Fr Mike's Message - 4/23/23
The Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
Now on that same day two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 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?” 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, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: So, today we have the opportunity to investigate and explore an interesting and challenging time in the lives of two of the disciples of Jesus. This encounter is intriguing in many ways.
One of the things that I would like to suggest this morning is that part of the value of this incident is how much these two disciples are like us. You might ask: "Why would you say that?" Well, let's look at who these two disciples are. First of all, they are described in very general terms. Just two disciples headed for a village called Emmaus. They are not members of the inner circle, they are not even named to begin with, we do learn one of their names but the other remains unidentified throughout the whole account. A random unknown individual.
I get the impression that they have been on the outskirts of what has happened in Jerusalem. Almost onlookers. They are people who have been depending on the reports of other people's experience of Jesus and what has happened to him. We don't know if they have encountered Jesus for themselves or if they have heard secondhand about his impact. They have lots of questions about what has been happening.
Then an amazing thing is recorded, by Luke, in a very offhand way: "While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them"
Now, I don't know about you, but I would think that deserves a little more emphasis or to use a sports reference, or sports terminology, a little more color. Luke is very casual about the fact that the risen, recently crucified, and resurrected, son of God is walking along the road with these two disciples.
And in another baffling revelation, which again Luke just casually lays out there: "but their eyes were kept from recognizing him"
So, it is not just that they haven't been really close to the events, or to Jesus, and they don't recognize him, something else is happening here.
Then Jesus enters into their discussion and asks them what they are talking about. In that moment, one of these otherwise unknown and unidentified disciples suddenly has a name - Cleopas.
He replies and Jesus again asks for clarification. Cleopas then boldly proclaims the events of the past few weeks and declares his faith in what he has heard and what he has been told.
It is almost as if in the proclaiming he begins to claim things for himself. He activates a well of faith and spiritual knowledge and allows it to flow out of him. Suddenly, his doubting, and his sorrow is turned to boldness and confidence. In speaking about things that have been, until now, what a police detective would describe as "circumstantial evidence" becomes real and tangible.
But there is more yet to happen. They have come close to their destination and they persuade their unknown companion to join them for a meal. In the process of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the wine, they suddenly find that their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus.
They realize that this is the climax of all that they have been engaged in. In the time spent on the road, talking with the Lord, engaging with him, and interacting about their understanding of what had happened. All that talking about faith and life prepared them for that moment when they recognized him for who he truly was and is.
Only then did they recognize what they felt and knew on the road. "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?” Luke 24: 32 NRSV
I believe for many of us, our faith life, or our faith journey, is like that day in the life of Cleopas and his friend. They think they are doing one thing and the Lord meets them and completely changes their understanding of what is happening and why.
At the beginning of my message, I suggested that we might relate to these two disciples. That we might find that we understand what they feel and think about being unidentified and unknown followers of Christ. Maybe we feel like folks who are on the outskirts of what is happening. Having to depend on what others tell us, or what we might hear in conversations other people have about Jesus. Or maybe we hear the stories read and shared and discussed but we aren't all that drawn in or haven't been introduced to Jesus ourselves.
I would like to suggest that for many of us, these two disciples are more like us than many of the others that we hear stories about regularly.
The good news is that we are not the only ones in history who may feel this way. This week I went to a website that is produced by the Methodist Church in England. I was looking for information about John Wesley. I knew that I had heard that Weskley used the phrase that Cleopas and his companion did in Luke's story. "I felt my heart strangely warmed"
I came across an article that was part of a series the British Methodists were doing on "What makes a Methodist a Methodist." In this article, The Rev. Richard Teal was looking at how Wesley understood the phrase "a warmed heart." The Rev. Teal gave this background to Wesley's experience.
John Wesley had been piously brought up by his devout parents and he followed them in the Christian way. He was ordained as a priest in the Church of England. In 1725 while in Oxford he made a solemn vow to devote himself wholly to God, in outward conduct and inward temper and he also strived to fulfill this throughout his life.
But Teal notes that Wesley went to America and had come back in 1737 profoundly depressed. In my own research of Wesley, I found that he had come to America for two years and had not had a very successful time there.
Teal, in his article on Wesley, draws attention to this note from Wesley’s Journal of May 24th 1738 which shows how Wesley had to re-assess the whole previous 35 years of his life. His familiar words are often cited: I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
To Wesley, it was the exposition of scripture which spoke to his condition: the reading of Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans brought a moment of release for him and the joy of the gospel broke through.
Teal says that Methodist scholars differ in their assessment of what that experience was for Wesley.
Traditionally it is seen as his conversion. Others see it as an experience of assurance of faith, still others as fullness of the Spirit; yet others as the completion of something which began in earlier years. Whatever it was, it was very significant for John Wesley and it certainly shows that Methodists have a variety of understandings of how we become disciples and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
John Wesley placed great emphasis on reason and in this experience, he had to learn what his father had tried to tell him, how very few things of consequence in this world are decided by reason alone. He came to see that no one can come to faith by reason alone. He came to realize, and it was hard for him, that all his willing and striving could not put him right with God. It was as the Moravians and Luther had taught him: ‘A person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 2 v 16)
We do need to note that when Wesley refers to the ‘heart strangely warmed’ he is not talking just about emotion. Deep religious feelings were no doubt involved; but when Wesley used the word ‘heart’ he used it in a biblical sense, to denote the central core of a person—mind, will and feeling. It invites a person to offer every part of themselves to God-the whole person.
At Aldersgate Street, Wesley’s heart was made new. He acknowledged that before 1738 he had only ‘’the faith of a servant’’ afterwards he had ‘’the faith of a son’’. May 24th did not give him complete peace and joy for he still had to contend with doubts and darkness yet he received great gifts in that night’s encounter with the living Christ. He knew a deepened experience of forgiveness; an assurance of faith and a new personal freedom. These gifts not only changed his inner life, but transformed his ministry. What does the warmed heart mean for you?
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Bishops & Father Mike