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Faith Doesn’t Change Anything . . .

3 Easter (A)

Luke 24:13-35

When has Jesus been absent for you? When have you needed him and he didn’t show up?  When have you said of Jesus, “We had hoped you would be the one to save us. . .” “We had hoped . . .”

Jesus, we had hoped you would be the one to:

–save our marriage;

–save me from this diagnosis;

–save my job;

–save me from the expense of this repair;

–save my kids from injury until I had health insurance.

Let’s face it – Jesus hardly ever works in the way we think Jesus ought to. There is hardship, pain, and distress – God doesn’t always get us out of it. We are disappointed. We had hoped . . .

So it’s easy to imagine how Cleopas and his companion are feeling as they travel the 7 miles to Emmaus. In v.21, we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

We had hoped he was the Messiah! But obviously not. Messiahs don’t die.

In the midst of their disappointment, grieving, struggles, and hopelessness, they simply didn’t see that Jesus was right there with them.

Jesus walks with them, asks them what’s the matter – what they’re talking about. They tell him the entire story. They know the whole thing, even the claims that he’s risen from the dead! They know everything except that he’s right there with them. They see everything except that the risen Lord with them at the very point of their disappointment; with them at the very moment when they are least likely to recognize him. They are caught in their disappoint—their unfulfilled hope—and cannot recognize the presence of God right there with them in the moment.

What they know doesn’t change anything; hearing the voice of Jesus doesn’t change anything; even inviting Jesus to stay with them doesn’t change anything. The only thing that changes anything (and it changes everything) is that Jesus is already with them.

We gather together in his presence – we know that, we talk about it here. But our knowledge doesn’t change us, or the world around us. Our understanding of this worship time doesn’t change us. Whether or not we are personally satisfied with what happens here today doesn’t change us. Not really. It is Christ who changes us. It is Christ who is with us, who forgives us, who gives us new life. It is Christ who is with us on the road, with us in our disappointment, with us in our struggles.

That’s often the way it works. The risen Jesus, whose presence not even death can hinder, meets us in our place of greatest disappointment, pain, grief, and struggle. He comes at the very times that we are living in unfulfilled hope. For him the most important thing is not whether or not we see him, but that his presence gives us new hope.

So how has God disappointed you? That’s where the risen Christ is. Where is your pain, despair, hopelessness? Where in your life are your deepest struggles? Where had you hoped? That’s where Jesus comes to you. That’s where he’s meeting you now.

He meets us here, he reveals himself in the breaking of the bread. He has come to us who are disappointed, who struggle, who had hoped, who are looking so hard at our difficulties that we can’t see beyond them. He has defeated the power of sin and death and brings victorious new life to us.

With all that whirls around us in our lives, it can still be difficult to recognize the risen Jesus in our midst. But Jesus comes. He opens. He forgives. He loves. He restores. He brings new life. He creates hope.

And when we look back of this day, we’ll say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Don’t see him? That doesn’t mean he isn’t with you. Don’t recognize him at work in your life? That doesn’t mean he isn’t present with you. Can’t see past your life circumstances now? That doesn’t mean he isn’t bringing new life to you.

Today we can gather with one another, at the table, and trust his promise to be present. Today we can receive the forgiveness and life he offers. Today we can leave this table and recognize his presence at all the other places we go in our lives.

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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Sermon

 

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Looking for Someone to Blame (4 Epiphany-C)

4 Epiphany — C

Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 4:21-30

Think of a time when you were disappointed . . . What were the expectations you had that weren’t met? What did someone do (or not do) that you expected them to do?

Now think of a time when you disappointed someone else . . . What expectations did someone have of you that you didn’t meet? Was it that you chose not to meet those expectations, forgot them, or you simply weren’t able to?

This is what’s happening in the synagogue in Nazareth. Those gathered have expectations of Jesus. They’ve heard about the signs and miracles Jesus had been doing in Capernaum, and were expecting him to do the same here. If not more. After all, we are Jesus’ hometown. He should have loyalty to his own. We should be his priority.

Jesus disappointed the people in Nazareth. He didn’t do the signs and wonders they expected. And so they became frustrated and angry. Why those in Capernaum and not us? Why strangers and not the faithful family and friends? Why outsiders and not insiders?

And in their frustration and disappointment and anger, they want to throw him over a cliff. They try to do it, but Jesus passes right through the midst of them and goes on his way.

A related question: when have you been disappointed by Jesus? When have you been frustrated or angry with him?

We know something about God, right? Those of us who are part of the church study, pray, learn, worship, and trust God, right? With all of what we know about God, we have come to expect God to do certain things. What is it that you expect from God? Stop wars; feed starving children; prevent violent attacks on schools; establish morality; bring prayer back into schools; heal our illnesses; get us jobs; find us more money; fill our churches. What is it that you expect from God?

When those things don’t happen the way we expect, of course we are disappointed. The deeper the expectations, the deeper the frustration. We get discouraged in those situations that are beyond our control, where we’re helpless, where we need God to intervene and God doesn’t seem to be helping. Sometimes we get angry and don’t know exactly who or what to blame.

And in our anger and frustration over our unmet expectations, we look for something or someone to throw over a cliff. Someone who we can be angry at. Someone who we can pile our frustrations on. So we find scapegoats and blame them: the poor (calling them lazy). We blame the immigrants (calling them illegal). We blame the Muslims (calling them terrorists). We blame the young (calling them disrespectful). We blame the seniors (calling them out of touch). We blame gays and lesbians (calling them perverts). We blame unbelievers (calling them condemned).

And as we’re venting and blaming, holding on to our prejudices as some kind of security, Jesus passes right through our disappointment, our anger, our frustration, our fear, our unmet expectations. He does so in order to bring peace, comfort, hope, and forgiveness. To everyone. To those in Nazareth and also in Capernaum. To us. And also to the immoral, the unbelieving, the sick, the unemployed, the poor, the undocumented, the Sunday morning sleepers.

Sometimes that’s frustrating. Look at us; we took the time to come to church today! A lot of us believe in Jesus, trust that we are forgiven in him, put money in the offering plate, pray and read the Bible! Of course we expect something for all that. Shouldn’t there be some kind of special privilege for devotion, belief, discipleship? And come to find out we don’t get anything the rest of the undeserving, unbelieving world doesn’t get. Of course we get frustrated.

And it gets worse. Not only does God stand with those who don’t believe, don’t work, don’t have documentation, don’t pray, don’t deserve our help—those outsiders from Capernaum—but God calls us to stand with them too. That’s what baptism actually is, a call by God to stand where God stands, go where God goes, be part of what God is doing—whether that’s disappointing or not. Whether it meets our expectations or not.

If we’re part of the church to have our own needs and expectations met, we’re going to be disappointed. Because Jesus’ mission isn’t about our expectations. It’s about bringing good news, releasing captives, forgiving those who don’t deserve it, setting free those in bondage. He brings it to everyone. In Capernaum and in Nazareth. Gentile and Jew. Christian and Muslim. Gay and straight. Poor and rich. Devout and apathetic. English speaking and non-English speaking.

He even brings it to you.

Jesus will pass right through our unmet expectations in order to bring to all what we actually need: forgiveness, hope, a new chance, a new beginning, a new life. Jesus brings the reign of God. Whether we want it or not. Whether we expect it or not. And, to tell you the truth, that’s good news

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Sermon

 

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