Posts Tagged ‘Emmaus’

This Is Weird 4-30-17

This morning’s sermon is based on the Road to Emmaus story found in Luke 24:13-35. I explore what is, to me, a quite familiar story, but wonder if it is as familiar to everyone.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

I have confession to make…sometimes pastors will reuse a sermon. This can happen for a variety of reasons…maybe a week becomes too hectic and they don’t get a new sermon prepared. Sometimes, they just said what needed to be said really well the previous time. (pause)

Now, I will say that this is not one of those times…but I have been guilty of this tactic…called recycling…in the past…and though it pains me to say it…I have done it with this very scripture.

The first time I preached on this passage, July 2012…it was towards the end of my year of internship. That congregation does not follow the lectionary as we do here at Underwood, but it came around during a sermon series and happened to fall on my week to preach…I’ll admit it…I was proud of that sermon…it was a good one.

Fast forward 3 months, and I was slated to return to my home congregation and preach…but it was a crazy week…and I…shamefully, recycled that Road Emmaus sermon…that was the fall of 2012. (pause)

Then, in 2013, I was called here to Underwood Lutheran…and my first Sunday was July 7…we moved into town on the 5th and I knew that in the craziness of the move…I would not have time to prepare a sermon…once again…shamefully…I recycled that same Road to Emmaus sermon. (pause)
Low and behold…the next spring…actually my first Confirmation Sunday as the pastor here at Underwood…the lectionary brought the Road to Emmaus back around again…now that time, I actually prepped a different sermon, so at least I’m not completely unoriginal. (pause)
Now here’s the thing…I have enough history with this particular gospel lesson in my history as a preacher…that this week, as I worked towards today’s sermon…I was convinced that this passage comes up every single year in the lectionary.  I was mistaken…but, given my personal history…its safe to say that this is a familiar passage for me…and maybe, just maybe…it’s a familiar one to you as well. (pause)
Now to put things in context…this is another post-resurrection appearance of Jesus…we’ve been having these over the course of the past few weeks as we move through the early part of the Easter Season…and so it stands to reason that we’re going to have the resurrected Jesus appearing to someone that he knows.

As I stand here, the first though that goes through my head is that we all know this story.  2 minor disciples of Jesus…followers though not among the “12” disciples…are heading home. The festival of Passover is over…the Sabbath has come and gone…and so they join the throng of faithful Jewish people heading of the city.

Now remember…even though we celebrated Easter and the Resurrection a couple weeks ago…for these two guys…its still that day…the women had just found the empty tomb and heard the angelic proclamation that morning…and a few of the men had gone and seen the tomb…but as the moment that these two guys hit the road…no one really seems to know what’s going on.  Is Jesus alive? Is he not…is there something crazy going on?  What should we do? Do we pack it all in and go back normal?

This is the state of these two guys…the man that they had followed…the man that they thought was the Messiah…the one to deliver Israel…had died…and despite some odd happenings that morning, no one seemed to know what do.  And so they walk along when another random guy starts walking with them and asks “What are you talking about?” (pause)
Now we know the rest of the story, its Jesus…they don’t recognize him for WHATVER reason…there’s a little back and forth, as these two guys are flabbergasted that he seems to be unaware of what’s been going on…asking if he’s a stranger…but then he opens up the truth of the Old Testament scriptures to them…and once they finally arrive in Emmaus, they invite him in…they all sit down together, he blesses the bread and breaks it…and BOOM…their eyes are open and they recognize the Risen Lord…and now everything makes sense to them so they hightail back to Jerusalem where they find the others and excited relay the message they have encountered the Lord and he was made known in the breaking of the bread.

That’s the story…familiar right? We’ve heard it plenty of times in the past…and combine it with the past 2 weeks’ worth of hearing about Jesus appearing in random ways to various people…and maybe, just maybe, its become a little too familiar.

I wonder if anyone else has fallen into the same trap that I have this week…thinking that EVERYONE knows this story…and like the 2 disciples…astonished that someone would have to ask “What are you talking about?”

But here’s the thing that I realized this week…not everyone knows this story…I think, this is what Jesus is modeling for us today. He approaches the two men with a question…asking them what they’re discussing…and what they’re discussing is the death of the Messiah…as well as the crazy possibility that maybe, just maybe that dead man was alive again…its crazy to them that he would ask…because apparently its all anyone in the city had been talk about since the previous Friday when Jesus had died on the cross…this is why they ask him if he’s a stranger. (pause)
But I’ll say it again…I think Jesus is modeling the stranger in our midst.  (pause) Now I’ll admit it…I live and breathe this stuff week and week out…and sometimes I forget that even regular church people aren’t as familiar with stuff as I might be…but even beyond that…there are times when I taken completely of guard and find out that someone is utterly unfamiliar with this whole story….and not just the road to Emmaus, but the gospel in general.

