Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

The Ascension


The Ascension


Let us say together the Apostle’s Creed (recite the creed).
The creed was written in order to give people a concise understanding of the faith - short enough that people could memorize it but comprehensive enough that everything that essentially we need to know and believe to follow God is included. There were no Bibles available for people to look at so they needed a way to get the facts about the faith. Originally it was a baptismal creed - those adults being baptized would learn it in question and answer form and then recited it at their baptism.
So let’s think about this creed and what the early church fathers felt was import an for us to know…..
First that God created heaven and earth - short and sweet and essential for us to believe.
The last paragraph gives us some one sentence essentials - The Holy Spirit, that regardless of tradition, or denomination, we are all one church in Jesus Christ, that we are all part of the communion of believers - living or dead, that our sins are forgiven, that we will be bodily resurrected and will live forever.
The middle paragraph, the longest one, tells us what we need to know about Jesus - the basics. That Jesus was the son of God, that his birth was a miracle, that he was crucified and died, that he rose from the dead and that he ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the God the father almighty. And that last little section is what we need to talk about today - he ascended into heaven…..
This is Ascension Sunday - the day set aside to recognize that essential section of the Apostle’s Creed - that Jesus ascended into heaven.
A little over 40 days ago, we recognized the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Jesus remained on earth for 40 days after the resurrection, spending time with the disciples - teaching them and encouraging them in the role they were going to have to fulfill as the Apostles of Jesus.
We had our Christ Candle burning in the sanctuary to remind us of the special presence of Jesus during these 40 days. During these 40 days Jesus was also trying to prepare the disciples for the fact that he was going away - for good this time.
On the 40th day after the resurrection, this past Thursday, Jesus gathered the disciples on a mountaintop, and told them that this was it. That this was the moment he was leaving - he told them not to worry. He was going to heaven, but he was going to send his spirit back and this spirit would live in them and give them the power they needed to do the job God had assigned them. Their job was to go out into the world and teach everyone what he had taught them. The disciples were to take everything that Jesus had taught them and now teach it to the rest of ‘the world’. Go back to Jerusalem, and wait. When the time is right my spirit will come to you. Which by the way we will celebrate next Sunday as we remember the event known as Pentecost.
So as the disciples are standing there, they watch as Jesus literally, physically, ascends through the clouds and on to heaven. They just stood there mesmerized. Can you imagine?
They stood there long enough staring up in the sky that an angel came and said, “Don’t just stand there looking up into heaven!” Go! Do what Jesus said! Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the spirit Jesus will send you. Off they went, singing and praising God and they did what Jesus told them - they went back to the upper room and waited expectantly for whatever this spirit might be!
So the disciples are in the upper room waiting for whatever this ‘spirit’ is that Jesus has promised them. And thinking about that sight witnessing Jesus’ ascent into heaven.
Which makes us start to think about heaven…. Other than knowing that God the Father and Jesus are there, what do we know about heaven? We talk about it a lot - we all want to end up there. We all probably have our own vision of what heaven is like. But what does the Bible actually teach us about heaven?
We know that God created it. We read that passage from Genesis to begin the service - in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Heaven was something new that God created at the same time he created the earth. There is no real description of what ‘heaven’ is but we know that
it is where God lives with his angels. The word ‘heaven’ is used as a term of where God is - even thought we know that we are taught that God is everywhere.
What God and the writers of the Bible know is that we as humans need concrete images to help us understand concepts. We need a visual picture to help us figure all this out. So the writers portray God as a king like, or father like, being sitting on a throne where he looks out over the earth - his kingdom. Not that this is necessarily what it is really like. This is simply an image that the people who lived during the time of the bible would have been able to relate to. To understand God - think of him as a great king sitting on a throne in a great throne room. This visual image would portray for these people complete control and complete power. They lived under earthly kings who had complete control over their lives and total power. This is not what it is really like, but a good way for you to think about God and heaven. That image doesn’t work so well for us and I’m not even sure there is an image that would work since we have never lived under that kind of total power and total control over our lives. But that is what that image of God is suppose to portray - that concept of God overseeing us and in control.
Often we hear in Bible stories that ‘the heavens open up and we see the glory of God” - the visual would be looking up in the sky and seeing God sitting on his throne. The idea is to reassure us that God is there and that God is at work and God is in charge. That comfort of knowing that God is watching and knows what is going on in our lives.
The other definition of what we know about heaven is that it is the place where God’s servants go when their work is done in this life. We read many times that someone’s work was done and they were ‘lifted into heaven’.
When we are ‘lifted into heaven’ what is it going to be like? We don’t have a clue. There is no definitive description of what heaven is actually like. We have the description of God’s throne room with angels flying around him and worshipping him. We know that Jesus sits in his throne on the right side of God. We have Jesus telling us that he has prepared a room/mansion for us. The Apostle John was lifted up by God and given a ‘vision of heaven’.
Then John says - there are no words to describe it. I don’t have the proper vocabulary to convey to you what it is like. But here is my best shot - and he describes streets of gold and buildings of jewels and that there is no light source other than the glowing, glory of God.
Heaven is something that can’t be described - but it will be good. Even better than the physical description, there is the description of what we will be like in heaven. We do not turn into angels who sit on clouds strumming harps of gold…… but the prevailing description of heaven is a time when we will be at peace - there will be no pain and no tears and no hardship. And we will have the ability to not only see God but to worship him as he truly desires to be worshipped.
Sounds like somewhere we would like to be, so how do we get there? First, and most important, you cannot earn your way to heaven. Heaven is not the goal of living a life for Christ. We are saved by grace. Heaven is the ‘reward’ not the ‘goal’ of living as God’s people. You go to heaven by acknowledging your salvation in Jesus Christ and then living as Christ calls us to. We are taught not to live with heaven in mind, but to just know that we can be confident heaven is the final destination.
How do we get there? And here is the importance of the Ascension of Jesus. Jesus died - so will we. Jesus was resurrected - so are we. Jesus ascended into heaven - so will we.
The importance of celebrating the ascension is that we are celebrating Jesus’ ascension but we are also celebrating
our ascension. Because Jesus rose to this mysterious place we call heaven, so will we. That is the good news of this day!
The ascension, according to the Gospels and our early church Fathers, is a very significant event - it rates right up there with Christmas and Easter and Pentecost as important days for us to recognize in the church. Ascension is actually the completion of what Jesus was to do when he came to earth. We celebrate his birth at Christmas so that he could be one of us, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday we remember his death for our forgiveness, Easter we acknowledge Jesus rising from the dead so that we will rise from the dead as well. And then, when this time is completed, as Jesus ascends into heaven to be with God the Father to live with God forever - assuring us that we too will live forever in heaven with God. Amen!

