said, “Watch this” and I snapped em again and the windshield wipers turned off. Boy, the eyes of my little girls got wider and wider the more I did it. No, it wasn’t magic. You see, the switch was on the left hand side of the steering wheel where they couldn’t see it. But the point of this story is that my little girls had the trust that their father’s actions and words were true. That their father knew where the controls were. That’s what Jesus was talkin' about to His 11 disciples in that upper room. Trust – not verify, trust – and have faith.
Of course, we’re human. We’re no different than those 11 disciples sitting there. They had to see to truly believe. I’m quite sure that Thomas wasn’t the only one who doubted the veracity of Jesus’ truth. After all, wasn’t it Peter that went fishing after the crucifixion? So we’re in good company. But then Jesus comes back to them. To eat with them. To remind them of the words that He spoke to them when He was still with them. The promise as it was written in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms. Yea, we have so short a memory. Our inability to fully trust in the promises of Jesus.
But we can renew our trust. We can re-live out the promises of Jesus week after week at the communion table. We can renew our faith on a daily basis by the remembrance of our baptism. The trust in the words given to us by Jesus that we repeat here, in the sanctuary, week after week. When our schedules become overbearing, weighting us down, wearing us out, we can come to the table, here in the sanctuary, dip our hands in that baptismal pool there at the back, and be refreshed in the promise and the trust of Jesus given to us all. When the world begins to tell us that its really “get before you get got”, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, or “God helps those who help themselves”, we can come back to the word of scripture, the words that are so full of the promises of God and Christ, to filter out the conformity demands of the world in lieu of the charge that each of us has been given to live out the life that reflects the trust that Jesus puts in each of us.
I believe, my brothers and sisters, that just as Jesus came back to the disciples of His day, He comes to us each and every day. Not only in the Eucharist but in ways that we can feel but maybe can’t quite perceive. Just as Jesus came back to His disciples to reaffirm their commitment to what they saw, what they witnessed, what they heard, and what they instinctively knew all along, just as Jesus came back to them to reaffirm His commitment and promises to them, Jesus comes to us each and every day too. In ways that we let pass on by because we’re too full of the world to hear it, or see it, or experience it. But you know it’s there. It’s in the little things around us. Not in a whirlwind but in a soft and cool gentle breeze in the Spring that’s filled with the smells you get from the blooming bushes, and trees, and flowers. Speaks to you in the warm summer nights as the stars come out and you can see the glory of the Creation even in this heavily urban area. Yea, they’re still there. In the sounds of the laughter of the kids sleighing down that little hill right across the street in the winter. Yea, God is in all that. And God is good.
For me, it’s sitting on the back porch looking out over a lake in mid-Michigan as the sun begins to set on a quiet day. The way the colors mix together and then see the birds land on the water only to rise up again, seemingly effortlessly. Then the stars come out at night and you can swear you can see Heaven. It’s so bright you can read by it. I know God is in that mix too. I know that Jesus is speaking to me from somewhere up there in Heaven. I sit there and look with renewed hope that maybe I can speak the words He wants me to speak to those who are hungering for something they can hold on to but can’t quite fully express. Something they can once again believe in.
You know, it must have been like that in Jesus’ day. It must have been like that when the disciples saw Jesus being carried up into heaven. It must have been. Maybe if we could’ve just been there that day, that day that Jesus walked with His disciples after His crucifixion, maybe if we could’ve heard Him personally, that all this would seem so much more real and give us the courage to realize the power that He has given to us to speak His words to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Getting the blessing that Jesus gave personally to his disciples.
But I read this passage and I think, Jesus is talking to me. Jesus is walking with me. Jesus is talking to you. Jesus is walking with you now. As sure as I’m standing here, the Gospel of Luke is written for us, to give us strength, to give us courage. To give us the blessings to go out and make disciples of all nations. After all, I think, why would it have been written? Why would it have been included? So I think, maybe we can all reread this passage with a new light, a new source of renewal, a new blessing. You see Jesus has come. He is risen. And he has risen for me, for you, for all of those with whom we’re charged by the power of the Holy Spirit in ministering to, in shepherding to, in spreading the good news of that resurrection to. You see Jesus has already shown us in this Gospel by Luke that we too have the blessings to move into areas that need His promise. No matter our circumstance. Jesus says that it’s only He that has risen from the dead, has power over death, not us and not anything we can do. That’s His promise. That’s what this passage is directed to. That’s what the disciples ultimately counted on. That’s where we can put our trust. In that promise. In that good news.
Brothers and sisters, this passage talks of the promise to us that Jesus has come, Jesus was crucified, Jesus is risen. This passage says that we can put our trust in the truth and the light that is Jesus Christ. This passage says that by putting our trust in the life and the words of Christ, we will be blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ promises that we can move to a state of euphoric joy in sharing this Good news with anyone and everyone we meet regardless of the consequences because of our trust in Him. He did come back to His disciples and He has come back for us too. Christ words of promise were true then and His promises are true now. Christ promises to all of us that we can trust He is with us at all times and in all circumstances. He promises this to us all.