May 1, 2011
Unfortunately I forgot to record Tonight's Sermon so the sermon is included as a full script.
FOCUS READING: Luke 24: 13-35 (the road to Emmaus)
Sometimes, when I play a game of scrabble or cards, I see what I want to see. I see letters or ahand that I do not have, instead I see the cards or the letters that I want to have. I believe that its that way with Jesus.
There are lots of different Jesus-es...
The Jesus of experience...
The Jesus of hopes or expectations...
The Jesus of the Bible..
The Jesus of the sacraments..
All these Jesus-es can be Jesus-es of faith. They all have their place
One though is more important than the others, as today’s story shows us.
The two disciples on the road - Cleopas & maybe Mrs Cleopas seemed to have believed in the first two kinds of Jesus.
These disciples seemed to know Jesus by experience.
Our Spiritual experiences are important. Our experience of Jesus alive and with us is important. The sense we may have that he is near. There are some people, perhaps even some here who have had visions, have a strong sense of God telling them something personal. Perhaps there are others who have had dreams in which they have met Jesus,
All of this is OK, it’s even valuable and important, but the trouble with experience is that it only gives you an incomplete picture.
When I was a child I really hated broccoli, but I had only ever eaten it overcooked. When I got older I discovered that when it was lightly steamed or stir fried, I enjoyed it. If I had only gone by my past expeiences I would never have eated broccoli as an adult. I didn't have the whole picture. Cleopas and his mate didn’t have the whole picture either. When their experience of Jesus became difficult with the cross, and when they didn’t see and hear the angels the women saw, their image of Jesus and their hopes fell apart. If we base our faith only on our experience there is a danger we will be misled or narrow in our faith.
This brings us to the second Jesus Cleopas and friend believed in. The Jesus of hopes and expectations. What did these disciples hope for and expect? "We had hoped that he was the one who would set Israel free." It’s a bit like a broken record, but once again we need to remember that most Jews saw the Messiah as being a new King like david. A great Spiritual leader but a great warrior who would drive out the enemies and make Israel a great nation. This is what they had hoped for in Jesus. The cross brought all these expectations to nothing.
The great joke of this story about Cleopas and his companion, is that as they walk home thinking about the Jesus they had hoped for and the Jesus they had experienced and how these Jesus-es had come to nothing but disappointment, is that Jesus himself is walking along side them. To encourage them this Jesus, the real Jesus, who’s walking along beside them, shares with them the Jesus of the Bible.
The Uniting Church is sometimes accused of being a bit unbiblical. But on this issue of who Jesus is, the church’s foundation document The Basis of Union is very clear. "When the church preaches Jesus Christ, its message is controlled by the Biblical witnesses." In other words there’s no problem with me talking about... experience... hopes & expectations... the way Jesus is revealed to us through communion and Baptism, ...the Jesus of Scholarship & theology... but only if that Jesus is consistent, matches up with, does not contradict, the Jesus of the Bible.
The two disciples on their way to their home town of Emmaus are two of the most privileged people in the whole Bible. Not only did they experience Jesus in his earthly life, as a companion with them on the road, not only did, they see some of their hopes and dreams about him come true... not only did they experience his presence in the breaking of the bread, they got to hear him explain to them the Jesus of the Bible. When they reflect on who was with them, their comment is "Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?" Lk 24:32 (GNT)
I think the Uniting Church’s
approach here is a reasonably Biblical one. Some of you may have
heard 2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All scripture is inspired by God and is
useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training
in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be
proficient, equipped for every good work." 2 Ti 3:16-17 (NRSV)
You may not be so familiar with verse 15 which says "and how
from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to
instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." 2 Ti
3:15 (NRSV) In other words one of the main purposes of the Bible is
to reveal Jesus to us so that we might have faith and
There’s just one more Jesus I want to talk about and that’s the Jesus of the sacraments. It’s when Jesus blesses, breaks the bread, and shares it that Cleopas and his house mate finally see who their companion on the road really was. Whatever else communion might be it is a way for us to be reminded who Jesus is, and to be reminded that he is with us. Whether with Lutherans and Catholics and some Anglicans, and some Protestants you believe Jesus is present in the bread and the wine themselves, or whether other Christians you believe the bread and the wine are powerful symbols to remind us of who Jesus is and what he’s done, whatever you believe about that, Jesus has given us the breaking and sharing of the bread and the drinking of the wine as a powerful, touch, taste, smell and feel way, of showing us who he is and reminding us that he is with us.
All the Jesus-es we’ve thought about have their place in revealing to us the real Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible is the most important though because all the rest can lead us astray or get distorted without the Bible to guide us. None the less while the Jesus of the Bible is should control who we understand Jesus to be. Jesus is bigger than the Bible, so the Jesus of our experience, expectations, the sacraments, and scholarship & theology are a really important part of our faith.
All of us have times like Cleopas and the other disciple who travelled with him. In our faith and life journey we feel abandoned or we feel things have gone wrong. The Jesus of our experience seems to have deserted us or disappointed us. The Jesus of our expectations has not fulfilled our dreams. When that happens, when it seems like we’re alone on the road, we should remember the Jesus of the Bible, who promised he would never leave us or forsake us, who walks along side us even when it seems that all is lost. We should take time to read the Scriptures. We should come and join with other Christians and join in the breaking of the bread. For when we do then we are reminded that we are not alone, no matter how hard or how bitter the road may sometimes become. Amen