They Still Didn't Beleive

They Still Didn’t Believe

The events of Easter are pretty fascinating. The women reach the empty tomb, they hear the angels tell them Jesus has risen. They run back to Jerusalem to the upper room and tell the disciples what the angels had said and the disciples didn’t believe the women. The disciples even run out to the empty tomb and they still don’t believe Jesus has risen from the dead. The couple from Emmaus saw the risen Jesus and ran 7 miles back to Jerusalem and told the disciples, and the disciples still didn’t believe it. On one hand it is pretty hard for us to believe but on the other hand can you really blame them? People raising from the dead isn’t something we understand either. We’ve heard this story year after year after year and we say we believe but if we get down to the inner parts of ourselves, don’t we at times doubt that all this is real. We would really like to understand how this all happened. That Jesus really died; that Jesus really came back to life; that Jesus can really bring us peace in our life; that Jesus can give us power to do things we don’t think is possible….. It is hard to believe.
Even after all the resurrection stories they have heard about Jesus, the disciples are still huddled together hidden behind locked doors, afraid. They are convinced that all is lost; there is no hope; all these people who have reported they saw Jesus were just delusional - they were just victims of wishful thinking. So now they are locked in the upper room trying to decide what to do next…. when all of a sudden Jesus appears to them in the locked room. His first words to them are: “Peace be with you!” Then he shows them the wounds in his hands and his side. And they were filled with joy. It was true! Jesus really was alive!

