Life is a Journey

Life is a journey – We are all on a journey – Easter III – by Mother Beth

Reading from the Gospel of Luke 24:13-49 

The gospel reading for this Sunday is about two people walking along the road to Emmaus – they have been in Jerusalem and now they are headed home and as they walk along they are in conversation.  As they walk and talk, Jesus appears and walks along with them.  But they don’t realize that it is Jesus.  And as they walk he joins them in conversation.

There are a couple of wonderful things about this.  First, it is a lovely image of Jesus walking with us as we journey – whether we recognize him or not – Jesus is with us!

Second, as we journey, what are we talking about?  What are the things that consume our conversation?  Have we been so impacted by the things that God is doing – by the truth of the resurrection that we cannot help but talk about it??

Third, is our conversation appropriate?  Would we be ok talking about these things if we realized that Jesus was with us.

Think about the times that you are watching TV – if someone else walked in the room would you be able to keep watching?  If you told that joke in mixed company would it still be appropriate? Are we speaking words that are encouraging and helpful or not?

When Jesus asks the two what they are talking about.  They say, “are you the only one who doesn’t know about these things?”  Actually he is the only one who does know about these things – He is the only one who can explain these things!! AND He proceeds to do just that.

They are discussing the details of the events that have happened and in doing so they retell the various reports that they have heard – They tell their own perspective saying, he was a prophet – and we had hoped that he was the one –

The tell what the Women say  –         The grave was empty but they saw angels

Then we hear what the angels say – He is alive

The Disciples say – the grave is empty but they did not see Jesus

So as they journey along together these two followers of Christ have been weighing the testimony and examining the facts and trying to make sense of what has happened.  This is a lovely example of what we do in the church – we walk alongside each other and we share our testimonies about what we have seen, or heard or experienced and we try to make sense of it.  The good news for these two as they walk along is that they are not alone – Jesus walks with them and we need to remember that too.  We are not alone, Jesus walks with us and he wants to explain through scripture and the Holy Spirit how the pieces of this life fit together.

So as they walk along – Jesus says – don’t you understand and explains the scriptures to them.  This may remind us of the story we have heard of how he was explaining things in the temple when he was just a boy.  Jesus is able to explain how and why it is that the Messiah had to suffer

 

 

and die.  27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Notice that he is able to explain the whole of scripture and how it relates to what he had to go through.  Jesus is not God’s afterthought – his role was planned from the beginning of Israel’s history and the scriptures reveal that role right from the beginning.

All this time the two people have not been able to recognize Jesus.  Luke says, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him”.   So what was it that kept them from recognizing Him?

What keeps us from recognizing Jesus?  We too have heard the story – we have heard all the things about the events in Jerusalem so what keeps us from recognizing the truth of who Jesus is?

Maybe we are disappointed – we were told that things would be different – changed – wonderful after we became a Christian –

but bad things still happen or we didn’t get “blessed” in the way we expected – our family is still struggling – our job is still difficult – we still have days when we want to pull the covers over our head and forget the world around us – Maybe this new life doesn’t look like we expected.

The two on the road – also say we had hoped that he was the one – Rome is still in power and the Romans put Jesus to death – therefore Jesus did not overthrow the government as we had hoped – we are still at the bottom of the rung of the ladder – our social status did not change – our economic status did not change – this is not what we were expecting

Every week we come and have the scriptures opened to us – we gather together – two or three – we journey along – we discuss what we have heard – what we understand – what we do not understand.

We break bread together – the Eucharist – communion – we share coffee time or breakfast or lunch together – what is it that keeps us from seeing Jesus.

Once the two invite Jesus to stay with them and they are having a meal together – we hear that, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him;

So what happened?  Is there something about the way in which Jesus prays and handles the bread that is obviously his style?  Maybe but, I think there is more happening here.    Is it their willingness to sit and visit with the stranger – the act of hospitality?  We have heard the scripture in Matthew that says, “as much as you do it to the least of these you do it unto me” – perhaps their openness to listen to a stranger and to invest themselves in that visit.

The importance of breaking bread – what is it about eating together that helps us to know one another better?  There is something about taking the time to share a meal with someone that helps you to hear them in a new way. There are fewer distractions – you are attentive to them – your time is invested in being with them.  To yes to spending time with someone you are saying “no” to many other things and as such you are giving them value – investing in your relationship with them.

