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The Resurrection Life: Vision

The Resurrection Life  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  23:08
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The Walk to Emmaus

(Mk 16:12–13)

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In this Season of Easter, we are looking at stories of Resurrection Life — what does it look like for Jesus to interact with us as the Risen Lord and what does it look like for Jesus to call us into that life of fullness with him?
Last week, we looked at the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples and to Thomas in particular. It was in his signs of resurrection, his scars and pierced side, that we discovered the abundance of God’s Peace, Presence, and Spirit. In the resurrection life, God provides us with all that we need, abundantly, and sets us on our feet as people at Peace, people who experience God’s presence amidst all of life’s ups and downs, and people who are gifted with the abundant love and sending power of the Holy Spirit.
We need resurrection life, now more than ever. Lent is over, but we feel, at least a lot of the time, like we’re still in the tomb, rotting in death, sequestered in our homes and living in fear of death’s lurking outside our door.
We need resurrection life, now more than ever, because we cannot go back to a world as it was. Everything is changing around us. The coronavirus pandemic will change how we live going forward. It will change our workplaces, it will change our travel plans, it will change our schools. It will change our churches.
We need resurrection life, now more than ever, because we need a fresh vision for what is next. What ever happens next, we are not going back to the way things were before. I know many of us, especially in this week of Earth Day, have wondered at what will come in terms of climate change and action through this period of pandemic. I feel as if this time we are in right now is a time of preparation, an opportunity for us to tune our hearts unto a better vision of the future, not just in response to the spread of sickness, but also in response to the wicked problems of climate degradation and our part to play in ecological restoration.
Today, our Resurrection story takes us out of the upper rooms, out of the house, out from behind our doors, and out onto the road. This is a moving text, the Walk to Emmaus.
When we set out on the road, we need a vision in mind. Or else we get lost. We get lost in our own worries, our own concerns, our own view of trying not to trip over what’s right in front of us, but not always seeing the path down the way.
The disciples have this blurry vision — and Jesus comes alongside them and opens their eyes to what is really happening around them.

High School and Self-Vision

Part of our stay home routine the last couple of weeks has been to clean, organize, and set aside to donate and throw out a lot of stuff around our house. One of my tasks this week was to get into some of my old crates of childhood and adolescent keepsakes and once again piece through and let go of some of it.
I found myself looking through a lot of photos and notes from high school. And, as with any journey into the past like this, it stirred up a lot of memories and unspoken wonderings about the people I knew, where they are now, what they were going through back in those days.
High school was a strange time for me. I came into a new high school of 500 kids knowing only 5 or so people. I was lonely, especially freshmen year. Things got better over time, I connected with a group of friends, sang in the choir, played soccer, and got involved with leadership. By the end of it all, I was a very different person, connected to a wide circle of people, with much more of a sense of belonging.
I’ve thought this week about how much I was wrapped up in my own search for identity in those days. I was lonely, but perhaps part of why I was lonely is that I had the developmental vision of an adolescent who was very focused on his own needs and issues. So this week, I’ve wondered at this: what were the other kids feeling? Were they just as lonely and awkward as I was?
I was pretty wrapped up in my own stuff. I know a lot of my peers were too. What worries, traumas, joys, sorrows, hopes and failures were they wrestling with? I mean, this isn’t the first time I’ve reflected on this — and I knew a bit about what others were facing. But what strikes me right now is that perhaps my vision for what the world was like was a lot more limited than I wanted to admit back then.
Those years of high school speak of a pretty important reality for us — we go through periods, years, perhaps whole chapters of our life with skewed vision. Not skewed because we’re bad or stupid — but skewed because we don’t have the whole picture. We’re wrapped up in our own struggle, who would blame us?