But one disciple wasn’t there that night. Thomas was somewhere else and later in the week when the disciples see Thomas they tell him what has happened. Jesus alive? “No way”, Thomas says. Unless I see him with my own eyes, I am not going to believe. After all you guys didn’t believe anyone else when they told you they has seen the risen Jesus. Why should I believe you now?”
And now for all eternity, because of this one statement, Thomas is going to be known as ‘doubting’ Thomas. You have to feel a little bit sorry for Thomas - one incident, one remark - after the trauma that he had experience over the last several days. The murder of his master… the fear and worry and disappointment that goes along with what he has been through. Again, can we really blame him for being a little skeptical?
Thomas wasn’t always ‘the doubter’. The first time we encounter Thomas is in the 11th chapter of John earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has just been informed that his friend Lazarus was so sick that he was about to die. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, lived in Bethany near Jerusalem, but Jesus and the disciples were a day’s journey away across the Jordan river. Word then reached Jesus and the disciples that Lazarus had died. Jesus says, “Let’s go over to Bethany to see Lazarus”. “Wait a minute” the disciples say. “It is too risky. The authorities there have threatened to kill you. We can’t go there.” But Jesus insists that he is going. Here we meet Thomas for the first time. Because Thomas is not a doubter here, Thomas says, “Let us go with Jesus that we may die with him.” Earlier in this ministry of Jesus, it is Thomas who is not the doubter; not the fearful one but Thomas who is the faithful friend - willing to go to his death to be with Jesus.
The next time we find Thomas mentioned is in the 14th chapter of John. The apostles are gathered to celebrate the Passover - the night we call Maundy Thursday - the meal we call the Last Supper. Jesus is trying to explain over that meal the task for which had he had come to earth. Jesus is trying to explain to them that he will be leaving them. And at this point, none of the disciples believed or understood. Jesus keeps on talking and teaches about going to prepare a home for them. The disciples don’t have a clue what to say; they don’t understand at all and they don’t want to appear stupid by asking what Jesus is talking about. Fortunately for them Thomas is there at the table. Not doubting Thomas - but a thoughtful, questioning Thomas. Thomas who is willing to step up and ask the question everyone else was thinking. Jesus is talking about going to his Father’s house and preparing a place for them and then Jesus says, and you know the way to the place where I am going.” “Wait minute, Lord” says Thomas. “We do not know where you are going. We don’t understand what you are talking about. So how can we know the way?” A good question. Courageous Thomas. If you don’t know something, ask! Thomas reminds us that true faith means that we have to think about what we believe and we have to ask questions and then decided that we can believe…..
Now we meet Thomas for a third time in the Gospels. The other disciples have told him that Jesus is risen from the dead. But Thomas cannot believe it. It is not as if Thomas hasn’t seen someone risen from the dead before… He witnessed the raising of Lazarus; he had seen the daughter of Jairus raised from the dead and the same with the son of the widow of Nain - who came back to life. But there was just something about the way Jesus had died - the cross and the nails and spear to his side. This kind of death just couldn’t be reversible and Thomas just tells them - “Unless I see the nails in his hands and the wound on his side with my own eyes,


