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Jesus is the Way: the Road to Emmaus, April 30, 2017 at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA

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Easter III April 30th 2017

Acts 2:14a,36-41 Psalm 116:1-4,12-19 1 Peter 1:17-23 Luke 24:13-35

    The Youtube video of our Luther Musical is playing Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is our God! What a home, what security, what a protection our God is – in the time of Martin Luther of old, he called God his fortress – his refuge, a very necessary place to go for safety in time of trouble. The fortress up behind the city made medieval people feel safe and really protected them when armies invaded and come to kill them in war. Our Luther Musical Showcase took place last Wednesday, and I thank the contingent that came from Bethlehem to experience it. I hear a Mighty Fortress playing from our Youtube video as I write these words. 

Our Showcase of Selections from the Luther Musical by Peter and Mark Krey


This is the place in the song, Mendicant Monks, where we are hitting the “money” note!

Jesus is the Way

     Now just the way we are doing here today in church, those two disciples on the road to Emmaus were trying to understand what seemed to be impossible to understand. Who was this Jesus? He had organized healing campaigns instead of military ones. He had ridden into his capitol city of Jerusalem on a donkey, as the Prince of Peace, as the prophets foretold – and then precisely the religious leaders, who should have recognized him, turned him over to the Romans to have him crucified. And he was going to redeem Israel. He was going to set God’s people free. But look at the bad end he came to! Were God’s promises empty and was it impossible for God to keep them? Did God let his people down?

     We can well look at our time as well. With all the bad news going on, we can feel the same way that those disciples felt on the road to Emmaus. Dear God, where are all your promises? Our hearts can really take a down-turn – but like those disciples on their way experienced, Jesus did not leave them alone. He joins them and becomes really present with them, although like our eyes, their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

     Jesus first asks them questions – Jesus wants to know what is troubling your heart and what is troubling my heart. And we tell him about discrimination and persecution, about a racist in the White House: you say, “What else is new?” About our society acting as if Black lives do not matter. But then also personally, the amount of times I fail, the amount of times I deny my faith in so many ways. Is it the same for you? And this amounts to not really believing that Jesus was raised from the dead for his vindication by the glory of God! The disciples did not really believe the women about Jesus having been raised from the dead. Their sound and sorry sadness registers in their discussion!

     And Jesus chimes in: “O how foolish you are – how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets declared!” Just like the Messiah, like Jesus had to suffer, we too have to suffer to enter the glory of God. Then Jesus opens the scriptures for them showing from Moses through all the prophets, how Jesus was the Holy One of God.

     And here we do the same thing every Sunday: we read the Old Testament Lesson, the Psalm, the Epistle, and the Gospel to show that Jesus is really present, living within us, because

Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

Every Sunday we start from Moses and all the prophets, interpreting all the things about Jesus in the scripture. Can you see how Christ is alive? We find that our eyes are often kept from recognizing him – but Jesus is alive in us right here and now and not only for Sundays at worship, but when we are on the way, trying to figure out what God meant by Jesus’ having gone through the Holy Week Passion, having been crucified and then raised back up by God on the third day.

               Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

     Sure, Peter of old, who had denied Christ three times, could preach and experience how 3,000 became baptized in one day. They were gathered in the one temple, in the center of Jerusalem, in the center of Palestine, as the Romans called Israel, the country they were occupying. On Easter 1972 I was in Moscow Russia and there were 6,000 people in one church and crowds who could not get through the doors of another church, it was so full. But then I discovered all the other churches had been turned into museums and like the temple in Jerusalem, it was the central place in the city where people worshiped.

     Peter reproached the people, cut them to the quick: you crucified the Christ! You tried to destroy the only future that humankind had. Like you denied climate change until it was too late! No matter that the whole city of New Orleans flooded and the ocean went into the New York subways. You deny it. Through his preaching 3,000 people repented and were baptized. Many Jewish pilgrims from the whole diaspora must have still been in the temple for Passover. I was going to say there were not yet any synagogues, so everyone had to worship in the temple, but then I remembered how Jesus preached in the one in Nazareth. Synagogues did not first become places of worship after the temple was destroyed.

     But imagine how many churches and people around the world right now are hearing these words of Jesus: “O how foolish you are – how slow of heart you are to believe all that the prophets declared!”

     Here in Oakland, the East Bay, San Francisco, and over the whole United States and around the world, we may have more people than Peter brought to their knees on that day. Do you realize that there are over 2 billion Christians in this world?

What is important, however, is not that number, but you and me! Are you in that number? Do you want to be in that number? Don’t you want to be in that number of those who see the way, who see Jesus up ahead, who see the way that God sets before us – through suffering, like in the words of Churchill – blood, toil, tears, and sweat…the suffering that ushers in the life and the more abundant life promised to you and me? It’s much like a woman giving birth to a child. With the sweet new life in her arms, her heart becomes filled with joy, despite all the suffering. Because it is in the cross of Christ that we glory, because through it comes the new life of the resurrection.

Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

     Death does not get the last word. Those who inflict death have become powerless. The one who brings life, healing, and new meaning and hope into our lives – here in Bethlehem, that like your mother church Bethlehem in New Orleans – has shown us the way – it goes through the cross to God’s glorious resurrection!

     Jesus did not lead military campaigns. He organized healing campaigns, sending out the twelve and then the 70, because the twelve represented the twelve tribes of Israel and the 70 represented all the nations of the world. We can look at the nations of this world and say, “It does not work.” States will still put one victim after another to death, for the absurd reason that a lethal medication might expire, to control people with the fear of death. Armies are still mustered to fight an enemy. We fire 59 tomahawk missiles to blow up an airport in Syria and hit our enemy with the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan and has it worked? Think about Jesus, whom we call the way! He did not make thousands of soldiers die for his power! He died for us, so that we can place one foot after another on the way of life and have life lived more abundantly following our Prince of Peace.

     So, orienting our whole lives around him, O people of Bethlehem, falling on our knees, and repenting of being so foolish and slow of heart to believe, we recognize the Holy One present among us. And then, then we can go on our way rejoicing, rejoicing in our suffering, because we have seen the way!

Christ is risen!

           He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

     Yes, Jesus goes out ahead of us, and we beg him like Abraham did the angels, who visited him: “Stay with us, because fast falls the evening tide, and the day is almost spent.” Yes, “the darkness gathers, Lord, with us abide!”

     And as sinful as we are, Jesus relents and sits down with us at this table and suddenly is no longer the guest, but becomes the host and when he breaks the bread – when he took the bread, blessed, and broke it, our eyes and their eyes were opened and he vanished from our sight. But we say as they said, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us as he showed us the way, while he interpreted the scriptures to us?”

     And so, from old and tired dragging feet, our replaced hips and artificial knees, we get to happy feet that have no trouble running the seven miles back to Jerusalem, not minding the darkness, not minding our sleeplessness, not minding the whole day’s weariness and lack of rest, we run back to the other disciples, and before we can tell them the good news, or even get a word out of our mouths, they say:         

Christ is risen!

         He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!

Because he appeared to Simon Peter. And then we tell them what happened to us on the road to Emmaus and how our eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread! And together we exclaim:

  Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed. Halleluiah!  Amen.






Written by peterkrey

May 2, 2017 at 8:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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