Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Friday, December 13, 2013
Mike Turgeon “Grace greater than our own” April 22, 2012
‘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 and discussing, 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 while you walk along?’ 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?’
Grace greater than our own
I remember a professor in seminary being once asked, “how long does Easter last?” She said, “Easter lasts forever if you’re doing it right.” As in, “are you Easter-ing well?” She had turned Easter into a verb, an active verb. She wasn’t the first person to do this. Throughout the Bible and throughout history, people have been making Easter a living thing. Perhaps you are one of those people.
Do you remember blind Bartimaeus? He was the beggar Jesus healed of his blindness. This man had learned that Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho and were going to pass right by where Bartimaeus lay in the dirt. You see, in our day and age, blindness or deafness need not be debilitating in many cases, but in Jesus‘s time, without all your faculties, your life was one of mere survival.
Bartimaeus yelled out to Jesus and his inner circle as they drew near to him:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Jesus healed the man and said,
“Go, your faith has made you well.”
Next it says Bartimaeus did go, but he didn’t go just anywhere
“..he leaped up and joined Jesus on his way.”
After being healed, Bartimaeus invested all he had in Jesus. He Easter-ed well.
Doing right by Easter means walking in the state of grace. Now, that phrase sounds quite lovely, “state of grace” but what does it mean? Very simply, walking in the state of grace means being willing to see your life in the light of Jesus Christ.
Because we have an empty tomb, it means we have the light of Christ shining on all creation. But like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, that makes no sound unless someone is there to hear it, you and I must be willing to first see Christ’s light shining on our own path.
Bartimaeus Easter-ed well. From then on, he walked in the state of grace.
This thing called grace. I found another description this week.
When Billy Graham was driving through a small southern town, he was stopped by a policeman and charged with speeding. Graham admitted his guilt, but was told by the officer that he would have to appear in court.
The judge asked, "Guilty, or not guilty?" When Graham pleaded guilty, the judge replied, "That'll be ten dollars -- a dollar for every mile you went over the limit." Then the judge recognized the famous minister.
"You have violated the law," the judge said. "The fine must be paid--but I am going to pay it for you." He took a ten dollar bill from his own wallet, attached it to the ticket, and then took Graham out and bought him a steak dinner!
"That," said Billy Graham, "is how God treats us! If we could only see it"
(Progress Magazine, December 14, 1992.)
What color is the light shining on your life? Do you see a bright, white, cleansing light emanating from the empty tomb
or only shades of grey or blue? How you see your life defines how you will live your life.
A walking theology
Today’s text, like the story of blind Bartimaeus, starts from a place of being prevented from seeing. It says their eyes were kept from recognizing him. It’s a strange thing to hear until you realize what shape these two are in, these friends of Jesus who are walking away from the events of Easter Sunday in Jerusalem.
They are overwhelmed, beset with grief and confusion; as blind in their hearts by these things as Bartimaeus was in his eyes. But the full impact of Jesus does come to them, later in the story, in the breaking of bread.
Today’s text continues:
“..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...”
This journey on the road to Emmaus appears only in Luke’s Gospel. Each Gospel has a certain ‘theology’ about it, a way of talking about God.
John’s Gospel is mystical, quite lofty in its language. Matthew’s Gospel is the most Jewish Gospel, concerned with understanding how Jesus fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Mark’s Gospel is messianic in nature, stressing Jesus as the “Anointed One.”
But Luke’s Gospel is above all a practical Gospel, his is a ‘walking theology,‘ not merely a talking one. And Luke’s Gospel was meant to be offered not just to Jews or those who lived in Jerusalem, but to all people for all time. The main goal of Luke’s Gospel is getting the word out that Jesus is available, ready when you are, no matter who you are, and wherever you are on your journey of faith. The question being asked of us is are we ready to be resurrected?
Luke’s walking theology offers Jesus to those who need him the most, those who are burdened, those who are mired in sin, those who can’t get out of their own way.
Cleopas and his friend, they are on a weary journey of grief, confusion and disappointment. Jesus engages them, he teaches them, and then he reveals himself to them. Further in the story we hear:
“..Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Are you willing to engage Jesus, are you willing to learn from him, are you willing to accept him? That is the Easter journey. Willingness and acceptance, not cynicism and resistance. The faith relationship is like all the best of relationships, the more you give of yourself, the more you get in return.
This may sound simplistic, but a practical faith takes practice. To get from where you are to where you want to go, you need a down-to-earth walking theology. That is what Jesus practiced, a walking theology, from the streets of Jericho to the Emmaus Road, all the way to the street where you live. Jesus has this habit of showing up, perhaps when we least expect him, or maybe sometimes when we would rather not see him. In fact, the appearance of Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s plan for humanity; that God came down to walk the earth with us.
We shouldn’t be surprised that on that very first Easter, Jesus is to be found not in the Temple, but ‘on the road.’ This walking theology that Luke offers takes hold and roots itself among ordinary people doing ordinary things.
When we decide to walk in Christ’s light, then our actions become extra-ordinary and full of grace.
In Luke in particular, you are more likely to meet Jesus on a dusty backroad than in a tiered Temple. Luke’s Gospel has ‘curb’ appeal to the ordinary parts of our nature; the places where even if we’d prefer not to, we mostly live there anyway. The practical, the mundane.
It’s been said that Emmaus is “that place we go to in order to escape--a bar, a movie, a casino, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say, “Let the whole darned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.” You can almost detect that attitude when Cleopas answers Jesus’s question with another question:
‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’
Then, two words that let us know Jesus meets us wherever we are:
” ‘What things?’
Jesus knows exactly what things. What he is curious about is the state of mind, the state of heart, the state of grace for Cleopas and his companion.
Grace greater than our own.
This is what makes our savior a savior. He meets us where we live, he shows up in our time of need, his light shines even though our vision may be obscured. This is not a hidden uninvolved God; with Jesus it’s personal.
So, how are you Easter-ing?
There is congregational sadness at present in saying good-bye to a pastor, we must acknowledge this. It is more important than ever to treat one another, your brothers and sisters in Christ, with kindness and gentleness.
But ultimately, this is not about me and not about you. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is bigger than us, it always has been, it always will be.
Now it is imperative that we leap up and join Jesus on his journey. Let your own life become a source of light, of healing, a state of grace from which others may gain strength. Let that empty tomb fill you up. May you Easter with Jesus forever and ever.