Tag: Easter 3A

Burning hearts and broken bread

Sermon, Easter 3A, Sunday April 30, 2017

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognising him.

17 He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’

19 ‘What things?’ he asked.

‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’

25 He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. 29 But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.

Some people want me to believe that they are not searching for God or any spiritual experience. I don’t believe them.

People are searching for something or someone to trust in, even if ‘God” is in the form of satisfactory and satisfying answers to life’s many questions.

We are all a lot like those people walking and talking on the road to Emmaus that afternoon. Like us, they had lots of questions, and they knew what it was to lose someone precious and promised.

Many people either forthrightly believe that Christianity is over and God is dead and live accordingly.

Others have some vague sense that there is some kind of Deity that controls the world but can’t ever seem to have any confidence in knowing this ‘God” as anything more than a spiritual force.

Others have known that this Deity is a person whom they have known in their past (maybe at Sunday School or school or home when a child), and still know to some degree now. But the goings on of life, their suffering, and many other concerns somehow make God seem distant and disconnected from being truly present in their life.

Still others have a living present relationship with God as a person, Father, Son and Spirit, and seek his presence in various places often. Some of these live on the treadmill of trying to live between spaced-out spiritual highs. Some have written off the ordinary things of God and his rather ordinary people in a local church as not being ‘spiritual’ or ‘powerful’ enough!.

Cleopas and his friend (or maybe his wife) walked along that road. They had been fully invested in searching for God’s presence in their lives as they saw and heard the Son of God speak and act. Now it seemed as though the search had been futile and the promise of new life and peace in God’s presence misguided.

They could not recognise God after what they thought was the death of God on that cross. He did look very ordinary for a Saviour! It was the everyday humanness of Jesus that they missed at first. The resurrected King of Kings was a bloke chatting and listening along their journey; God in the ordinary; an ordinary looking and sounding God – present but often undetectable to the heart searching for more, in more easily seen things much more spectacular, until something happened.

They were probably expecting God to appear as some glowing spirit riding a white stallion with a light sabre in his right hand marching into Satan’s city to smite all tyranny, fear and death – and a few Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders!

But something did happen. They heard his words. They heard him speaking. And they had their minds blown open and their hearts detonated into new life by this ordinary bloke speaking human words and divinely breaking bread. What a rush! God was still present and was speaking and doing. God was still hope. Life had hope. The future was in him as they once believed. Jesus spoke his Scriptures and carried them out in table eating and drinking friendship. The fog lifted. The shadow receded. God’s ordinary became life extra-ordinary!

Friends, if this scripture says anything to me it says that God is available, open and present in the ordinary things powered by his Spirit Word – things of his choosing, not mine.

With some relief I am hearing that our God makes himself fully known in ordinary physical things like human words being spoken and done in community; preached, sung, prayed word and done word – the washing of resurrection (Baptism) and the meal of resurrection (Holy Communion).

A Challenge? Yes this is a challenge to the common belief of many a Western Christian that the God of the universe could be so ‘unspiritual’. So many of us seem to believe that being “spiritual” has nothing to do with the ordinary stuff; really physical, human, everyday things. Maybe our wandering hearts are chasing that glowing spirit figure on a white stallion and a light sabre who will take us to the clouds!

But bread, wine, words, human beings? Surely God is more in the skies or more in events going my way or more in beautiful art on canvass or in the microphone. Surely God is more in MY emotions and understanding of things. Surely God is MOSTLY in these things MORE than bread wine and word and water?

Not here on the road to Emmaus. Yes, music and songs and beautiful art are his gifts for sure. Yes the trees and the sunset and the magnificence of a hive of bees, a red desert in the early morning – all God’s domain and works of his fingers – but not his FULLEST revealing of his loving personal presence to us.

So where will I connect with Jesus more than any other thing or place? Where Cleopas and his friend or maybe his wife did – in the hearing of him speak his Words of promise and the friendship of the eating at table.

What if the God of all creation actually with us the most closely in these very ordinary things as he was for these troubled searching and disappointed people in little house near Jerusalem?

I know it is true and I am relieved and joy-filled. I don’t need to look for the next spiritual high so much, although spiritual highs are part of the journey and the Lord grants them and we receive them with joy! But I don’t have to wait for them or plan for them to get me through. He will get me through everyday in ordinary but Spirit-charged gifts.

Also, I don’t have to be squeaky clean lest I miss his presence. He will make me clean by his holy presence in his holy gifts of grace.

I don’t have to search for the perfect Christian Pastor or friend or church! There are none anyway! And there does not need to be any because we have the Perfect One in our hands and on our lips, by his decision and gracious love.

I don’t have to keep searching for the magic pill or the silver bullet that will connect me to the God.

Why? Because as it was for these two it is for me and you. Jesus loves me before I love him. He shows his heart to me before I can find it in a place I can hold it and hear it and touch it. Jesus gives everything to me before I give my all for him and his mission. What he says is much more telling than what I say to him even though he wants me to talk with him a lot.