Granted we live in a society where, most people have in the very least, the passing idea that Jesus is somehow connected to God and that he died and that on Easter he wasn’t dead anymore…but for some…that’s pretty where understanding stops…that’s just the reality.

I came face to face with a good reminder of this through the week. I was sitting down with the high schoolers…and we read through this story…and our newest member Brandy, who is just scratching the surface of a lot of this stuff…she starting asking questions.

Wait a sec…so this is Easter right? And he had just risen? Yes.  And now he’s appearing to his friends…but they don’t recognize him? Yes. Why not? Does he look different? I don’t know…but for some reason they don’t.  Okay…but then when he finally broke the bread, and they recognize him…he disappeared? Yes. (Pause) This is weird. (pause)

Sometimes it takes someone seeing this with a fresh set of eyes to reveal very important truth.  WHATEVER IT IS, that the resurrected Jesus was up to during these various appearances…it doesn’t make a lot of sense to us…and maybe, just maybe, its not supposed to make sense.

After all…this whole gospel story is pretty off the wall isn’t it? The ultimate creator of the universe and everything in it…an entity or presence or something that we call God enters into our reality as one of us…and then God dies…and then, defying all logic…this dead man who is also God, is raised from the dead and starts popping up in random places before ultimately going back to heaven, but empowering his followers with the Spirit of God and the command to announce that somehow, someway we have been forgiven of our brokenness and through his resurrection, somehow we will be given life after death. (pause)

Sometimes I say that…and I don’t even want to believe myself…and yet…because of the power Holy Spirit…I do…and as I see a few of you nodding out there…or as I simply look out and see you gathered here today…it would seem that you believe it to.

This is the amazing thing about the gospel…this thing that shouldn’t make any sense…and in many cases…doesn’t make any sense…suddenly…does. We can’t explain why…we can’t explain how…and yet, just as the two men experienced but didn’t recognize until Christ was revealed to them…something about all this burns within us.

But today, here’s the takeaway.  We need to remember that not everyone gets it…not everyone knows it…and some have never heard it before. And so I pose this question…who is the stranger that needs us to tell them what happened? Who is the stranger that needs to hear the events that surround this dead messiah who somehow isn’t dead anymore?

I ask this question, because I think that when we miss those opportunities in our regular day to day lives…maybe we’re missing the presence of the Risen Lord.  Maybe we’re walking along, and our eyes are kept from realizing that God is at work right in front of us…or even that God is here with the stranger in our midst…just waiting for the opportunity to open up a whole world that we all get to be a part of.

So yah…this whole thing is pretty weird isn’t it?  But its also pretty wo

We Are Not Alone 5-4-14

Today’s sermon is based on Luke 24:13-35, the well known passage of the Road to Emmaus. You can listen to the sermon here:

This sermon combines not only the notion that God meets us on the road between the cross which is behind us and regular life that is before us. This sermon also brings in the notion of Confirmation, which we celebrated with 5 young people during worship.

You can follow along with the sermon text here….though note that there are a few differences between the text and what I actually said.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I do not often travel alone. In the rare instances when I go somewhere for more than a few hours, I’m usually with someone. Perhaps this comes as no great surprise to you. I’m married with two school aged kids…and as we all know, in most instances, families go along for the ride.

But not this weekend…this time around we were pulled in two different directions. You may notice that my family isn’t here this morning, because they have spent the weekend, and are still there right now, in Decorah helping my niece and God-daughter celebrate her first communion. But I, on the other hand, obviously didn’t head that direction, both because I needed to be here with you this morning, but also because of a prior engagement up in Sioux City…the Western Iowa Synod Assembly which has been in session since Friday, and will be wrapping up here quite shortly. As the pastor, attendance is pretty much mandatory, and so there was no skipping out to head to a family function.

And so last Friday I headed up to Sioux City, and I spent the night at a hotel…following the evening’s activities for assembly, I settled myself into my room, watched some tv…and one of the last thoughts that went through my head before I fell asleep was “Man it’s weird being here alone…its just weird…its weird traveling alone…” And then I konked out.

Early the next morning…6am to be exact…much too early for this self-professed night owl…I found out just how wrong I was to think that. I might have been the only person in the hotel room…but it quickly became clear that I was not…isolated.

The first thing I heard was water coming down through the pipes from upstairs…someone above me was either taking a shower, or flushing the toilet. (pause) Next, as I laid there trying to go back to sleep again, I realized just how thin the tissue paper walls were in my hotel, when my neighbor in the next room shut his door and walked past my room…I swear it sounded like he was walking right past the bed…And so between hearing things in the hallway and continuing to hear water in the pipes…and even the elevators 50 feet down the hallway…I realized that I was not…alone…Sometimes our perceptions are wrong aren’t they? I thought I was by myself…but I was…incorrect.

