Apr 30, 2017 – 3rd Easter ‘Turned Upside Down’
Let me ask – do you speak English? Can you carry on a conversation in English? Sermons are supposed to help you think about how your faith and life interact. So let me tell you about something that combines your speaking English with your faith.
Right now missionaries are needed in, among other places, China, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Indonesia and Macau to teach English as a foreign language. The LC-MS is looking for church members to go to these places for anywhere from 1 to 6 months and teach English.
Now you might think doing something like that sounds admirable… for someone else. Or maybe you even think, hey, ‘I can speak English perhaps I should go?’ But then you stop and start to ponder some of the realities. You think, ‘what if I get sick over there, and need real help, I’m no spring chicken and that could happen. Besides, could I get my medicine? Or what if I get there and I just don’t like the food, I have a sensitive stomach sometimes – could I get Maalox?’
Or maybe for you it’s ‘What if I get there and I just can’t stand the odor?’ Or ‘What if I just don’t like the people? What if I get lonely or scared? Those are things to carefully consider and are important in making a decision of this magnitude, but… those aren’t the main thing are they. The bottom line question is, we all think it’s important for others to know the Lord, but is that of greater value to me than what I have that makes me feel secure?’
After all that’s the end-game in going to Hong Kong to teach English – yes learning English will help them in a real-world, here and now, sense of things. But it’s the gospel that’ll save them and that’s what building relationships through teaching English could lead to. So, are the current certainties of my safety and security here and now worth tossing over for the gospel to reach another person?’
Those are questions our missionaries have to ask themselves. That’s what they consider. The point is not that you should necessarily go to China or Korea and teach English, though I think that’d be great. No, the point is, to think in real-world terms of truly sharing the certainty of faith.
You know in the gospel lesson today there were things that the disciples on the road to Emmaus were certain of. They were secure in their knowledge that Jesus was dead and buried. They knew without a doubt that the future they’d hoped for in Jesus had died three days ago on that hated roman cross. Of that these disciples, walking to Emmaus, were certain.
And now… well now, as they walked that road to Emmaus, three days after burying Jesus in the tomb, they knew that hope… was gone. Jesus was dead, buried and sealed up behind a huge tombstone. Their hope had died when He had died.
As they walked they might have been thinking, ‘It doesn’t matter that some of our women friends today went to the tomb and found it open and talked with some stranger they said was an angel. Yeah, I’d like to believe that, but in my world, a dead guy is a dead guy. These women even said they saw Jesus alive. Yeah, right. Of course, Peter and John went and found the tomb open but who knows, that could have just been the Romans doing some trick. At any rate, I’m sacred and I’m tired and what I knew, what I trusted in … it’s all blown apart.’
And so, they walked. And they walked. It was seven miles to Emmaus. And they walked with others who were leaving Jerusalem after the Passover feast. And now here comes this one Guy asking them questions, seemingly oblivious to reality. Was He really unaware of the uproar with the Jewish leaders and the roman governor; the crowds and the army? And that with the death of Jesus on the cross, did this guy walking along not know that that death meant the death of hope as they knew it?
So this Guy starts to talk with them. And He talks for most of the seven miles, some two-plus hours. And as He talks, what He says burns strangely in their hearts, they later report. These words had a familiar ring to them, but yet different somehow. And this Guy… this Guy too is familiar, but different.
And so it goes till they got to Emmaus and they insist that the Stranger stay with them, share a meal and then maybe; in the morning, things will be clearer. And when the meal happens, then their world is now radically changed. It comes so out-of-the-blue for them that they are simply rocked-to-the-core of their being. Now nothing else matters because what the women had told them was all true, Christ is risen/ He is risen indeed… and here He is giving them bread in front of their very eyes!
They simply now have no choice… they’ve got to go back to Jerusalem. This new truth, this certainty, is just too big, too important! And so off they went. They traveled at night, which no one did, all the way back to Jerusalem those same 7 miles and when they got there they confirmed what the women had said earlier in the day! And while they’re talking about it … Hey, Who’s that standing there inside the door? He wasn’t here before when we closed and locked those doors. How did He get in! Wait, it can’t be….’
We leave off speculating about what played out that night in their thoughts and excitement. And now we have to ask ourselves, why didn’t the guys going to Emmaus understand that it was Jesus walking them on the road? One thought is that grief is a very powerful thing. Grief is shocking. As we said last week we’re not created for death. We never get too familiar with it. Grief breaks us and leaves us shattered.
All of us are broken – by sin and we all, every one of us, need help to see Jesus. We need to have our eyes opened for us just as they did in Emmaus. And the gospel does exactly that. The gospel comes to us just like Jesus came to the women and just like He came to those on the Emmaus road. It comes by Jesus opening our eyes, to Him, in faith. That’s the faith that He delivers to us by His grace alone.
In living out our faith in this world, like we talked about at the opening, we, like those disciples in Emmaus, leave the comfort and security we’ve made for ourselves, and head out into the night with only the light of the good news of the gospel. The world around us is dark without the light of Christ. We know from our own hurts and anxieties – like the disciples felt before Jesus appeared to them – we know what it is to be in the dark, to be hurting and broken.
And now, with the compassion that Christ has shown to us in coming to us, like He did with those on the Emmaus road and in the upper room, we take that out to others. Others who, like us, will benefit from knowing what we know, hearing what we’ve heard, and seeing what we’ve seen.
We’ve had our lives transformed by the good news of Jesus death and knowing that; Christ is risen… . What was broken and shattered in us and in our relationship with God has been mended and made right, made new again. We’re actually free of our sins and sorrow, and free from the obligations and stigma of our past. The power of Christ’s resurrection is ours and that power frees us from thinking we have any obligation to sin. The gospel does that and it does that for those around us, they just don’t realize it. Like the Emmaus road disciples, their hearts might be burning strangely, but they don’t recognize why.
So, what does this have to do with teaching English in Macau? Just this; the resurrection of Jesus changed the world for these Emmaus road guys in a matter of moments. Their whole frame of reference was re-framed for them. What they’d known before was not reality now. They’d been changed because of Jesus coming to life again and coming to them.
Now Jesus’ friend’s hope could not be shaken ever again, either, though they probably couldn’t have said so at the time. But they’d had their world so totally changed that now anything seemed possible. And that’s what this has to do with teaching English in China. Anything is possible because the gospel changes you, changes your world. Are there still smells that you won’t like, yes, but so what? Is it possible you’ll get sick and die over there? Yes, but that’ll happen here eventually anyway. The gospel needs telling because It has changed the world.
The hope and certainty of life with the God of creation is what Jesus’ resurrection means for all people. And people learning that is more important than whether or not I can get Maalox in Beijing. And here’s the rest of the story. This isn’t just about going to China; it’s about what goes on here as well. It’s about Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel.
The point is, that if you really imagined how turned upside-down your world would be if you really did go to China to teach English, if you really can dream of how that would change your life, you can begin to grasp just how turned-upside your world really and truly is right now because of Jesus Christ rising from the grave.
Imagining that, gives us a clue as to how the disciples’ world was rocked by that reality. And how, in fact our world has been rocked by that same reality. You live and speak English in the same world Jesus entered. And the world that He died on the cross to redeem. It’s the same world as the disciples’ world and you and I are not the same, any longer, because Christ is risen… He’s risen indeed, alleluia! Amen.
Sermon #889 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 2:14a, 36-41
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Second Reading 1 Peter 1:17-25
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
Holy Gospel Luke 24:13-35
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles 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 recognizing 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 farther. 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 recognized 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 recognized by them when he broke the bread.