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the sermon for

The Third Sunday of Easter

30 April 2017

Luke 24:13-35
We don't find Jesus; Jesus finds us!

by Todd Wise

04302017Earlier that morning the group of women — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James — had found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and received the amazing news that Jesus is alive, he is risen. Of course, this was not your typical Sunday morning — not a normal start to the week — and this news traveled fast to the eleven.

And later that day is when our gospel reading from Luke begins. It begins with Cleopas, who was Jesus' uncle, and his son Simon solemnly traveling to the town of Emmaus. Now being an avid hiker and engineer, I quickly did the math. It's seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, traveling at a casual pace of 2 miles per hour would mean that this journey takes somewhere between 3-4hrs. To put this in perspective, it is about the same distance as walking from our church to the Wagner Noel (minus the traffic lights and drilling rigs, of course). Now, I'm sure most of us have enjoyed a pleasant walk with a friend. Good conversation, scenic views, a relaxing way to unwind or get from one place to the next.

But, as these two are on their way and engaging in somber conversation, they happen to gain an unexpected visitor. Someone they do not recognize. Someone they had not sought out. Someone that found them and joined them on their journey.

And it seems that this 'visitor' was somehow unaware of the incredible events that had just unfolded in Jerusalem. In fact, the disciples explained to their visitor these events and what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth. They also relayed what the women had seen and heard at the tomb, and that Peter had gone to the tomb and also found it empty. But still, none of the disciples had seen the living Jesus. Where was he? Would you have been nervous if you were a disciple? In the disciples' eyes, things must not have appeared to be going to plan. The disciples expected the Messiah to usher in God's rule, but not that He would suffer, die, and rise again.

It's at this point that the visitor begins to open the disciples' hearts to understanding what had really happened. To interpret the old testament scriptures so that they might understand all of the recent and significant events.

And as their journey comes to a close, the disciples reach their destination and coax the visitor to stay with them — to join them for dinner as the day is getting late. The disciples are gracious hosts, yet the 'visitor' takes on the host's role. He took the bread, blessed, and broke it and gave it to them. And it was at this moment, the moment that the bread was broken, that the visitor was revealed. No longer a visitor, but Jesus Christ, living, risen from the dead.

And, as quickly as the disciples had met the visitor, he disappeared from their sight. They were left to ponder the situation. They had felt a burning in their heart when Jesus had explained the scriptures. The text had been there all along, but they now see it in a new and profound way. And even though it was evening, the disciples got back on the road. This time, heading right back to Jerusalem where they had been earlier that day. On their way to find the eleven and tell them that the Lord is risen indeed; and they had seen it first hand in the breaking of the bread. That they now understand what the plan had been all along.

What an exciting story.

You see this story is about Jesus. Jesus seeks us out. Jesus joins us on our journeys. No matter how easy or difficult that journey is, Jesus takes the first step even if we're not expecting him to. Even if we don't recognize Him because of our preconceptions, Jesus makes the connection. In fact, Jesus opens our hearts to the scriptures so that we might see them in new ways. Jesus opens our eyes, he reveals himself to us after revealing the truths of His word. Jesus gives us the bread of life.

We have all traveled the road to Emmaus. Perhaps you are on that road right now. Perhaps you've been down that road before, Or perhaps you've just returned from Emmaus. We have all had challenges and had our hopes shattered, but Jesus was there. Already walking beside us. We may not have recognized Him even though he was there beside us. We may not have known his voice even though he was talking to us throughout that journey, but it was Him. We may only have come to recognize him at the end of the journey, when he revealed himself to us through the breaking of the bread and forgiveness of our sins.

That day, Christ made a tremendous difference in the lives of Cleopas and Simon. Before meeting Jesus on the road, their heads were low, their eyes pointed at the ground, their hopes receding. But after meeting Jesus, they turned around and walked another 7 miles right back to where they had just been earlier that day. That's fourteen miles in a single afternoon and evening. However, during the return trip, I'm sure that their heads were held high, their pace was quickened, and their hearts were uplifted. That is the difference that Christ makes when He is the center of our heart instead of doubts, uncertainties, and difficulties. Jesus opens our eyes and fulfills his plan whether we had doubt or not. He is already here with us.

It's Jesus that took the first step, It's Jesus that seeks us out, It's Jesus that opens our hearts to scripture and it's Jesus that opens our eyes to the Truth. And it's because it's Jesus that loves us unconditionally - unearned, undeserved.

"Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide, For round us falls the eventide. O let Your Word, that saving light, Shine forth undimmed into the night" Amen (LSB 585:1)

 
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the sermon for

The Second Sunday of Easter

23 April 2017

John 20:19-31
Because of the Savior, we, too, become saviors!

04132017John; chapter twenty; verses nineteen to thirty-one. That's the gospel reading, this year, for the second sunday of Easter. And I hadn't realized it until this week, that was the gospel reading for the second sunday of Easter, last year! And it will be the gospel reading for the same sunday, next year! I think this is the only day of the entire church year that happens! The first and second readings and the psalm changes from one year to the next. But not the gospel! It's always John 20 . 19-31! Always was! Always will be!

