Hi friends and happy Marathon Monday! I cannot believe this weather – every single runner earned their race medal ten times over today.
Here is my sermon from yesterday. I preached on the Gospel passage from Luke where Jesus appears to the disciples, shows them the wounds on his hands and feet and then shared a meal with them. I pulled six lessons out of this passage that are still very much relevant to the world we are living in today. I think every now and then it’s nice to hear something super practical and easy to understand.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
April 15, 2018
Jesus’ Lessons Today
I want to start off this morning by thanking you all for your prayers for our friend, Diane. In a heartbreaking victory over the grave, Diane was welcomed into the arms of God on Friday afternoon.
When my mom got the call that death was imminent, I immediately thought of that passage from 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And while I think it initially popped into my head because of the first part, “I have fought the good fight,” (because she did fight and she fought heroically) the part that has rung over and over again in my head since then has been the second, “I have finished the race.”
Perhaps I am caught up in the spirit of the long weekend and Marathon Monday, but I started to wonder: What does my race look like? What does my journey look like? How am I impacting the lives of the people around me?
When I told Bruce that Diane had died, he said to me: “Lord knows, haven just got friendlier.” Diane was a friend to everyone; she was one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I have ever met. She was very often the glue that held us all together. And when you lose someone like that, you cannot help but think about how, moving forward, your life can be a reflection of theirs. Her death has made me reflect on the person she was, the person I am and the person I have the potential to be.
Here’s the thing: In life, sometimes there is very little that is actually in our control. Our race course, so to speak, it not always one of our choosing. You guys know this, sometimes all to well. But I do believe, that despite this occasionally chaotic world that we live in, there are some things we can control, things that will never be taken away from us.
In my sermon last week, I talked about doing church and asked the question: Where do we go from here? My sentiment is similar here this morning. What are we doing? How are we living our lives? How are we controlling the things we can control and navigating the things we cannot control? How are we interacting with the people around us? How are we touching their lives? How are we living out our faith? How are we shining God’s light in the world? Sharing God’s love? Uncovering God’s grace?
I am just as guilty of this as anyone, but I think sometimes we get caught up in the busyness and the minutiae of life and we do not really stop to look at the big picture, see who God is calling us to be and enjoy each moment that we have been given.
But doesn’t Easter give us this opportunity? Doesn’t it kind of give us something of an annual reminder, not just of resurrection, but also of the grace bestowed upon us and the Gospel that we are called to emulate? Doesn’t it allow us to pause and re-set, to recommit ourselves to living out our faith?
This morning’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel of Luke. We are backtracking a little bit; last week, we talked about the formation of the early church in Acts of the Apostles and this morning we are back in the Gospel as Jesus appears to his disciples.
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
This story takes place sometime in the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus. The ascension is when Jesus is taken up to heaven in a cloud to be seated at the right hand of God. And, to be quite honest, part of me has always wondered why this 40 days took place; why Jesus did not ascend immediately into heaven.
Simply put, I think Jesus had one more lesson to teach. I think God knew people would take more seriously Jesus’ life and ministry in light of his death and resurrection; that people were more likely to proclaim the bold and powerful truth that love wins if they had seen it for themselves, in the flesh.
And though they were startled and terrified, disbelieving and wondering, Jesus appeared to the disciples and showed them, in no uncertain terms, that he lived, that grace was real and that the real work began now.
And then – in both words and actions – Jesus began to teach.
I believe the lessons Jesus taught in this moment are just as relevant to the world we are living in today as they were 2,000 years ago. I think they help us to answer this question of how we are going to run our race, what our journeys are going to look like and how we are going to impact the lives of others. I think this scripture gives us tangible ways that we can live our lives for the Glory of God so that we can not only be who God is calling us to be, but we can also transform the lives of others, as well.
Here are six lessons that I pulled out of this passage.
Lesson #1: Share Christ’s Peace With One Another
Verse 36 says:
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
In a simple and succinct way, this reminds us that we should always share Christ’s peace with one another. Whether we are with our friends or our enemies, at church or in the grocery store, talking about theology, politics, food or sports – we should share the peace of Christ as we do these things.
