Sermon for Sunday, April 15, 2018 - Rev Joan Gandy
Sermon for April 15 2018
Texts: Isaiah 52:13-15; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:13-35
Sermon: "Walking With Him"
We all have made difficult journeys, feeling sorrow or fear or confusion.
I believe that such journeys occur time and again.
We live in a world that challenges our faith, dulls our hope.
We live in a world that sends us seeking renewal and joy.
How often have you felt alone and sad, not sure how to solve a problem?
And then, as you are drowning in that sadness, someone appears.
Someone is there to inspire your hope.
Now, sometimes it is the appearance of someone who loves you, someone you know.
But sometimes it's a stranger, reminding you of God's love and God's promise.
That is how it goes if we only have ears to hear, eyes to see, hearts to imagine.
So I guess I'm saying that every day, Jesus is near.
We only have to look for him and listen to his voice.
And, most important, we have to watch for his presence in the life going on around us.
In our gospel story, here are two believers, who are broken-hearted.
Gloom haunts them as they walk along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
It has been a dark time for them for the last two days.
They watched in horror as Jesus was taken away to be crucified.
He had been their hope and their future.
He was Jesus, in whom they had put all their faith.
He had been in their life to rescue them from the emptiness they now were feeling.
They did not know that their faith and their hope would be rekindled on this day.
Indeed, they would be in his company.
Jesus would give them new faith and hope.
His Resurrection would give that to them.
In the same way that Jesus has called the name of Mary so that she recognizes him;
In the same way that Jesus has invited Thomas to touch his wounds so he will believe;
Here comes Jesus to take away the dark despair of Cleopas and the other disciple.
Here comes Jesus to touch their hearts and teach them to believe again.
He opens the Scriptures to them.
He blesses and breaks the bread.
He opens their eyes.
He ignites their faith.
Cleopas and the other disciple see him.
They know him.
Joy returns. Jesus has risen. They see, believe, and rejoice.
But then…Jesus vanishes.
The disciples do not seem to mind that Jesus suddenly disappears.
Their new faith no longer requires the physical presence of Jesus.
He now is alive in their hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit.
The disciples walking the road that day are sure that Jesus is dead.
They are so sure that Jesus is dead that they cannot not see the risen Lord walking beside them.
The resurrection is real.
But they had not come to know it yet.
They had no hope that it could be true.
Jesus teaches them and encourages them.
He opens their eyes, appearing to them, showing them that he lives.
Jesus Christ reveals to them that he has conquered death.
In his death and resurrection, he has taken the world's sin within himself.
He brings to the world new hope, new faith, and life everlasting.
This is what the disciples in Emmaus witness.
The two disciples at Emmaus now begin to understand.
They are filled with Easter joy.
They run, even in the dark of night, to tell the other disciples what they have seen.
It is a story of divine beauty and power.
It is a story of God's new creation.
Jesus is alive and brings life to us.
This story asks us to believe.
This story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus challenges our faith.
Look now, I ask you, deep within your heart for the presence of the resurrected one.
As Christians, we know the Resurrection is truth.
But God has led us further into that truth to make the Resurrection a way of imagining the world.
It is a way to set our life within the plan God has for the new world, where Christ reigns forever.
Maybe we can think of it this way:
Our world is God's world.
It is the world of possibilities and miracles.
It is the world where new life can conquer the old.
The disciples Cleopas and his companion had to have their eyes opened.
Their hearts could not know until their eyes were opened to the new way of God in Jesus Christ.
We can fall to that way of thinking, also.
They had lost hope. So can we lose hope.
They believed Jesus was gone forever.
We must never let ourselves fall into such despair.
And yet -- even the most devout Christian today can suffer doubts.
Have you ever wondered whether the Easter story is really true?
I invite you to take a walk with Jesus.
Ask him to be your companion on the way of new life.
He will come.
Jesus comes to walk beside us, a stranger and yet a friend.
Jesus blesses, encourages, and teaches us.
Jesus shows us his hands and his side and opens the Scriptures to us.
Jesus breaks bread with us.
And we see him. We see Jesus who now reigns in glory with the Father and Holy Spirit.
Yes, Jesus is risen.
And Jesus comes to us when we invite him to stay as Cleopas and the other disciple did.
Don't go, they begged him.
It is late. Come and stay with us.
Where can we be sure Jesus is present with us?
Jesus meets us today, here in the sanctuary.
We gather together as disciples in his name.
Here, together, we are the body of Christ.
Jesus meets us as we hear God's Word and respond to it.
Just as Jesus caused the hearts of the disciples to burn as he opened the Scriptures to them, so, we, too, meet Jesus as we read and hear the Word of God, made fresh and alive to us through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus comes to meet us as we pray in his name and break bread in his name.
Jesus comes to give us the power, courage, and wise words to testify to the truth of the Resurrection -- to run to tell others as the two disciples from Emmaus did. In our witnessing, we are helping others to encounter Jesus.
Jesus comes in the stranger who is in need and suffering, the "least of these" that we minister to in Jesus' name. In that ministering, Jesus promises we are ministering to him.
"I was a stranger and you welcomed me," Jesus said.
And those who heard him asked when it was that they welcomed him.
He answered, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me."
The risen Lord sustains us when our faith falters.
He sustained and changed the faith of disciples on the way to Emmaus.
He continues to challenge us.
And he makes our hearts burn as he opens the Scriptures to us through the Holy Spirit.
Let us not forget to invite him into our hearts.
Let us, in fact, urge him to stay, so that our lives may be filled with blessings from the stranger who is also friend, brother, Lord and Savior.
May our lives give glory to him, to God alone who is above all, with all, and in all, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.