I have often written about my love for various aspects of divine liturgy and the Christian calendar, especially over the past few years. Today, for those who followed a Western Church calendar, we celebrated the third Sunday of Easter.
I led the worship at Lutheran Church of the Master, preaching from Luke 24:13-35. I then served the Eucharist as a minister of Word and sacrament. My soul was flooded with the sheer wonder of God’s grace by and through the resurrection of the Son of God.
The entire liturgy was built around the theme of "seeing" Jesus the risen Lord. One of our statements I made during the liturgy was quite moving:
Risen Lord Jesus, help us to empty ourselves of all that hinders our awareness of your presence with us. Fill us with the joy of knowing your continuing presence, so that, like those travelers on the road to Emmaus, we will joyfully share this great good news with others.
Later, after we had prayed for the Creator to open our eyes so that we could clearly see the great love God revealed to the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus, I then said:
The good news therefore is this: in Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven.
That is it. Our sins are forgiven because of Christ and by grace alone. In my sermon I then preached the account in Luke on the journey to Emmaus.
It is one of the most amazing of all the post-resurrection narratives. Two men, one named Cleopas and the other unnamed (just ordinary disciples of Jesus) were walking a seven mile journey, from Jerusalem to Emmaus, at the end of the fist day of the week (Sunday) following the events that had transpired in the holy city. A stranger joined them along the way. (We know who this was but they did not know until a precise moment that would come later on.) As they neared the end of this journey the two men implored the stranger to come into their home. Here the text says that as they sat to eat Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to these two disciples. Think about this very simple act. This is the first post-resurrection Eucharist. Luke 24:31 adds, "Then their eyes were opened and they knew him." The undeniable truth here is that Jesus presided over this meal and by his grace, in the act of the meal itself, these two men had their eyes opened and knew who was before them—the resurrected Son of God! The "sacramental" nature of this action is undeniable, at least so far as I can see in the text. And when he served them this meal they were enabled to make sense of the "burning hearts" they had experienced as they walked and talked with this man on the road earlier.
There is great evidence for the resurrection in the New Testament records. But I am convinced this evidence will ultimately convince no one who refuses the grace of God.
What happens is more like this story. God’s grace comes to us, in the Word and the Eucharist, and when it does revelation shows to us the glory of Jesus and we then know him. "Once I was blind but now I see!"
This is the whole ball game my friend. If you know him you can make sense of the evidence and believe he was raised. If you do not know him nothing in your present paradigm of life will convince you. Dead men remain dead. Jesus appeared to his disciples in ways that fit nothing of what we would script if we were writing this story. This is both the charm and the power of these accounts. But don’t ever forget, he comes to you, in pure grace, and then he reveals himself. You do not see because you are smart but rather because of his grace. Surely every real Christian can admit this much or they are at best sadly deficient in their understanding of the gospel message at best.
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Thank you so much for reminding me of the ever present danger of being blind to the presence of this same Jesus just as those early disciples on the Emmaus road. I am trying to learn what it means when He speaks to me from the clay vessels I encounter every day.
May I leave something to my local church, written today,before reading your post that I felt the Christ in me wanted to say to his church at FBC?
OUR PURPOSE: To keep Christ and his Gospel at the center of every consideration of the duties/responsibilities/demands of the Christian life, so that God the Father will be glorified in us.
God himself will enable us to do this by His grace, by reminding us that before and behind every imperative of the Christian life is the indicative of what He has already done definitively in Christ alone.
IMPERATIVES for the people of God, the Israel of God, called to live by faith under the New Covenant
(some examples from Paul)
“ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again, with the yoke of bondage”.
“ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
“ For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, ‘ Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!’”
“ Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof… Yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God”.
“ This I say then, Walk in the Spirit and fulfill not the lust of the flesh…Since we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Tithing : Is the tithe, as it is normally understood and taught within Southern Baptist Churches, an explicit Imperative of the Christian life? Is it in keeping with the Imperatives listed as examples above?
Remember, we must always be careful to distinguish between the Imperatives of the Old Testament for the people of God called to live under the Covenant of the Law, and those of the New Testament called to be the people of God under the New Covenant “In Christ”. We must be reminded of the Indicative of the great salvation that Christ has accomplished and the radical “fulfillment” of all the shadows and types and promises of the Old Testament. This was the great struggle the Apostle Paul was engaged in when he wrote all of the above Imperatives. He was insisting that circumcision did not need to be practiced now for the Church age. In fact he was clearly saying that the mosaic law itself was obsolete, that it has been superceded by the new: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; Behold, all things have become new!” “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything: but a new creation!”