Maybe they finally saw Jesus because they stopped to listen.

Someone has said “The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand – we listen to reply”   We are so busy thinking about our answers we are not listening in the first place.

Maybe their eyes were finally opened because they stopped and actually listened.

Are we prepared to listen to what God has for us?  Are we prepared to lay aside our preconceived ideas about what God should be doing for us so that we can actually see what God is doing in and through us.

We all want to be used in big and miraculous ways – but faithful with little means faithful with much.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  Luke 16:10

When the followers finally recognized who Jesus was, he disappeared.  And they ran to tell the others what they had just experienced and how they had seen Jesus.

While they are telling their story – Jesus appears.  There is something really amazing about this – is our testimony such that it enables people to see Jesus?   May it be so.

Because Jesus does not want them to be confused about who He is and whether he is just a ghost – he again offers them the opportunity to see his hands and feet and he eats a piece of fish – a ghost can not do these things.  HE is not an apparition or a figment of their imagination – He is really in their presence.

And once again he opens the scriptures and explains how HE is and has been part of God’s plan from the beginning – that all of scripture is fulfilled in him.

Now they are sent out to continue the ministry of the gospel. He says,

“that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. “

As we journey through life, what is our conversation about?  Are we careful to speak words of encouragement and hope to those around us?  Does our conversation enable others to see Christ or are we so busy with our own thoughts and ideas that we have not yet taken the time to see who Jesus really is?  God wants to help us understand his Word and our role in these things.  O Lord, open our eyes to see you – help us to be willing to sit and hear from you so that we might go from this place empowered to be your witnesses.  Amen.

 

Second Chances

Second Chances – by Mother Beth

Do you ever wonder or worry that maybe you’ve missed it?  There was this one chance to do the right thing or to realize your full potential but that time came and went and you missed it.  So what is there for you to do now?   All of the excitement and adventure is behind you.  There is sometimes a feeling of letdown after a major festival.  We put so much of our heart and energy into preparing for that one big day whether it be a wedding, Christmas or even Easter.  We make all the arrangements and plan everything to a T and then when it is over there is a mix of emotions.  We are happy and pleased but also relieved that it all came together.   Sometimes we are disappointed because things didn’t go as planned and now it is too late.

As we age I think it is easier to look back wistfully at how things were when we were younger – the things we could do – opportunities taken or missed.

The good news on this second Sunday of Easter is that God wants to be in relationship with you – He wants to reveal himself to you – it is not too late – the journey is still ahead – you have not missed the boat.

The gospel reading for today picks up where we left off last Sunday.   Peter and the beloved disciple have been to the tomb and have seen that Jesus body is gone and Mary has encountered the risen Christ and returned to tell the disciples about her encounter.

We hear that the disciples are assembled together in a room with the door locked and they are afraid.  It is not clear exactly what they are afraid of – they may have been afraid of what would happen to them since Jesus was put to death and as followers of Jesus they could be next or they may just be afraid that now they will be put out of the synagogue and no longer allowed to worship with everyone else.

As they are gathered Jesus appears to them –speaks Peace to them and then he shows them his hands and his side.

By showing them the wounds in his hands and side – he is assuring them that he is in fact the bodily resurrected Christ – he is not an apparition or a figment of their imagination.  Once they realize that he is the Christ – they rejoice.  But the journey does not end with the resurrection – John goes on to tell us that Jesus says to them “Peace be with you as the Father has sent me so send I you” – Just as Jesus was sent to them so they are now sent to others.  They are commissioned by Jesus to go and to tell others about the forgiveness of sins.

You see they have been locked up in this room wondering what to do – afraid and probably more than a little disappointed — everything that they had hoped for and planned had ended and even once they realized that Christ had been raised, they were still left alone – Christ was gone but what did that mean for them?  There is no “this” without “Him”.

But now Jesus appears before them and gives them new instructions.  It is not over – they have work to do and they are motivated by seeing Christ – resurrected – in the flesh – but also his words of commissioning – sending them off to keep up the work of the ministry – to continue preaching the kingdom of God.

