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Pastor Glenn Zimbelman
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America|
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Seeing Jesus - April 23, 2017
Picture of Baseball
There is a saying in baseball about spring training, Hope Springs Eternal. This means that at the beginning of Spring Training, everyone is in first place. Maybe this is the year when all the pieces will come together and your team will win. Isn’t it just a fantastic thing that we no longer have to hear the phrase, Long Suffering Cubs Fan. The Cubs did it. Now it is the Cleveland Indians turn. They have gone the longest in years without a title. My Seattle Mariners have the current dubious record of not making the playoffs since 2001. You see we don’t even have sights on the World Series, we just hope to make the playoffs. Baby Steps. Then what happens about 1/2 way through the season the teams stink and we trade away players. Or, perhaps we are lucky enough to be in the playoff hunt but alas fall short. Then what happens is disappointment. Wait until next year. We have all kinds of disappointments in our lives. The promotion doesn’t happen. Jobs are lost. Health concerns crop up. Children make unwise choices. We place our hopes in(you fill the blank) and then reality hits.
So imagine you are followers of the Rabbi Jesus. He is now dead. You head out of the city to Emmaus and along the way you run into a stranger. You are grieving, your hopes have been dashed. But this is way more than a baseball team. This is about life and dreams and hopes that tug at your heart. You poor out the story to the stranger. The women have found an empty tomb. Nobody know what to make of it. All they know is that the body is not there. Then we come across one of the most heartfelt verses in the Bible in 24:21
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”
Now Jesus does some weird stuff after the resurrection. We will find him popping in and out of places. In this case, these two disciples are unable to recognized Jesus. Some have said they are too grief stricken. I am not sure. It is more likely that Jesus for whatever the reason chooses to keep himself hidden. Perhaps he just wants to see how people react. So Jesus begins to help these two disciples move from grief to hope. He does so first by walking them through scripture. We read in Luke 24:25-27
25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures
So the first lesson we can take here is this. Scripture is a pathway to God. We often think that the Bible is a guidebook, or a moral ethics book. Did you ever think that the Bible, reading, reflecting, mediating is also a way to encounter God? Later on these disciples will say, wasn’t our hearts burning when he explained scripture to us. So one lesson is that if you want to grow closer to God, read the Bible. Psalms is quite helpful as a way of doing so.
Jesus is still hidden from them and they reach the village and it is late. They offer hospitality to this stranger, don’t go on, it is late spend the evening with us. We read the following:
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him and he vanished from their sight”
So it was in the blessing of the bread, in the sharing of the meal, that Jesus reveals himself. I would like to suggest that in Luke and in scripture there is something sacred about meal time. You will notice that Jesus like to spend a lot of time eating. It is one of the basic pleasures of being human. It think it is too bad he never got to enjoy a pepperoni pizza! But meals are more than just eating. For around the meal, there is community, and within that community there is life together. Did you ever think that perhaps a shared meal with the entire family at its best, can be a simple taste of heaven?
Picture of Family at Meal
I heard this one from an MLC person. They were at grandma’s for dinner and the grandson began to eat the meal right away. The mom said to the son, we are supposed to say a blessing before you eat. The son replies, mom, grandma can cook.
I took a moment to look through Luke to see where Jesus and meals came together. Interesting is that one of the first healing stories is that of Simon’s mother-in-law. She has a fever and is healed and then gets up to serve a meal. Be reminded of the Beatitudes in Luke 6:21
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blesse are you who weep now, for you will laugh”
Well for those two on the road to Emmaus, they were both weeping and hungry at the same time. In Luke 7 at another meal, a sinner, a woman comes and bathes the body of Jesus with oil. One of the most interesting meals in that of the feeding of the 5000. Notice this verse in Luke 9:16
“And taking the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven and blessed and broke them ,and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd”
We have two meal parables. The first is the Wedding Banquet which involves where people sit and how they are honored. The second is the parable of the Great Dinner, where those first invited don’t come, they all have excuses, so the host goes out and invites the poor, the crippled and the outcast.
We of course have the meal involving the transformation of Zaccheus. There is another blessing meal, the most familiar one, that of the last Supper.
So these meal stories all involved the following: Healing, Prosperity, Feeding of the Poor, Acceptance for Sinners, Transformation, and of course communion. Through it all, Jesus is the center of what happens. In essence the Hope and Love of God shines through.
Did Jesus bless the bread at the Emmaus meal in the same manner as the feeding of the 5000? Were his words similar to the Last Supper? We don’t know but somehow in the blessing Jesus is revealed.
There are all kinds of ways to encounter Christ in this world. It may come through scripture, through prayer or song. It may come through community and through miracles little and big. It may even come through something as simple as sharing a meal together. We may not always see Jesus but by faith we trust that Christ is with us. Jesus has said that I am with you all to the end of the age. We will share a meal together today with Jesus during communion as well. So take heart, your baseball team may never win, but who really cares, God is with us, and that is all we need. Amen.
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