I just can’t believe.” Thomas who had been Jesus’ faithful friend; who had been thoughtful and courageous enough to tell Jesus he didn’t understand when no one else would; Thomas is just afraid to believe that it is true.
Perhaps Thomas’ real problem was that he was just devastated by what had happened and just couldn’t deal with it. He was so devastated by the loss of his friend and the hope of what he had promised that he couldn’t see the sheer joy in the faces of the other disciples who had seen the risen Jesus. Seeing that risen Jesus had changed them and given them power to be able to do what they didn’t think was possible - leave that upper room and go out and actually tell people what they had seen. But Thomas was so torn up he couldn’t see that joy.
And often that is where we find ourself. We are devastated by events in our own life; we are devastated by the events we see happening to others or around the world and we have our doubts that any of this is true.
But the next week when Thomas has joined the rest of the disciples in that upper room and Jesus again appears to them all. Jesus goes right over to Thomas and shows Thomas the holes in his hands and the wound in his side and once again says those words “My peace I bring to you.”
Now really think about this moment. The risen Christ came to his disciples in the midst of their turmoil and fear. He came to Thomas in the midst of his doubt. Jesus could have very easily miraculously obliterated his wounds after he was raised from the tomb, but chose not to. He bore the marks of his wounds into the presence of his disciples.
Bearing the scars of those wounds he says to them, Peace be with you.” It was as if Jesus was saying - “See these wounds- feel them and know that it is all right to hurt, to doubt, to question. Pain comes to us all - I was hurt by the very people I came to save.
I told you I would suffer. But these wounds prove to you that I have now overcome hat suffering and pain; even death no longer has any power of me. And because of that, through me, I can offer you that same power - I can offer you peace in your life because I bear these scars.”
What a perfect time to hear this. We are all scarred in one way another by this Coronovirus. We are scarred by the questioning about what is right. Who do we believe? Who is right? There are so many conflicting reports and suggestions. What do we do? How are we safe or can we be? We are tired of not doing ‘normal things’; we want to see people; we want to get back to doing what we want! Our emotions aren’t a whole lot different than Thomas who was just unsure…..
The peace that Jesus offers is a confidence we can have from the resurrected appearance of Jesus. His return after his death signals the fact that his life and his promises will endure. His “peace be with you” is more than just a casual greeting like when we say, “Hey, how are you doing?” His “peace be with you“ is a declaration of a fact of the peace that comes by being a follower of Christ. Because Jesus lives, because Jesus bears his scars, Jesus is showing us that even with the scars and wounds we carry through the events of our own life, even with the doubts and questions we have sometimes, we now know for sure that nothing can separate us from Jesus and from a life in him.
The confidence that the disciples received when Jesus came and said to them “peace be with you” is demonstrated in the response of the disciples to his appearance. Peace showed itself in Thomas’ confession of faith - Thomas’ falling to his knees after seeing the wounds and the scars on the resurrected Jesus and declaring “My Lord, and my God.”
But remember one more thing. The disciples, including Thomas, now believed. They had confidence in what Jesus had done. They understood the peace that comes from knowing without a shadow of a doubt that nothing could separate them from God’s love - but they still had to face the same situations they faced before Jesus appeared to them in that room. They still had to face the Jewish authorities who wanted rid of them; they still had to deal with the crowds of people who had mocked and crucified Jesus. The still had many trials and tribulations to face - as we will to.
This virus isn’t just going to disappear. We still are going to have trials and tribulations of knowing wha to do - of fear and concern and fatigue.
“Peace be with you” Jesus says. Not because life will be easy for you. “Peace be with you” Jesus said not because you will always have life filled with joy and will never have to suffer.
But “peace be with you” because you have decided to follow the one who has a power greater than yours; to a power that promises to always be with you; the same power that raised Jesus from the dead; the same power that that will sustain you and lead you into life everlasting. Jesus last words to his disciples: Peace I leave to you, my peace I give to you.. Not as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Believe in God - believe also in me. Amen.