And then we catch up with Thomas.  Somehow Thomas has missed the meeting with Jesus and he is not content to just take the others word for it.  HE now he insists that he too must see with his own eyes to believe – he insists that he must put his hand in Jesus side before he will believe.

The church has traditionally given Thomas a hard time for not believing the word of the other disciples; calling him “Doubting Thomas”.  I am encouraged by his determination to see for himself.

So if you are disappointed today – if things have not turned out the way you had hoped or planned, be encouraged.  Thomas could have thought he had missed it – there was one opportunity and he was off doing something else.   But instead of giving up and assuming that he doesn’t need to know, Thomas insists that he see for himself.

Don’t settle for less than a real encounter with the living Christ – Thomas doesn’t – he is bold enough to admit that he is not interested in just taking the word of the other disciples – he wants the full experience himself – and why shouldn’t he get it – the others did

How badly do you want to know the truth?  Are you interested in a real experience or content to just take someone else’s word for it.  We hear a lot of things in bits and pieces now – the result of research and discovery is saved for those who are employed to do such digging or for those who like to do it.  We often want the quick fix – maybe we think, I don’t need to know how to get the answer – I just need to know the answer – think about calculators for mathematics class – there was a time when we were training to know how to solve the problem ourselves but now we use machines to do that.   Often it is the same with church, we want someone to tell us the answer BUT, the truth is to be sought after.  It is good to listen and learn from others but we should not check our brains at the door – we need to seek and find.

Thomas insists on a personal experience – and a week later, Jesus shows up and shows Thomas his hands and his side; allowing Thomas to touch and be sure that He is in fact, present in bodily form.  It’s not too late.  Thomas did not miss the opportunity.  Jesus takes the time to alleviate whatever doubts there are.

And the good news for us is that the encounter does not end there.  Jesus goes on to affirm those who will believe without seeing.  This is a word of encouragement for those who would read John’s gospel from that time to the present time and beyond.  It’s not too late!

Jesus is speaking to us – encouraging and blessing us – for believing without seeing him in the flesh – for persevering in faith even if we have questions or so called “doubts”.

Thomas was brave to voice his demands – to insist that he get his own opportunity to see Christ.

Are you brave enough to ask God for the assurance that you need?

Do you have doubts that need to be laid to rest?  It is not too late to have an encounter with the risen Lord.  It is not too late to believe.

God wants to hear your concerns and questions – HE can handle them.

And once you’ve had an encounter – the good news is – it’s not over – there is still more for you.  Christ comes speaking peace and breathing the Holy Spirit into and over you so that you might go out and tell others about the forgiveness that you have found in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Easter Sunday may be over – the excitement and anticipation set aside but we are not finished – we have not missed the opportunity – there are still many opportunities to be taken and experienced.

This is just the beginning of our ministry – Christ calls us to take up his charge and to go and tell.  The words he uses here are powerful.

23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

God gives us the responsibility to help others come to an understanding of forgiveness.

The good news is – it’s not too late for us – for God to reveal himself to us – for God to use us.  But it is also good news for those around us – in our homes – in our community – it is not too late for them – God wants us to go out and reveal his love to them – to show them the good news of God’s forgiveness.

Easter Sunday may be over – but it’s not too late.

 

Alleluia, The Lord is Risen!

Sermon Easter Sunday – Mother Beth

How do you respond in a scary situation?  When you hear that strange noise in the house, do you pull the covers over your head and just hope that it all goes away?  Or maybe you lay, wide awake but turn and face the bedroom door so that at least you will see someone enter the room if there is someone lurking around? (I have to admit that sometimes this is me – I want to see the attacker if there is one!) or maybe you are the brave soul in the horror film who gets out the flashlight and goes in search of the answers?  (When I am home alone with the kids – I figure I have to be brave enough to check out whatever is going on).  What is your style?  How curious or brave are you? How serious are you about finding the answers?

In the gospel reading today we hear about the disciples’ response following the death of Jesus.

Let’s not forget that they are confused and grief stricken – the one that they believed in and loved – the one that they thought would lead them to a new kingdom- his kingdom has hung a cross and died.

What does this mean for them?  What are they to do?  How can they go forward without a leader?  How can it be that they were so sure that he was the one – the Messiah – the bringer of peace and now he is lying in a cold tomb.  There seem to be different responses to what they find there.

