God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Notes for the Message based on Luke 24:36b-48; “B” – Lent 3
Scripture readings for this Sunday are: Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
If today’s Gospel reading sounds somewhat familiar, it is for a good reason. Last week, in the Gospel of John, we heard about the same event. Today we revisit that same event as it is documented in the Gospel of Luke. Luke adds several important details that John omits; details that shed additional light on what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
The story immediately preceding today’s Gospel reading is the story of what happened on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). On the first Easter, before the followers of Jesus knew what to make of his body disappearing from the tomb, two men were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus (a walk of less than 6 miles). As they were walking, a third man joined them and asked them what happened; why were their spirits down?; why were their faces “downcast?” (Luke 24:17). We, the readers, know that the third man was Jesus; the two friends had no idea WHO had joined them yet.
The two friends told “the stranger” about Jesus and about their crushed hopes, about his body being stolen and about the women losing their minds and thinking that they saw Jesus alive after he was sealed in the tomb. I can almost hear Jesus saying something like, “Wow! That is quite a story. Have you thought about…”
What followed “have you thought about…” was a review of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the prophecies concerning the Messiah and how Jesus’ life fit into these prophesies.
Luke 24:27 Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets (CEB).
When they reached Emmaus, Jesus wanted to continue on his journey, but the other two invited him to stay the night with them. Luke is clear that the two travelers still do not know that it is Jesus that has joined them. As Jesus broke and blessed the bread they suddenly recognized him, and as soon as they recognized him, he vanished from their sight.
Immediately, the two men went back to the upper room where the Disciples were huddled behind closed doors and they told them what had happened.
I can almost feel the Disciples, “Oh no! First the women go nuts! Now we have to deal with these two lunatics…” That is when Jesus showed up, “Peace be with you.”
It is reasonable for us to think that the Disciples would be overjoyed at seeing Jesus from the get go. It was not the case:
Luke 24: 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost (NIV).
Jesus alleviated their fears (first things first) and then Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:35 CEB).
When Jesus explained how what had happened in the past (prophesies from the Hebrew Scriptures) relate to what was happening in the present (the day of the First Easter) he alluded to something that all of us are aware of but rarely think about. We interpret and understand the present through the prism of the past; we cannot understand the present without thinking about the past.
On that day, in spite of their pain, fears, disappointment and apathy, Jesus gave the Disciples hope, vision, challenge, and a reason to continue with the task at hand. Jesus gave his disciples the hope of eternal future, a vision of a better tomorrow and a challenge to make that future and a better tomorrow a reality not only for themselves but also for future generations.
Every one of us has a different life story. That is why our individual understandings of what is happening today is different; that is why we are conscious of God working in different areas of the world, and in different areas of our lives. Our personal stories and histories precondition us for that.
I think that in the present time our culture is trying to figure out how we got to the proverbial “here” so that we can envision what our “tomorrow” could look like. How did we get to the point where only 54 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 can hope to find a job (Eichler)? How did we get to the point where our unemployment rate is over 9% (Google, Unemployment Rate Seasonably Adjusted)? How did we get to the point where threats of terrorism and nuclear arm proliferation are a real danger? How did we get to the point where there is a stalemate in the Congress? How did we get to the point that only about 50% of eligible voters even bother to vote in elections (National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960–2010)? How did we get to the point that our educational system is broken (Educational Scores Performances) and our medical care is the most expensive and among the least effective in the world (Murray, Fletcher)? How did we lose our leadership position in the areas of science, technology and manufacturing (Kent)?
The truth is that our country was at a similar juncture in the past. I am talking about the turbulent decade of 1960s and early 1970s. It was an era of great turmoil, it was an era when the future did not look all too bright, it was an era influenced by the Civil Rights movement, challenges to the established order and an undercurrent drug culture. It was an era of gasoline shortages, when we became painfully aware on our dependence on foreign oil and foreign interests.
In many respects it was an era defined by emotional pain, fear of “our own people who were not like us,” and apathy (as in: ignore it and it will blow over).
It was also an era when our country was challenged by President John F. Kennedy to put a man on the moon within ten years. That challenge resulted in a common set of goals, in a common set of values, in a common vision and a uniting understanding of who we could be as a nation. That understanding served our nation well; think about what our nation was able to accomplish in the last fifty years. I think that intuitively we know that this is where we want to get to again; notice I did not say we want to go back to. Times have changed and new times present new challenges and require a new vision.
Pablo Picasso said once that “Art is a lie that tells us something about the truth.” We see the resurgence of movies and TV shows that deal with the era of 1960s and early 1970s. I am talking about movies and shows like Forrest Gump, Mad Men, Smash, Lost, Life on Mars, and Pan Am, just to name a few. Shows that explore the socio-political and cultural paradigms of the era and its icons, hoping to find parallels and connections between then and now and to flush a new common vision and a set of common values that the whole country can espouse as our own.
Our community of Christ United Methodist Church is too small to ignite and unite the world that we live in behind a common vision. We are not powerful and influential enough to set common goals for our Kent County, let alone for our beloved country. We do not wield enough influence to set foreign policy or decide outcome of national elections. But we CAN influence our corner of the world.
Today’s scripture challenges us to listen to God, to recognize God when God walks by our side, and to listen for His vision for our community and for the geographical area where we live. Today’s scripture asks us how we can be God’s agents in our community; instead of asking what God can do for us, today’s Gospel reading challenges us to ask what we can do for God.
Paul said it well in Acts 3:19 (the reading from Acts that we’ve heard earlier today). Paul wrote, “… turn to God … that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…”
Will you allow God to touch and to tug on the strings of your soul until God’s vision for our church will pour out of you? Will you allow God’s vision to set YOU on fire? Will YOU allow him to use you? Will OUR COMMUNITY bring God’s vision and “times of refreshing” to this corner of God’s Creation?
Christopher J.L. Murray, M.D., D.Phil., and Julio Frenk, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. “Ranking 37th — Measuring the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System.” n.d. The New England Journal of Medicine.19 April 2012 <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0910064>.
“Educational Score Performance – Country Rankings .” n.d. Photus.Org.19 April 2012 <http://www.geographic.org/country_ranks/educational_score_performance_country_ranks_2009_oecd.html>.
Eichler, Alexander. “Employment Rate For Young Adults Lowest In 60 Years, Study Says .” 09 February 2012. Huffington Post.19 April 2012 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/09/employment-rate-young-adults_n_1264241.html>.
“Google, Unemployment Rate, Seasonable Adjusted.” n.d. Google.com.19 04 2012 <http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=z1ebjpgk2654c1_&met_y=unemployment_rate&idim=country:US&fdim_y=seasonality:S&dl=en&hl=en&q=current+unemployment+rate>.
Kent, Mary Mederios. “More U.S. Scientists and Engineers Are Foreign-Born.” n.d. Population Reference Bureau.19 04 2012 <http://www.prb.org/Articles/2011/usforeignbornstem.aspx>.
“National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960–2010.” n.d. Infoplease.com. 19 April 2012 <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html>.