A Mothering Spirit

A MOTHERING SPIRIT

My grandchildren know that if they come to my house, they will end up at a playground. Their favorite is one of those really nice, plastic, well designed playgrounds made specifically for young children, not too high with all the ground rubber to make falls pretty painless. There are safety nets and rails, everything possible to make the playground safe for the young ones playing. But I have to admit, I hover My grandchildren run around, climbing and sliding, laughing and playing with the other children. The grandkids are so absorbed in having fun, they don’t realize I hover. But I still hover. I’m not the only one… there are other mothers and grandmothers there doing the same thing. Walking around the slides and bridges, keeping the kids in my vision at all times, close enough that I could jump at the slightest hint of a misstep or a fall or a problem with another child. And while the other mothers there might not have been hovering as badly as I was, they were every bit as attentive to their children. This is the picture we have of God in the Bible – this mothering spirit hovering over us, ready at all times to reach out and catch us when we fall, or snatch us into his arms when we need his comforting presence. We understand God being just as the mothers on the playground, watching, keeping track, diligently ready to help his children whenever they may need him. The Hebrews who wrote the OT scriptures certainly had this same idea of God’s mothering nature. In the Hebrew language, all words have gender, all words are either masculine or feminine. This is shown by putting various combinations of letters at the end of the words. They didn’t have any words which are neutral – or a concept of ‘it’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’. So every word has a gender to it. Understanding how great and large is God, the Hebrews tried to show how great God was by giving him different names which showed his different characteristics. One of the most common names used in OT for God is Elohim. Interestingly enough, Elohim is one of the rare Hebrew words that has contained within it both masculine and feminine endings. Trying to get across the idea of God’s inclusion of both masculine and feminine characteristics. Another of the names for God is El Shaddai. El means God and Shaddai refers to the birthing and nurturing nature of a mother. El Shaddai actually means God who is mother, not really referring to God as woman, but the mothering spirit, the mothering nature of God. El Shaddai – the God who cares for us like a mother cares for her young……. The Psalms are often where we most often see this picture of God’s nurturing motherly spirit. The Psalmists portray God with the same characteristics we see in the mothers around us. This is especially true in Psalm 139. Looking at parts of this Psalm, we see the descriptions used to describe a God who helps us, encourages us and guides us to grow. The Psalmist says, “ Where can I go? ” – nothing we may do can cause us to be somewhere without God, “Where can I flee ? ” – no bad choices or wrong decisions can take us away from God. “If I go up to the heavens” – the good is our life is because of our God, “  if I make my bed in the depths” – even in the ugly, sinful moments of our life, God loves us and is ready to come and snatch us back to his arms, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn” – God helps us to soar above the fray of our daily life, “if I settle on the far side of the sea” – we can never hide where God cannot reach us, “even there your hand will guide me” – God is everywhere, guiding us through, “your right hand will hold me fast.” – God sustains, nurtures, comforts, embraces us. Can’t you see that same picture of the mother (or grandmother)

on the playground – hovering right there, able to see. Even when that child tries to hide, that mother knows where he is, even when he tries to do something they shouldn’t, or isn’t able to do something, Mom is right there. Even when she falls, the Moms hand reaches down and brings that child into her arms. And when playground time is over, you see the child holding onto their Moms hand as they go to leave……………. That is the picture of God in our life. That hovering, caring, ready mother – never far away and always ready to reach and grab. The Psalmist is helping us to see that God’s nature is much like the nature of your mother – as you trusted your Mom to always be there – God is there. As you trusted your mother to care for you, God cares for you. As you trusted you Mom to always love you, regardless of where you found yourself, God loves you regardless of the poor or wrong decisions when you end up in desperate places. Like you mother loved you, God loves you. Julia of Norwich is one of the saints of the Catholic church. She lived in the 14
th century. In the Catholic tradition, every saint has a day and Julia of Norwich’s day always falls close to Mother’s Day. She wrote extensively about understanding the nature of God. Julia contended that by understanding mothers, we could better understand what God is like. At the age of 30, Julia entered the convent to become a nun. Speculation is that she lost her family – her husband and children in the black plague – which is why she entered the convent to become a nun at an age older than most women who usually joined as young girls. She became what was known as an anchoress – the anchoress was a nun who devoted her entire life to God in solitude and prayer. So her job basically, was to pray. During her time as an anchoress, she became very ill. Interestingly enough she had actually prayed for God to make her ill, because then she could truly experience the love and compassion of God. During the illness she had visions which she wrote down. It was in these visions that she expressed her understanding that God is not limited to our earthly understanding of God. God is so much more than any understanding we could ever have, so much greater than any words our language can use to describe him. Julia wrote that not only could we come to a more well rounded understanding of God by remembering the love and nurturing care of our mothers – but that we need to remember that a mother’s purpose is to bring new life into the world. Just as our mother has given us life – Jesus Christ has given us a new life! Jesus told us that we needed to be born again – our mother’s gave us our first birth and Jesus Christ gave us our second. God in Jesus Christ is the very essence of motherhood – we owe our earthly lives to our earthly mothers and our spiritual lives we owe to God in his son Jesus Christ. This Mother’s Day, we remember and honor our mothers – mothers who cared for us and loved us and picked us up when we fell down, mothers who hovered over us as we ran oblivious on the playground, mothers who were there when we did wrong, or when we needed a hug. While we remember our mothers, we are reminded that as our mothers loved and cared for us, God loves us and cares for us in the same way. A God who reaches out with the air of hospitality, inviting us to come to him where he will love us and comfort us and hover over us as we run oblivious around the playground of our lives. A mothering spirit who loves and cares for each and every one of us. Amen!