Mary approached the tomb and discovers that the stone is missing and out of concern she runs to tell the disciples that all is not well.

Initially she believes that someone has taken Jesus’ body and she wants to know where he has been taken.

Peter and the beloved disciple start out toward the tomb to discover what has happened.  They run and the beloved disciple arrives at the tomb

 

 

first.   He looks in and sees the grave clothes lying there but does not go inside the tomb.  Peter rushes in and sees the grave clothes – the shroud laying separate from the other clothes.

The Beloved disciple now enters and when he sees the clothes we are told that he believes- the grave clothes are a sign to him and motivated by that sign he believes.

The two disciples then return to their homes.

Mary stands outside the tomb weeping and as she looks into the tomb she sees two angels sitting inside the tomb where Jesus had been lying.

They ask her why she is crying.  She responds, “They have taken him away and I do not know where they have laid him.”  With that she turns around and sees Jesus standing there.  She assumes he is the gardener and asks him if he knows where they have laid Jesus.  But when he speaks her name she recognizes him.

There is something wonderful about being called by your name.  There is powerful connection when you are addressed by your name.  And Mary responds by calling Jesus by his title “Rabbouni” and then runs to tell the others the good news of the resurrection.

So the question for each of us this glorious Easter Sunday is …Have you looked into the empty tomb?  Have you asked the questions?

Maybe we don’t want to know – Maybe we want someone else to explain it.

Maybe we are content to speculate about who Jesus is or maybe we think it doesn’t matter if he really died or was really resurrected.

But this is the defining moment for Christianity – this is what sets following Christ apart from following all other gods or religions – If he really died and he really rose then death has been conquered –

death does not have the last say.  If the tomb is empty then God has accomplished the impossible.

When we look into the tomb and see that the body is not there then we must acknowledge that something really tremendous has happened.

This is not just some figural resurrection – this is not the person’s soul leaving their body and going on to a higher plane or another dimension.

The lack of a body in the tomb speaks to a bodily resurrection – the body also has been resurrected – Jesus has been restored from absolute death to absolute life.  It is not just an analogy or a way of explaining what we do not understand.

And when Jesus calls Mary by her name – she recognizes him.

Mary through tears of grief and despair is startled to hear her name spoken by the risen Christ.   This is the moment that makes me weak at the knees.  Can you imagine?  Your beloved teacher and Lord whom you watched suffer and die; whose tomb you have kept watch at; waiting for the time when you can go and prepare the body for a proper burial – is standing there in front of you and calling your name.

Can you hear him call your name today?  Do you recognize the risen Christ?

Once you have looked into the tomb and found it empty, what are you going to do about Jesus?

Will you rush home and hide until God makes it clearer?

Will you like Mary hurry to tell others about the visitation of Jesus and how he is so much more than you realized – more than just a good man, more than just a teacher or a prophet – he is the one who has conquered sin and death?

Or maybe you will await the news from a sheltered home (like those disciples who did not go to see for themselves) – letting others check it out first?

Because once you have looked into the tomb, you cannot forget what you have seen there.  You cannot just go about your life – once you have looked into the empty tomb you must decide what you will do with it
Are you content to listen to rhetoric or intellectual arguments – the speculation about someone stealing the body or the disciples devising some complex conspiracy plan to fool the whole world?

And the good news is that God has accomplished this mighty act – the death and resurrection of his only Son on your behalf.  He loves you that much.  And no matter what your response has been – there is still time to respond differently.  God longs to reveal himself to you.  We will hear over the next weeks that Christ meets the disciples wherever they are.  Those who have questions are not left out.  Those who are scared or nervous, he seeks out.  There is still time to respond.  There is still time to witness the resurrection.  God wants to reveal Himself to you.  Christ wants to call you by name and draw you to himself.

The beautiful, wonderful and exciting news of the resurrection is that Jesus died for us but death could not hold him and he triumphed over death – sin and death have been overcome through Jesus Christ our Lord.  This Easter Sunday may God give you and I the grace and mercy to look inside the empty tomb, to hear Christ speak our names and to go rejoicing to tell others about the good news – Christ is risen – He is risen Indeed, Alleluia!  Amen.
 