The Disciples had an old, skewed vision

This is where we find the disciples on the road to Emmaus — with a skewed, downtrodden, saddened vision. And who would blame them? Their leader was crucified, they all saw it. Vs. 21 says it plainly: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
They go on to wonder at how the women had reported to them all that the tomb was empty…but they fail to grasp what is really happening here.
Their vision was skewed. Their lives were thrown off course by their trauma. And, so, as this passage so beautifully shows us, they miss that Jesus is right there with them, walking the road to Emmaus in all the glory of his Resurrection Life.
The disciples wanted Jesus to overthrow Rome. They wanted him to redeem Israel, to finally set their lives back on course.
Like me in my high school days: If only I could be friends with that one person, if only I could have those clothes that would make me look more attractive, if only that one girl would notice me, if only I didn’t feel so lonely —If only I could see what was right in front of me.
There’s a practice in psychotherapy called Lifespan Integration where a person imagines going to a past version of themselves and talking with them from the vantage point of the present day. I’ve done this with my counselor a number of times, an adult self talking to that version of myself from early high school, when I was depressed and uncertain about who I was. From the vantage point of the present, I’ve worked through a lot of that insecurity and put it into loving perspective of where things are today, what I know now. It has brought healing, resolution, kindness, and humor to what were very dark times. It has been a practice of hope, hope for the future knowing that, in fact, God’s faithfulness had been with me even in those awkward high school days.

Jesus gives the disciples a new vision

And this is what Jesus offers the disciples. Let’s fast forward to them entering the village and settling in around the table to eat. The disciples offer Jesus hospitality and welcome him to break bread at their table.
He serves them like he did at the Last Supper and their eyes are opened. They realize what he has been doing all along, that he’s been reminding them of the story they are apart of, that there is something bigger going on.
And they, like we are all offered by the Resurrection Life, gain a new vision. A new vision for the future, and a new vision for the past.
They realize what had been happening along the road — it had be Jesus, walking with them, testifying to the Resurrection. Showing them that he was indeed alive. A sign of resurrection, right there in the midst of their trauma and heartache.
And he had been giving them a vision of the future — their burning hearts were a sign of what would come. They were markers of the coming Holy Spirit! The Lord was Risen indeed and speaking with them, here and now.
Christ’s suffering had led to glory — and he provides his disciples with the new vision to see it as such.

A New Vision in the Resurrection Life

Resurrection life demands a new vision of us. It demands that we learn to see things with new eyes, both the past, present, and future. Resurrection life offers us a chance to reconfigure and move ahead with fresh steps and to see that God has been and will keep walking with us, even if we’ve missed out on it for a time.
In this season of our church life, with St. James Presbyterian, but also with the Church universal — we need a new vision. We cannot go back to the way things were. We must change the ways we’ve done things in order to protect the vulnerable, to lift up those who mourn, to be a place of safety and refuge amidst new and greater storms which are to come.
The pandemic has afforded us with an opportunity to recast our vision as a church. Who will we be? What will we do? How will we live together and worship together and serve together?
Along with looking back at years gone by, I’ve also been looking forward a lot these past few weeks. I’ve been asking the question: where do I see our church in 3-5 years? What are we doing? How have we responded to a new world? Who have we welcomed and empowered to lead? How are we sharing God’s good news of liberation in a new era?
And I’m excited about the imagination and possibility that God is leading me to in these questions. I know many of our church leaders are asking similar questions right now. Rather than letting our hearts be trouble, we’re asking — what is the opportunity here? What are we seeing as a step forward, a new chapter for us? These are questions of hope.
I’ve also been thinking about these questions from the perspective of being the future self, talking with my present self. There is comfort in hoping. There is comfort in looking back and saying: you made it through. This is where we are in the future, because of the hard work you did in the present.
Like the disciples, with their eyes open at the table, realizing what was happening, we have an opportunity to look back on this time and realize how God is at work, awakening that Resurrection Life in us.
We have a chance at a new vision, a resurrected vision, as we journey on this present road. Where are you going? Where is God leading you? What vision is emerging with the Glory of God as your guide?
Let’s pray.
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