Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Mike Turgeon Rise Up. Elevate Your Faith: “Salvation” May 8, 2011
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other?"
They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?"
He asked them, "What things?"
They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
“Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’
Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them.
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. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:13-35 (The Message)
Rise Up. Elevate your faith: Salvation
To paraphrase what Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys...and why are they heading to Emmaus?” I’m speaking of Cleopas and his friend. These two may have lived in Emmaus, so they may be on the way home. Perhaps they live elsewhere and have business to attend to, we’re not sure. Maybe they’re just heading to Emmaus to get away from the terrible things they had witnessed in Jerusalem.
Frederich Beuchner commented this way about Emmaus: “Emmaus is the place we go to in order to escape—a bar, a movie, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say, “Let the whole darn thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.” Emmaus may be buying new clothes, or a new car, or smoking more cigarettes than you really want or should; or reading trash novels, or possibly writing one. Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and the bravest and the lovliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had—ideas about love and freedom and justice—have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends.”
Have you ever taken a long walk just to sort things out? Life requires it sometimes, doesn’t it?
At the end of our text this morning, Cleopas and his buddy go back to Jerusalem to find the other eleven. They have access to the inner circle of Jesus, so they should be close enough to Jesus to recognize him, but that doesn’t happen. What gives?
This is the second in our series devoted to elevating faith, a vital exercise, and today we seek to better understand the concept of salvation. This is a salvation text. What seems dense and impenetrable at first is transformed into hope. Redemption occurs, but only after Jesus is recognized. We start out with a roadblock--a lack of vision. We come to a bridge, a bridge which Jesus helps us cross over. And in the end we find a vehicle for accomplishing our journey.
First, the roadblock.
“...While they were talking, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”
At first glance, I don’t get it. Why were their eyes kept from recognizing him? A device like this sort of reminds us of John’s Gospel, as if Luke here is writing in code. I mean, unless these disciples are able to recognize who Jesus is, how will there be a preferred outcome?
This lack of sight poses a theological quandry. Without a recognition of Jesus, how will we be saved? And since we’re in a quandry, how does salvation work? How are we saved?
Is it something that has been done for us, or to us? Is it a single event in your spiritual journey? Is it a process that takes place throughout our lives, or is the word salvation just too loaded to be be of any use to you at all?
I was on my favorite website this week, www.desperatepreacher.com. Now, fortunately, I don’t go there to be saved. I’m rarely desperate as a preacher. As a pastor, I might get freaked out some of the time, but the preaching moment has a way of invoking the fear of God so I manage to avoid desperation.
But I’m glad I went online this week because I found this nugget. One pastor said: The story of the disciples walking on the Road to Emmaus is one of those stories where Jesus shows up. My first thought was cliche’! But upon further reflection, I remembered that the season of Advent is also about Jesus showing up. Emmanuel--“God with us.”
Jesus shows up when we need him most. Jesus shows up when we least expect it, Jesus shows up when we are too timid to put our foot in the door, Jesus shows up whether you want him to or not. Then I thought, you know, we could also be talking about your mother.
She was there when you needed her most--at your birth. I’ll bet she showed up at times when you were too timid to put your foot in the door. And darn it, sometimes she showed up whether you wanted her to or not. Like when you brought your girlfriend home after school and went in your bedroom and closed the door, or wanted to close the door.
But we’re not here to debate who saves you most, Jesus or your mother. And for Cleopas and friend, regardless of their ability to see him, Jesus still shows up. Some say showing up is 95% of life. Well, it’s 100% in Jesus’ case.
And no matter how high the roadblocks we construct throughout our lives, with Jesus, they are no longer impassable.
In that way, salvation in the form of Jesus Christ offers a bridge.
While it doesn’t specifically state it, my guess is Cleopas and his friend are sad and disappointed. I’d even throw in bewildered.
“...we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel...”
They were expecting Jesus to redeem Israel by some strong-arm solution. Were the claims Jesus made about the Kingdom of God on earth too ambiguous, or were the disciples guilty of wishful thinking? Later in this series, we’ll focus on God’s Kingdom, God’s reign on earth, but for now let’s not be too hard on these guys, those Romans were some bad dudes, impressive with their power displays. We know in spades how seductive it is to believe that the solution to violence is more violence.
I remember as if it were yesterday my best lesson in applying violence to solve a problem and how bad that idea was back then, and still is. My step-daughter was about 11 and something she had done, I don’t remember what now, had seemed like the last straw. So I swatted her, and the force of the blow caused her to bang up against a tile counter, causing a slight injury.
This incident was revealing and enlightening. Here I was, at the age of 40, mindlessly repeating what had happened to me at a young age. Repeating the method of child-raising that I swore I would never use. I had learned at a young age, that the solution to problems was to lash out in anger. Retribution and revenge would make things better.
Fortunately, this was a serious wake-up call. I owned up to what I was doing. I apologized to my daughter and immediately sought counseling, allowing me to find a new way forward. On the brink of alienating a child, I received a grace I still can’t quite explain, and I was able to bridge the gap between what I thought I knew and what I needed to know.
In a similar way, Jesus bridged the gap between Old Testament and New, and, like Paul said, between male and female, Greek and Jew, slave and free, victor and vanquished.
“...Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Jesus’ plan for salvation did involve redeeming Israel, but it was much bigger than that, much more than a revenge orgy. Jesus’ plan was and is a high road, the highest road. One we struggle to stay on if truth be told.
“...was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?"
Jesus is repeating his core teaching once more before he leaves this earth--suffering, then glory. He did the heavy lifting on our behalf, so we could lift others up on his behalf. This is God’s salvation plan for humanity. It is not merely a one-way street. God’s plan allows you to get to Emmaus, but it calls you back to Jerusalem. God’s plan is the bridge to eternity. Receiving Christ as Savior guarantees that you will be asked to sacrifice. We would like to parse it out, only take the glory, leave suffering and sacrifice to others.
Is God’s plan a popular one? If it were, the road to discipleship would be quite crowded. No, the road to discipleship is quite costly, and therefore, there is rarely a rush hour. But on that road, you will find companionship.
Notice the timing of this morning’s text? It is still the day of Resurrection. And at its core, this is a hospitality story. The breaking of bread together was the most basic act of community life back then. You broke bread when a stranger appeared in your midst.
"Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over. So he went in to stay with them.”
It used to be for us too. Remember when we used to gather each night at the family dinner table?
It is no accident that Jesus reveals his presence during a meal.
“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...”
That made complete sense back then. It still does today. In the breaking of the bread in Emmaus, Jesus is made known to his friends. That is still true for us. Jesus shows up, like he said he would.
“...and he vanished from their sight.”
World War II soldiers had a saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” I’m sure you’ve heard this. What it means is that when enemy weapons are upon you, it’s time to believe in God. And just about everyone does. But calling on God when your life is on the line is different than Jesus showing up. In the first scenario, we are the seeker. In the second, God is seeking us.
The reality of Emmaus is the same as the reality of Emmanuel--God with us. God’s plan for salvation becomes real in our moment of recognition. God doesn’t go away, we turn away. But it is not over. We can always turn the other way; we can face Christ and pick up his cross daily and follow him.
If by embracing salvation you are looking for guarantees, there is, indeed one that you can be sure of. And that is, in Christ, you will never travel alone, not now, not ever. In addition, however, be clear that his new wine will be only as fruitful as you are formed into a new wineskin.