“Walking Partners”

Luke 24:13-32 (MSG)
South Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship of Faith – April 30, 2017
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift

 Luke 24:13-32 (MSG)

13-16 That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

17-18 He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”

19-24 He said, “What has happened?”

They said, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene. He was a man of God, a prophet, dynamic in work and word, blessed by both God and all the people. Then our high priests and leaders betrayed him, got him sentenced to death, and crucified him. And we had our hopes up that he was the One, the One about to deliver Israel. And it is now the third day since it happened. But now some of our women have completely confused us. Early this morning they were at the tomb and couldn’t find his body. They came back with the story that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive. Some of our friends went off to the tomb to check and found it empty just as the women said, but they didn’t see Jesus.”

 25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

 28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

32 Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?”

 

You’ve heard today’s scripture about the men walking on the road to Emmaus. They walked alongside Jesus but never recognized him until they ATE with him … until they sat down with him, right?  Some Christians even consider this to be the first post-resurrection COMMUNION with Jesus, or a balance to the last supper that he shared with the disciples. THIS was post-resurrection and shared with others, too.

And we’ve talked about how WE feel when we don’t recognize someone in our OWN lives – the discomfort or embarrassment that we might feel.

But I’d like for us to take this in ANOTHER direction now so bear with me for a minute.

 

We talk quite a bit here at Fellowship of Faith about the KOG.  And what is that? [The Kingdom of God.] Right … the Kingdom of God.

Many of us grew up thinking that the Kingdom of God, the KOG, was heaven. We’ll get there when we die.

But we’ve learned that that’s not how JESUS talked about the KOG. Oh, sometimes he called it the Kingdom of Heaven and therein lies the confusion, I think. But if you go back to the original understanding of what HIS theology was, it was that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mk 1:15 and others). It’s here right now.

In fact, I read recently that, “the heart and core of Jesus Christ’s message was that the Kingdom of God would be established on earth. This theme is to be found throughout the four Gospels. As historian Michael Grant puts it, “every thought and saying of Jesus was directed and subordinated to one single thing …, the realization of the Kingdom of God upon the earth,” and “this one phrase [Kingdom of God] sums up his whole ministry and his whole life’s work” ( Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels, 1995, pp. 10-11). Yet, as Grant puts it, modern Christianity “prefers to dwell on quite different aspects of his career and instruction” (ibid., p. 29).”[i]

Much of what we do here at Fellowship of Faith is to try and understand the KOG as it relates to OUR life. Where IS it?   What does it LOOK like?   How can I learn to RECOGNIZE it?

And I think – for ME, at least – the best IMAGE that I can come up with is that it is an ATTITUDE. It is something we are constantly SEEKING and LOOKING for. It is a way of SEEING and EXPERIENCING the world.

When we are in the KOG, we EXPERIENCE life differently. We are AWARE of the interconnectedness of all things. We feel God’s PRESENCE in every breath we take. And as a result, there is a CALMNESS … a PEACE, if you will, that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

It’s a way of LIVING.

A way of BEING.

It is the Way of Jesus.

It’s the Way, as he talked about. When he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6)” some argue that it was this OUTLOOK, this fashion (or way) in which HE lived in relationship to God’s Kingdom – this way that he saw the KOG all around him – that is actually what gives us life eternal.

The KOG is real.

It’s right here.

You and I have experienced it every time we feel the holiness of a situation … every time we recognize Truth (with a capital “T”) … every time we are in the Presence of something we can’t explain but we know it’s peaceful and wonderful … every time we step into the Light (again, capital “L”) of understanding, of love, of justice … those are all times that are the in-breaking of the KOG.

And so these men walking along the road to Emmaus … they are like MOST of us walking along, perhaps moving mindlessly through our lives. Just putting one foot in front of the other, most days. They come up alongside a stranger. And while walking with him, they find themselves talking about JESUS.

 

Okay. So the other day I was having a rough time.

Nothing terrible. Just one detail after another. I felt like I could never get ANYTHING done. We’ve all been there. Right? You hit the middle of the day and wonder what you’ve been doing for 4 hours because it feels like you’ve been running in circles or treading water.  Any of you ever FEEL that way?

Okay so I’m supposed to meet up with a friend and I almost cancel because I want to get something DONE.  But I don’t cancel. I go ahead and meet him for lunch and even though he’s not a practicing Christian … he’s more Buddhist than anything … we get to talking about JESUS. And by the end of that meal, I am re-centered … re-focused … I had re-entered the J-zone! – that place where I’m more aware of Him and I’m more open to seeing myself as part of the KOG again.