On the Road with Jesus

“On the Road with Jesus”

Most of us have a yearly thing we attend. A family dinner, a reunion, a business conference – a gathering that we look forward to that happens once a year. When we we’ve reached this yearly event, we see the same people, do pretty much the same activities. It is all pretty routine – but we like it that way! There is a comfort to the familiar and that is part of the reason we go back year after year – it is something we can count on. That is what Passover was to the Jews. A yearly get together with people you saw only once a year, getting together to participate in the same activities, the same events, the familiar rituals. A pretty routine week. However, this year Passover took on a whole new flavor. From the day the Jews traveled into the city with the crowds following Jesus and waving palm branches to hearing about his disruption of the temple, the teaching they had never heard before. Passover had never been like this before! Then the terror at the end of the week when Jesus was arrested and crucified. This would certainly be a week they would never forget.
Two of the people at Passover, a couple from Emmaus – Cleopas and his companion had become followers of Jesus before this week. They had heard Jesus’ teachings before this particular Passover and had put their trust in him……. So they were pretty excited when they came to Jerusalem and saw Jesus there. Like everyone else who followed Jesus, they were expecting great things, a revolution! But the week didn’t turn out quite like they had hoped. Jesus died, was buried and then the body comes up missing. What excitement and what mystery! What disappointment things didn’t turn out as the followers of Jesus had hoped. The week now left them confused and sad.
So this couple heads out to return home, to the town of Emmaus about 7 miles from Jerusalem. As they are walking down the road they were talking about all these strange happenings and discussing where they were going to go from there. After all, they had put all their eggs in the Jesus for King basket and that hadn’t happened. It was pretty disappointing and they just quite weren’t sure what they were going to do now. As they went down the road, they were approached by a stranger who wondered what they were discussing so intently. Cleopas and his companion – which many Biblical scholars believe to be his wife – stopped and just looked at this stranger for a minute and then replied, “Have you been living under a rock? Do you mean you really haven’t heard all the strange things that have happened this week in Jerusalem? Surely you’ve heard the news” “No’ the stranger said, “I’ve been out of town. Tell me what happened.” So Cleopas and his companion proceeded to tell how they had had these great expectations of Jesus. “Jesus” they said, “was a great prophet and proclaimed the word of God. He talked like he was going to be the new King of Israel and how then it had all fallen apart when our religious leaders had him arrested and crucified. “They buried him in a guarded tomb with a big stone rolled in front of it – but someone was able to steal the body anyway. And we just don’t know what to do now. We heard rumors that some of the women who followed him had gone to the tomb and had seen angels who said he was raised from the dead. But we know that isn’t realistic. It is all just so confusing.”
Now, let’s think about what is happening here. Cleopas and his companion, were followers of Jesus. They had known Jesus before this crazy Passover week, they had seen Jesus during this week in Jerusalem. Now Jesus walks up to them and begins to talk to them and they don’t recognize who he is. We find that confusing. Certainly we would recognize someone we had seen so much before this. But then this couple on their way to Emmaus thought Jesus was dead so they didn’t expect to see him so that would excuse them a little wouldn’t it? But where do we expect to see Jesus? Churchy places, maybe? Sunday mornings or maybe at Bible Study. Certainly not in the nitty gritty of our everyday lives. Not in the routines of going to Walmart and mowing grass and spending lunch with friends.
Where do we see Jesus in the midst of COVID? With all the tragedy associated with this pandemic, maybe like the followers of Jesus back in Jerusalem after Jesus death we think Jesus is somehow absent. The tomb is empty and we don’t know what happened to Jesus. Why isn’t he here stopping all this and healing everyone? Where is he? We just don’t see him.
What we need to believe is the presence of Christ is with us all the time. Even with tragedy swirling around; even in storms; even in Pandemics. It is a matter of holding on to the faith that Jesus is there. It is a matter of keeping Jesus in our minds all the time, and when we do that we start to see the work he does not only in the storms but in the daily routines of our life as well – we begin to see him in people we meet and in the things we do, we see him in the good people do for one another. We begin to feel the comfort and peace only he can bring into our lives. When we can do that, Jesus becomes a much more real, more important part of who we are. We recognize him as we travel through our life with Jesus by our side.
Then Jesus, whom the couple still hasn’t recognized, fusses at the pair. Calls them ‘foolish’! “You fools” he says. “You are good Jews and as good Jews you had a responsibility to know what the prophets taught. If you would have paid attention to the scriptures like you were suppose to, you would have known that what happened in Jerusalem is what was supposed to happen. Everything that happened was just as the prophets had foretold.” Seems the couple was a little taken aback by the outburst of this stranger. “What are you talking about?” they asked. And so this stranger on the road began to explain to them how the Old Testament told exactly what was going to happen to the Messiah, how the Old Testament, which this couple was suppose to know, explained who the Messiah was going to be. Wouldn’t it have been great to hear this on the road ‘lecture’ straight from the horse’s mouth!