This often means pausing before we speak; hearing others and affirming what they are saying, even if we do not necessarily agree with them. It means starting difficult conversations with, “I love you,” to remind yourself of Christ’s call to love God and then love people. It often means practicing hospitality so that people’s needs are met at the see Christ in you as you meet those needs.
Lesson #2: Use The Healing Power Of Touch
Verse 39 says:
Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.
We live in a time where it is important to be careful, thoughtful and respectful when it comes to touching someone else, so I am going to preface this particular lesson by saying this: When appropriate, use the healing power of touch.
I strongly believe touch has the unexplainably miraculous power to change lives. Sometimes something cannot be fixed or get better and words are painfully inadequate; but in those moments, we still have touch. We can embrace the people we love, hold their hands and let their tears fall onto our shoulders.
Over and over again throughout the Gospel, Jesus used touch to heal people. Here we are reminded that we hold that same power.
Lesson #3: Show People The Most Unapologetically Authentic Version Of Yourself
In verse 40:
[Jesus] showed them his hands and his feet.
Jesus did this because he was showing them the wounds from the crucifixion to prove that he was real, and that what they thought happened had actually happened. But don’t you think, in a way, he was also appearing to them and not trying to pretend to be someone he was not; that he was showing them that it was okay to be who they are, wounds and all?
In both our lives and in our faith, it is imperative that we are the most unapologetically authentic version of ourselves. We should not only seek to be who we are, but who God says we are, as well. Will we be perfect? Of course not. Will we have flaws? Absolutely. But God is using every wound, every imperfection, every challenge we face so that we can show the world just how powerful the Gospel is.
Lesson #4: Eat Together
Jesus asked the disciples if they had anything to eat and in verses 42 and 43:
They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
So much happens when we sit down with one another a share a meal. Sometimes it is visible, but very often it is invisible, a healing presence working beneath the surface of our very selves and our relationships with one another. It is around a table where we all become equal, all hungry and in need of nourishment. It is around a table where conversations build bridges that unite us, rather than walls that divide us. It is around a table where we share what we have with others, ensuring no one leaves hungry. It is around a table where we know the presence of Christ.
Lesson #5: Study Scripture
Verse 45 says:
Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
You do not need to have a degree in biblical studies to open a bible and read it. Will it always make sense? No; but, sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me and I studied it for seven years. Consider buying a study bible with notes and commentaries to help you understand more. If you have never read the bible before, I would recommend not starting in one of the obscure prophets in the Old Testament, because that really will not make any sense! Start with Jesus’ life in one of the Gospels.
But give it a shot. Immerse yourself in the words of Holy Scripture. Feel connected to the cloud of witnesses who used the bible to influence the past, knowing that these words are still very much alive and working here today.
Lesson #6: Trust You Are Witnessing Something Unbelievably Believable
I love the last line of this passage, verse 48:
You are witnesses of these things.
Can you imagine how incredible it must have been for the disciples to sit in Christ’s presence and hear him say those words? To know that they were bearing witness to God’s work in the world?
Here’s the thing, though – so are we! We, too, bear witness to God’s work in the world; we might not experience the bodily resurrection of Christ, but we see the presence of Christ all around us and experience resurrection in our lives.
But we have to believe it is really happening. We have to suspend our disbelief, whatever it might be, and trust that God is really here.
Friends, I believe that we have the capacity within ourselves to really make a difference in the world. I am grateful for the people in my life who have touched me in the most meaningful and loving ways. And moments, like this, in my life, remind me of the person I want to be – of the Christian I want to be and of the Church I want to be apart of.
Because I want to make a difference in someone’s life. I want this church – this community – to transform lives.
But we have to take action. We have to do church. We have to commit ourselves and re-commit ourselves to living out Christ’s call to love and serve.
So let us go forth into the world, back into the ordinary of our lives, and remember these lessons from Jesus.
Share Christ’s Peace With One Another
Use The Healing Power Of Touch
Show People The Most Unapologetically Authentic Version Of Yourself
Trust You Are Witnessing Something Unbelievably Believable
We are still in the season of Easter. So let us celebrate resurrection. Let us believe in the Church and also our role within the church. Let us believe that the lessons Jesus taught 2,000 years ago are still relevant in our lives today. And let us change people’s lives, open people’s hearts and proclaim the Gospel to all the world.
For we are witness of these things.
Thanks be to God!