It was the simple act of refocusing myself on Jesus … realigning myself with him and on my relationship with him … TALKING about him … ENGAGING someone about him … that brought me back to that place of awareness and peace.

Do I know that the man on the road to Emmaus was Jesus?

No. I don’t know that.

But do I know that those men WALKING with him felt the presence of Jesus?

Yes, I do. THEY knew it was Jesus because they FELT him and “their eyes were opened” meaning they became AWARE. And by becoming more aware, they were able to be open to recognizing the Kingdom of God AROUND them.

But remember how I said a few minutes ago that we’ve talked about how we feel when we don’t RECOGNIZE someone? Uncomfortable or embarrassed or whatever?

[slowly] What happens if the person that we don’t recognize … is OURSELVES? What if this story isn’t so much about recognizing Jesus in a STRANGER as it is about recognizing and embracing Jesus in OURSELVES?

I’d never thought about it this way before, so maybe this is something that YOU all have understood for a long time. But for ME … I can get so hard on myself sometimes – thinking I should be more forgiving or more understanding … feeling as if I’m just never operating at the best that I know I can be … expecting that I’m going to get things right 100% of the time – that sometimes I lose track of the fact that Jesus is INSIDE of me.

Or maybe it’s not that I feel those things as much as it is that I think, “Well, I can NEVER be as good as JESUS. I mean… he was JESUS for gosh sake. Who can measure up to THAT?”

And yet Jesus TOLD his disciples (and I’m reading here from John 14:12 the New Revised Standard Version) “12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do GREATER works than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Wait.       WE will do things GREATER THAN JESUS?

Yep. That’s what it says.

I’m just like you: I either conveniently FORGET that, or I don’t believe it from the get-go. Our CULTURE has brought us up to believe that we can never be as great as he. Our CHURCHES historically needed to have power OVER the people and so I think they hardly EVER preached on THAT verse.

And now when I read about these men on the road to Emmaus meeting up with a stranger that they met on the road who then opened their eyes so that they could recognize him and recognize their relationship to him, and thereby recognize the Kingdom of GOD that they were a PART of … well, NOW I wonder if that isn’t just an analogy for me … meeting up with the Jesus PART of me. Or maybe of me ACCEPTING and EMBRACING the Jesus part of myself.

Luke writes: Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said?”  And that pretty much describes how I talk to myself sometimes … thick-headed … slow-hearted … Deborah, why can’t you simply BELIEVE all that JESUS said????

Then evening came – that time when we all go INSIDE … that INTERNAL, reflective time when the world is quieted. They wanted MORE of this conversation. They didn’t want it to end – like some of us when we’re together and we just want the conversation to keep going even when our time is up.

In that reflective time, they sat down to eat.

Now, at the Last Supper, Jesus told us that every time we do this we should remember him. That’s one reason why we say a blessing over our meals so that EVERY TIME  WE EAT we will remember him. And I just wonder …

By remembering him, were they re-MEMBERING him … were they taking him back into their CONSCIOUSNESS and reconnecting themselves to him … were they REALIGNING themselves with his WAY … the truth and the life? Is this REALLY a story about meeting up with a STRANGER on the road, or is this a story about meeting up with that part of OURSELVES – that part that is connected to him – that we often FORGET about?

Y’see … because of the RESURRECTION, the RISEN Christ is MORE than just the human Jesus. The Risen CHRIST can be ANYWHERE and EVERYwhere at the same time because he is SPIRIT.

At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

Why did he disappear?

Maybe because by SEEING him, by REMEMBERING him … they were back in the KOG. Their awareness had SHIFTED and they were again able to recognize that they were already IN the Kingdom of God.

 

Jesus keeps bringing us back to that awareness. One way or another.

But once we’re AWARE … once we’re FEELING it … once we’re anchored there … we can see it for OURSELVES.

Until we can’t anymore and then he finds ANOTHER way to meet us on the road and to remind us of our REAL home … where everything else is an illusion and all that really exists is in the presence of God 100% of the time.

 

That’s what the story means to ME this week.

Now you and Holy Spirit will have to figure out what it means to YOU. But this you can be sure of:  whether you’re alone eating by yourself, or going through the routine of walking or navigating through your day … Jesus is right there to remind you that we live in Kingdom of God.

And there IS no Good News greater than that.     Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] “Why Don’t People Understand the Kingdom of God?” https://www.ucg.org/the-good-news/why-dont-people-understand-the-kingdom-of-god. Downloaded 04/29/2017.

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