Cleopas and his friend discovered to their burning heart’s joy that the full presence of the crucified and risen Jesus is in his ongoing, living spoken and done word.

I have delighted in this too as I trust Jesus’ real presence in his gift of preaching and sharing the Word together, and in his holy gifts that are his grace for me now and everyday: Baptism, Absolution, Lord’s Supper – the whole shape of the worship life of his church. What a joy and what a relief and what rest this brings my heart.

For the questioning ones, the very, very good, the very, very bad; for those on the edge of faith, for those angry at God’s seeming inaction, for those longing for God’s touch, for those bordering on cynical, for those having trouble trusting that the Holy Spirit actually works through these unemotional ordinary physical things – water, beard, wine, a local church of sinners and saints together week in, week out….. feel your hearts burning as you hear and receive him where he chooses to be solidly and reliably found.

They felt their hearts burning inside them as he opened up the Bible and they recognised him as he gave thanks and broke the bread.

Searching, doubting, seeking, people of God, our faith all comes together in this word and this meal because it is where Jesus brings us all together so we can continue on with new joy, new usefulness to his mission, new calling to shape our work and home life and friendships.

Lord Jesus speak to us and give us your holy body and blood for the journey always.

Amen

Stay or Stray?

Sermon: Sunday May 11Good Shepherd
Good Shepherd Sunday, Mothers Day
Keeping the Flock Together
1 Peter 2:19-25 and Acts 2:42
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[a]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[b] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

KEEPING THE FLOCK TOGETHER
Keeping the flock together: That is what Mum’s do, don’t they? That is how Mums (and Dad’s) be like the Good Shepherd. Parents are called to tend their children. It is so very hard when mums and dads don’t do this and so, give up their Good Shepherd calling, But it is so very good when they live in the shadow of the Good Shepherd as they shepherd and tend their kids for the long haul.

I am not sure anyone carries in their heart more of the relationships, the conversations, the worries, the plans, the needs of a family more than a Mum? Sometimes Mum is not around. Sometimes it is someone else doing all of this. Sometimes it is dad, sometimes grandma, sometimes a carer. Sometimes there is no one doing any of this for some families and that makes things so very lonely and often damaging.

But keeping the family together is a goal and a commitment that Mums often have and they act on this a million ways over a very long time – a life-time.

Mum’s are like shepherds in this way. This is what shepherds do. This is their aim. Today we give thanks for our Mums specifically. We give thanks for them to our Divine Parent, God the Father, and for the giving of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who tends us and cares for us over the longest time.

This is what the Good Shepherd is committed to doing – so much so that he will go into dangerous territory to find the lost sheep and bring that sheep back into fold.

So highly does the Good Shepherd value us being together in one flock that he has endured all the evil, the alienation of being a lost and forsaken sheep so that we do not have to be this way anymore.

1Peter 2:19-25
OUR GOOD SHEPHERD
Our Good Shepherd did what a lot of women do. He bore the pain of his own people. He suffered and stayed the course like a woman who has tended to the needs of others for years through thick and thin. Our Good Shepherd bore up under the pain of unjust suffering out of obedience to his Father’s will and was credited as highly exalted as a result.

Innocent, and with a generous heart, Jesus, the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the flock of those he would establish after the tomb was smashed wide open.

ALL ARE LOST SHEEP
And all of this for all of us – sheep that naturally go astray without any care of the Good Shepherd. We are like those sheep grazing around in the paddock. Without the fence the land owner puts up we might just graze away on the good grass we have until unaware we find ourselves alone, isolated and in the dark near a big ravine. And like sheep, we would not be able to find our way back by ourselves.

Even worse: without the tending of the Shepherd we are inches from certain death – As we graze away from day to day we might not realise that without that fence put up by the Shepherd we might find ourselves on the edge of the highway and suffering a sudden death by the wheels of a road train whizzing by.
Friend’s without Jesus’ word tending us we would graze our way to our death. That is what lay within us sheep of God. We all go astray. We always tend to do that. It is our disease – going astray, pulling away from the accountability and responsibility that comes with being in the flock of God.

PULLING AWAY
We seem naturally to spend quite a bit of our energy pulling away from commitment and love for other sheep. We are prone to delude ourselves that we live this life on individual terms when the truth is that we can only truly live with the commitment, support, encouragement and warmth of the flock around us under than tending and direction and forgiveness of the Good Shepherd.

Just like a son or daughter of a mum, it is right and good for us to acknowledge her care and her tending so we remain a family that is together in love.- even if there have been mistakes, because one way in which a woman cannot be like the Good Shepherd is in perfection!.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
There is encouragement and warmth and strength in numbers. Sheep in the Shepherd’s care must need to highly value being together. It is how we have always existed with Jesus, the Good Shepherd – in a flock. Not along out in individual land. That is dangerous ground. So dangerous that the Shepherd commits himself to keeping us in the flock – even putting his own life at risk to ensure that we stay connected.

