Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sermon, Easter 3A, Luke 24:13-35

What is the core of the Gospel? We probably all have different ideas about what that is, but how about this: that Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Who is saved? I would say, "All who call upon the name of Jesus and are baptized into the family." Does this mean that if you aren't baptized you aren't saved? I'm not prepared to make that statement, especially with Jesus saying that he has other sheep he needs to tend to that we don't know about. But for now, I think we can agree that all who are baptized into the Body of Christ are saved.

And what is the imperative of the Gospel? That can be found in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew: make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

You may be asking yourselves, "Why is he asking these questions and what do they have to do with today's Gospel?" I'm asking them because I happen to think that these three questions are central to this story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

First, I said that the core of the gospel is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. We learn this through our reading and study of scripture. Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the embodiment of our relationship with God and with each other. We don't simply worship that big book we call the Bible; we worship and interact with and participate with a living God. It's about a relationship, not about bible verses. And that living God has been working ever since the Fall to reestablish his relationship with us. He wants to save us from death and bring us into everlasting life.

This is summarized in the Eucharistic Prayer we will say later: Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent you only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law; to open for us the way of freedom and peace. By his blood, he reconciled us. By his wounds, we are healed. That's the core of the Gospel: that Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- to save us.

This, of course, begs the question, "How do we know we are saved? We know we are saved through our baptism. In this act of being washed clean of our sins, God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ's Body and inheritors of the kingdom. In baptism we have forgiveness of sins and a new life in the Holy Spirit. In baptism we have renounced Satan and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. We have chosen to invite Jesus into our lives and live, or attempt to live, by the tenets of Christianity. And if you're wondering about babies, no, they don't get to choose this. But their parents have, or should have, made the choice to bring them up in the Christian life and faith so that they will come to know themselves as part of God's family from their earliest memories.

And, to reiterate what I said earlier, I'm not prepared to say that only baptized people are saved. Jesus has other sheep that he must tend to which we don't know about. God is God and who he chooses to save and allow into the kingdom is his business, not mine. I just have to trust that he knows what he's doing, and I trust that I won't remember why I ever thought certain people shouldn't be admitted.

So we are saved. Now what? Is it possible for us to sit at home watching baseball or spending our weekends fishing, resting in the assurance of our salvation? Sure it is. But just because it is possible doesn't mean it is right. We have a responsibility to spread the Good News. And the resurrection is Good News. The tomb is empty. Death is vanquished. Life wins. Alleluia! Christ is risen! We should be as excited to share that news as the women at the tomb, or as excited as the two disciples today who ran all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the eleven that Christ is risen.

And speaking of that, how many people have you told? Easter Day I challenged you to tell eleven other people about the risen Christ, or about your faith, or about this place. I got sidetracked last week with the Gideon visitation, but now I'm asking: how many people have you shared this Good News with? If we can't, or won't, share this news and our faith, then we might as well close our doors right now.

This sharing, this responsibility, this Gospel imperative is summed up in the Great Commission when the disciples were instructed by the risen Christ to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is our imperative. This is our mission. It is our mission to help restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ. And we do that by sharing the Good News. In fact, our catechism states that the ministry of the laity is to bear witness to Christ wherever they (you) may be.

In this story of the road to Emmaus, we get an early creed as recited by Cleopas. He states that Jesus was a prophet mighty in word and deed and that "we had hoped he was the one to redeem (save) Israel." Now, granted, they were thinking in terms of Israel, but they had it right: Jesus is the one who will save not only Israel, but all of humanity. At which point Jesus fills them in on what the Scriptures said about him and how he was, in fact, the Savior of the world.

And as they came near the village, Jesus continued to walk on by until the two disciples invite Jesus to say with them. Now, this isn't a baptism per se, but it is an instance where the disciples invite him into their life. Do you renounce Satan? Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you invite him to stay with you? These two disciples are inviting Jesus in. He doesn't force his way into their lives. He doesn't say, "Accept me as your savior or spend eternity in hell." Christianity is not about scaring people into following Jesus. Christianity is about inviting people in and building relationships.

And finally, Jesus reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread. Risen Lord, be know to us in the breaking of the bread. This is exactly what happens. He breaks bread with the disciples and suddenly they get it. They know that Jesus has risen from the grave and that he has vanquished death. That is Good News worth sharing. This, coincidentally, is exactly what they do. They run back to Jerusalem, find the eleven, and tell them excitedly what had happened and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

This story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus isn't simply a post-resurrection story about a couple of disciples we've never met before. This is our story. We believe Jesus is the one to redeem humanity. We believe that we invite Jesus into our lives and that through baptism we are saved. We believe that Christ is alive and his cross stands empty to the sky. And we should, like the two disciples, act on that belief and proclaim the Good News of the risen Christ.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Now . . . go tell somebody.


liturgy | 7:02 PM, April 12, 2008  

Fell over this site accidentally.
Like sites with lectionary reflections.
You might like mine
and link to it:
called "Liturgy"

Let me know so I link back.

Christ is Risen!

Reverend Ref + | 9:19 PM, April 13, 2008  

Thanks for stopping by. I've got you linked and I'll be stopping by.

The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

liturgy | 6:11 AM, April 14, 2008  

Thanks for the link;
I've linked back.
A wonderful expression of Christian community in cyberspace :-)
Hope your readers find useful material on my site - as I'm sure my readers will on yours.

Christ is Risen!


First time comments will be moderated.