And that is precisely the situation that we find in today’s story. (pause) Here we are…the third week of Easter…in our reckoning Jesus was raised from the dead 14 days ago…but in today’s story, its still Easter Sunday…and truly, Easter has been a busy day…you know everything that’s happened…The women found the tomb empty…they heard from the angel…then Peter went and checked things out…and in the midst of all that, these two guys…Cleopas and his unnamed companion decide that its time to skip town.

We’re not exactly sure what has set them on their way, it could be fear as fellow disciples of Jesus that they might be caught and killed…it could also be quite simply because the Sabbath is over and they are free to walk the long distance home.

But regardless of the motivation that put them on the road, that is exactly where we find them…walking along the road, discussing the events that have been happening around Jesus…and it is quite depressing for them…and understandably so…they’ve been following Jesus…and now he’s dead…and even if the women have found the tomb empty, they themselves haven’t seen him…and as far as they know…its all over…everything they’ve been hoping for…everything they’ve been expecting is out the window.

And so they trudge along…and they are joined by a stranger who falls in with them and engages them in conversation….asking them just what’s got them so down in the dumps. (pause) Now we know who this stranger is don’t we? Jesus himself…but for whatever reason they don’t recognize him…we don’t know if their eyes are closed due to divine intervention…or because of the lack of evidence of his resurrection…or because Jesus looked different in his resurrected form…we just don’t know what causes it, but the reality of the situation is, Jesus meets them on the road…and he walks along with them…they are not alone, because God refuses to leave them alone. (pause)

This is a road that all walk…the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus…the road between the cross and our regular lives…that’s all Cleopus and the other guy were doing, moving from the cross of Jesus to their day to day lives, and God comes along side them…it doesn’t matter if they recognize him or not…because he’s there…walking with them…engaging them as they try to make sense of the cross…and as the try to understand how this new reality…this reality of a crucified Christ will affect their day to day life. (pause)

In preparation for today, which is of course a very special day in the lives of these 5 young people sitting in the front row…I gave them a task…to sit and think about their faith…to think about God and Jesus, and the commandments and the creed…to think about all the things that we’ve discussed this past year, and all the things that they’ve learned throughout the course of their lives…and then, I invited them to write about it…to create their own creed…their own statement of belief. (pause)

As I read through them, I was amazed by a trend that emerged, across the board…and that trend…that theme was the recognition that God is always with them…and that God will always be with them….not only in the times when they recognize his presence…but also when they aren’t looking…just like the two disciples in today’s story, God is walking along the road…the road between the cross and regular life with our Confirmands…and not just them…but for each and every one of us.

The day of confirmation is truly wonderful…when an individual stands before the congregation and more importantly before God to affirm the faith in which they were baptized…and I love the connection between the two…today, you will continuing the promises that were made on your behalf in your own baptism…and if you compare the two services, you’ll hear a lot of the same things. (pause)
Go ahead and pull out the insert for the service of confirmation…open it up and take a look at the promises listed there…and while you’re looking at that, listen to these words taken from the service of baptism… As you bring your child to receive the gift of baptism, you are entrusted with responsibilities: To live with them among God’s faithful people, bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, place in their hands the holy scriptures, and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that your child may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. (pause) Sound familiar? It should.

These are the promises made by parents during baptism…your parents made the same promises for you…and if you remember, the congregation joins together in those promises as well…and the within the congregation we find the fellowship modeled in today’s story…once everything has taken place, the walk with Jesus, his interpretation of the scriptures…and the sharing of the meal when their eyes are opened to recognize Jesus for who he really is…the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ…the two disciples go into fellowship with each other…and this is precisely what we are to do as well.

As we walk the road to Emmaus…the road between the cross and regular life, we can rest easy in the knowledge that Jesus himself walks with us, even in those times when we fail to recognize him…and at the same time, Jesus gives us an example of life together in fellowship. They read the scriptures, he interprets it, and they share a meal…through in a couple songs and offering and you’ve got worship don’t you?

In the breaking of the bread, Jesus identity is revealed…but he’s been there the whole time…even if they couldn’t see it. Likewise in our lives, lived together in fellowship with one another, we share in all these things…and just as the two men were compelled by the recognition of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ…we are also called to come together and proclaim our experience with those we encounter…and we never know just where it will be that we will encounter him as we walk that road…but we do…because he’s there.

And so today, on this special day, I want to share a story with you…perhaps you’ve heard it before…it is, after all very common…the story is called footprints in the sand.*

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Today is simply one day…one step along the road between the cross and your lives…but as you walk through this day, know this…whether you recognize him or not…he’s there…and you are not alone. Amen.


*Story by Margaret Fishback Powers