Like a mum who quietly works away for decades at keeping her family together, tending the kids as best she can, sharing the pain of the kids and the partner (if she has one), working at binding up the broken hearted in the family and worrying when people disconnect and go astray from the family… so Jesus the Good Shepherd works away for a life-time on keeping us connected and protected from ourselves our inner disease of self-orientation.

Acts 2:42-47
STAYING CONNECTED
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

So, person of God, sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd, do you want to remain in him and he in you? Do you want to survive the night alone, the pull toward seeing everything in individual terms, the inclination of your heart to replace the Good Shepherd with a thousand other shepherds – that really are all you and about you, because after all, you are the one doing the following and making the choices to disconnect from Him and follow them and your self… We all are.

If we pull away from the flock and the Shepherd, how will we last the distance, stay close to Jesus and live one heck of a life that is full of support, encouragement, learning, serving, being a person who brings His peace, his guidance his rule, his love to a very disconnect world?

How do we keep together? One way and three ways.

ONE THING:
FELLOWSHIP: The one way is the general direction here in Luke’s account of the first church and all throughout the New testament communities. The one big direction for all of God’s people is to do all you can to stay connected to the local flock. Share the fellowship of the flock of God a disjointed and alienating world.

It is God’s flock no matter the skill of the under-shepherd, the choice of how they sing the song of belonging to him, where the pen is situated and how many fit into that particular pen. No, this local flock is a sign – a sign of a global, cosmic community of the Good Shepherd in your place.

So, the one thing for a sheep like you and me? Stay connected. Respond to his leading to be in the local flock of his people.

THREE THINGS
And then the three things…?

Luke gives them to us: Word, Meal, Prayer

WORD: Devote your heart to hearing the word of the Shepherd, sharing the encouragement and strength that comes from a common creed, a common meal, a common serving, a common welcome and hospitality.

MEAL: Get to the food – the bread of life, the Good Shepherd in person, with all the other sheep, and graze on the good things he offers at the table all the time – forgiveness and new life over and over again….

PRAYER: Speak with him together with all the others. Ask for things. Express yourself to him with others. Listen to his response with others. Wait on him with others. Seek him in the silence and the song and the conversation of the flock.

WE WILL BE LIKE HIM
Friends, as we commit to staying connected by hearing his Word, sharing him in his meal and speaking to him with each other, we will be allowing ourselves to live under the leading of the Good Shepherd who loves this community enough to create a flock of faithful people within it. And as this happens we will grow in our awareness of and calling in his way – you will naturally participate in the ongoing task of the Good Shepherd: to leave the 99 sheep to get the one – often.

Under the teaching and the gracious presence of the Good Shepherd you will be like that woman who is just immovable when it comes to caring for another in need. You will be like that mum who puts in hours and hours of caring work for her family with no questions asked.

You will be shaped in the community of grace by the grace of the Shepherd of grace, and you will be more and more like that Shepherd as you go out often, leaving the comfort of the strength in numbers – not to do our own thing but to the Shepherd thing – seeking the lost one sheep and bring him or her home to be with the flock.

A SHEPHERDING COMMUNITY
Oh for a community of God’s people who know how to shepherd as he shepherds – Oh to become more and more people who like the Good Shepherd – inviting, gently leading, sometime challenging others – bit only out of love, and always for the goal of bringing them home to the flock.

What else would you want to be?
Where else would you rather be than in the local flock of the Good Shepherd who is still seeking the strays and creating and re-creating his one flock?

What are the alternatives?
• Would we all really rather be alone?
• Follow our stray heart?
• Reject the community that God has provided and sustains for us all?

No, do the one and the four. It is the Shepherds will for all of us.

STAY CONNECTED
Stay Connected with all your might
As you hear his word with others
Break the holy bread of Life with others
Speak to him with others.

This is how the Good Shepherd keeps the family together.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share 2 good things your Mum gave you and a thing she made you do that you did not like or understand at the time but now understand and appreciate.

Read both the text from 1 Peter and then the text from Acts carefully, identifying the questions they raise in your minds and the imagination that they fire in you ans share these with others.

How are Mum and Dad’s) like Jesus, the Good Shepherd?

How is Jesus more than what our parents can be for us?

How has staying connected to God’s people helped you over the years and how do you think St Petri is doing as a community at the one thing and the three things? Share your thoughts…

St Peter goes into how Jesus was like a innocent lamb to the slaughter and in being this took all of the judgement of God against human sin on himself voluntarily and then speaks that beautiful word about us being healed by Jesus’ wounds. “by his wounds we are healed”, says peter. Share you experience of this text. When has it meant the most for you? Tell your stories….

Luke in writing the account of how the Holy Spirit grew God’s gospel community throughout the known world and thereby fulfilled the promises of God given by Jesus as he ascended on high (see Luke 24:36ff) tells us how the community gathered – around those three things for the purpose of the one thing in the Holy Spirit’s fellowship. How do you see these things present in our worship at St Petri? How have you stayed connected to God’s community and the gospel is proclaims over the years and how you can help others re-connect or stay connected. Share your experiences.