It's evening, the first day of the week. The doors are locked for fear. And Jesus comes and stands among the disciples. No fanfare. No flourish. He, simply, comes and says, "Peace!" He shows them his hands and his side and the disciples rejoice! And a second time, he says, "Peace!" But this time, he continues, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you..." Let those words sink in, for a few moments. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you..."

And, I have to confess, for the longest time, I thought he meant saying prayers and reading the bible and going to church on Sunday morning. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" For years, I did my best and tried my hardest! And if I let down, my parents didn't! Sunday school! Bible school! Camp! Acolyte! Youth choir! Crucifer! I, even, joined a scout pack – then a troop – sponsored by the congregation. But somewhere around senior year in high school, like others my age, I started to drift... to wander... The things I used to do lost their appeal. Of course, every second sunday of Easter, the church would read this lesson – John 20 . 19-31 – but without me! "As the Father has sent me, so I send you!"

But then, about my second or third year in college, I revisited believing. This time, though, it was different. It wasn't about saying prayers or reading the bible or going to church on Sundays. Instead, it was about Jesus! About Jesus and – especially – about his hands and his side! And faith became more than I ever imagined! Saying prayers! Reading the bible! Singing hymns on Sunday! That's not why the Father sent Jesus! Jesus was sent for one reason... to love us! Love us with all his heart and with all his mind and with all his strength and with all his being! Love us to the end! Love us beyond the end! And in loving us, save us! In loving us, redeem us! In loving us, deliver us! In loving us, set us free! That's the story! That old, old story we've heard so much about! That's what the "radical Lutheranism" we talked about during Lent is! And that's why the wounds, the scars, Jesus' hands, his side, are so important!

That first Easter, that evening, when Jesus comes and stands among them, when he says, "Peace," and shows his hands and side... When he, again, says, "Peace! As the Father has sent me, so I send you"... those wounds, those scars, that mission, that purpose... they are bound, inextricably together! In this passage, Christ sends us as saviors, just like him! Think about that! Christ sends us as saviors, just like him! That's who we are, as the church! That's what we're about! We're not called just to come here sunday morning after sunday morning! We are chosen, merely to praise god! We are here to be Saviors! Saviors just like Jesus!

We are to drive the money changers out of the temple... JUST LIKE JESUS! We're here to change water into wine... JUST LIKE JESUS! We're here to talk with Nicodemus when he comes in the night... with the Samaritan woman as she comes to the well... JUST LIKE JESUS! We're here to raise the dead and to heal the sick and to feed the five thousand! To walk on water and forgive the guilty and give sight to the blind! JUST LIKE JESUS! But most of all, we're here to suffer... and to be crucified... and to die... and to be buried... and to descend to the dead... and on the third day, rise... JUST LIKE JESUS! And we're here to go to those behind locked doors and say, "Peace!" And we're here to show them our hands and our side! JUST LIKE JESUS! "As the Father has sent me, so I send you!"

God so loves the world that god doesn't stop with Jesus! But god gives us – god's daughters and sons – as well! Gives us as a sacrifice! As an offering!

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved! And in the same way – just like Jesus - God, who is rich in mercy, out of the same great love with which he loved us – loves them - even when they are dead through their trespasses, made them alive together with us - by grace they are saved, as well!

It's like the night in which he was betrayed, when Jesus – after having washed the feet of his disciples – says to then, "You, also... You, also, ought to wash one another's feet!" Love, Jesus says! Love just like me! "As the Father has sent me, so I send you!" Truth is, as the church, as god's people, we are Jesus – Christ – for the world! Part of a long line of dominos that goes back to Jesus! Each domino moved by the one before, moving the one after! We're not here to be nice people! We're not here to be hospitable or courteous or polite! We're here to be saviors! Saviors JUST LIKE JESUS! We're here to change the world! To make it different! New! Through our sacrifice and through our suffering! It's just not important who says the prettiest prayers! It simply doesn't matter who knows the bible by heart, who attends worship the most! It's the wounds and the scars! It's the hands and it's the side! It's the sacrifices we've made! It's the love we given! It's the lives we've saved!

The moment we're baptized, we are no longer just people! Plain! Ordinary! Instead, we become children of god... JUST LIKE JESUS! Conceived by the same spirit! Inspired with the same breath! It's like Luther says... "God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbors do!" "God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbors do!" We're not here to love god; we're here to love others as god has loved us! We pass it on! We gift it forward! We're not here to worship god! To offer up our gratitude and appreciation! We're here to do what Jesus did! To do what Jesus continues doing... THROUGH US! "As the Father has sent me... JUST AS the Father sent me... so I am sending you!"

It's an important passage. John; chapter twenty; verses nineteen to thirty-one. One that deserves to be read, year in and year out! But, my friends, please! Please don't try to tame the words! Please don't try to take away its teeth! This is only of those rare passages. Wild! Dynamic! Radical! Jesus comes and stands among us. He says, "Peace!" He shows us his hands! His side! And he says, "Friends, these are my gifts to you! Now, you go! You go and do the same!"

 
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