Jesus is looking at us and fussing at us as well. Throughout the bible we are instructed to learn scripture. We are told how important it is for us to know what the Bible teaches. We
aren’t going to get it an hour on Sundays – scripture takes time, effort, struggle, work, to really learn what it is speaking to us. We cannot truly understand who we are as God’s people unless we spend time allowing God to teach us through his word.
And I realize this is tough. It is hard to get into reading Bible routines, especially in the busyness our lives bring us - Although maybe these stay at home orders give us more opportunity to sit down and read some scripture…. Maybe these stay at home orders give us time to start devoting some Bible reading habits….. But even then Bible reading is hard. We pick it up and we read something and it makes no sense. Or maybe it makes too much sense and we don’t really like what we read. All I can tell you is this - as God’s people we are instructed to read and learn what God teaches us through his word - and I can tell you that if we do it with a sincere desire to learn what it says; and if we stick with it when it is tough or confusing - it will all come together and God will begin to reveal to us what he wants us to know.
Jesus is telling the couple – and us – that had they read. studied and learned scripture, then they would have figured out what is going on. Same goes for us – Jesus reminds us that it is only through learning scripture that we can figure out what God wants us to know about living as he desires us to. It is then that we begin to see Jesus in our everyday lives and in the midst of pandemics.
The good news is that as the couple continues down the road, hearing Jesus teaching just captivates them. They are fascinated about what they are learning. And if we really start to study scripture, we come to find out that it is interesting, informative and truly will help us live the life God has intended for us! The more we learn, the more captivated we become. This couple was so enthralled by the discussion on the road they wanted to hear more and so they invited Jesus into their home to have dinner with them.

During dinner, Jesus takes a loaf of bread and blesses it and breaks it and gives it to them and it was then they recognized who he was. It was in the breaking of the bread that they realized they had been with Jesus all along. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are recognizing the fact that the risen Christ is truly spiritually present with us – what a great thing that is! If while we take communion we truly realize that Christ is here with us, what a difference it will make. In that ceremony of breaking bread and drinking the drink, Jesus is there. That simple act of breaking bread during the Lord’s Supper aids in our realization of the constant presence of Jesus in our life.
The reaction of the couple were the words “Surely our hearts were burning inside of us”. These were later the same words of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination. John’s father was an Anglican priest living with his large family in a parish house. One night the house caught fire and everyone made it out except young John. He made his way to a window where he was eventually rescued. From that point on he felt a closeness with God and became a priest himself. He struggled with the practices of the Anglican church and one evening went to a Moravian worship service, a much more spiritual service than what he was use to in the Anglican church, and his reaction was “Surely my heart burned inside me” as he felt the spirit of Christ in that worship. That was the first time he had truly felt the presence of Jesus with him since that fire when he was a boy - even though he had been a priest for many years.
The point of all this is that we can experience that same ‘burning’ in our hearts if we really make Jesus an integral part of our lives. If we make a conscious effort to recognize Jesus’ presence with us in everything we do and in everything that is happening around us; if we study and learn scripture, if we truly believe that Jesus is actually present with us when we share in the Lord’s Supper then even our hearts will burn within us and we will be on the road to becoming the people that God knows we can be.
Amen!