The Great Vigil of Easter

The Great Vigil of Easter – Mother Beth

I have noticed that some of my friends are now purchasing complete sets of TV series on DVD.  This is in some ways a dangerous proposition if you are given to indulgence of TV because you can sit through a whole year’s worth of a particular weekly TV program in one sitting.  Many others now binge watch shows on Netflix.  Thank Goodness I have not yet discovered Netflix for myself.  I will concede though that the fact that TV shows are available to watch online allows me the opportunity to go back and watch episodes that I may have missed.  Certainly one disadvantage of the fast paced writing of a TV serial program is that characters can change and develop quite quickly from week to week and should you happen to miss a week it might be confusing or frustrating to have missed a particular storyline.

There is something satisfying about watching or reading a particular story from start to finish.  Some are even worth experiencing more than once.

I do remember however, when Steve and I were going to see the movie Titantic, when it first came out at the theatres, and my Mother was dumbfounded by this.  Why would you want to watch that movie – you already know how it ends?  Still, even when we know how something ends it can be interesting to hear the rhythm and flow of the whole narrative.  Life of course, is more than just a beginning and an end – it is how we live it in the middle that is important too!

On this night we hear the great story of salvation.  If we were to hear all the readings scheduled for the Great Vigil of Easter we would hear 22 lessons that begin with Creation and continue beyond the Gospels.    It is an opportunity for us to hear the great over-arching story almost in entirety.

Former Bishop of Durham, England, NT Wright describes the story of scripture as a 5 act play.  I think this is a particularly helpful way of looking at it, especially tonight as we hear the larger story and prepare to renew Baptismal Vows.   According to Wright the first act is Creation.  The second act is the Fall, Act Three is the story of Israel as a chosen people, Act Four is the story of Jesus and the Gospels and the Final Act, Act Five is what we are in right now.  We are the Fifth Act.

God’s story becomes our story.  We are ransomed, redeemed, embraced, saved and marked as Christ’s own forever.   We have been admitted into God’s family and the benefit of being part of the family is that we are embraced into a safe place – a place where we can learn the lessons of those who have gone before us.  As we read, hear and participate in the great story of scripture we are taught how those before us handled this human life and how God revealed his faithfulness to them.

So what did we hear tonight that is hope for us?  In the lesson from Exodus we heard about God’s faithful deliverance – how the people are told to stand still and see God’s mighty act of salvation for them.

In the Isaiah passage we heard words of encouragement that God is the provider for his people and that God’s family is a witness to all nations and that salvation is extended to all people.

In Ezekiel, God offers transformation – he will take our heart of stone and restore it to a heart of flesh.

The Romans reading explains the grace extended to us at baptism; that dying with Christ and being raised connects us to Christ.   In baptism we turn away from ungodly things and turn towards God himself.  We accept his offer to be part of the family – part of the story.

The Gospel reading confronts us with the pertinent message for tonight.  We go with the women to the tomb, only to discover it empty and to behold a great mystery.  The body is, in fact, gone and we hear the witness of angels – that Jesus has been raised as he promised.

We are commissioned for the fifth act of the play – Go and Tell the good news.  This is where we come into the story after all.  We are witnesses to the empty tomb and we are sent out to tell others the great story of God’s salvation.

The whole story really is His Story but it is also our story.  Easter Eve is about the transformation from the dark of the tomb to the light of resurrection glory.  It is Christ being resurrected but it is also about His salvation of us – his empowering and embracing us – so that we might be transformed from the dark of this world to the light of Christ.  Amen.

A New Day

What would it look like to start a  new church?  How would you go about this?  I am sure that many of us would simply say, “That seems like too much work!”  And to be honest, that was my first reaction.  And if it was up to me to make it happen that would be a problem.  The good news is that the new Episcopal church in Flagler Beach (Flagler Beach Mission) is not about me!   The good news is that Jesus loves the people of Flagler Beach and has called us to begin to gather a community to worship and serve God; sharing the good news about the love, grace and mercy of a forgiving Savior.

Would you be interested if I told you that partnering with this new church meant you could be a part of something creative and fun?  Or if it meant you could have some positive impact in and on a community?  What if it meant you could begin to build relationships that would transform your life and the lives of those you encounter?    Please join us as we begin to receive and extend the love of a great God in a great place. – Mother Beth Pessah

 

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