Presence

 Theme – The Tie That Binds – Considering Church

Understanding what ties/binds believers (the church) together. First encounters following resurrection, apostles training, continued throughout the book of Acts, reveal to us the ties that bind us together 

Today, we continue looking at that first day after the Sabbath, after the crucifixion –  the day the followers of Christ began to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he would rise again.  That first day – that first day of good overcame evil, that hope was victorious over hopelessness, that peace triumphed over turmoil, that love proved greater than hatred.  It was a huge day.

The day had actually begun long before the women arrived at the tomb, or the men hiding in their room, long before creation, long before chaos, long before pride, long before arrogance, long before insecurity, long before self centeredness – It was a day that began before death.  

Is it possible for us to understand that the resurrection coming before the death – before any death?

It was Jesus who, before his death, said, ‘I AM the resurrection.’

 Regardless of our understanding, the truth is that the tomb was empty, Jesus had risen.  The eyewitness were now to see so they can tell. 

First Lesson – Peace

The women took the road from the tomb to go back and tell the men about the empty grave and the angel’s proclamation, then, on the road, Jesus appeared to the women. Jesus told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he told them to have peace not fear, to go on in an unabashed joy.

Then, still on that same day, there were the men. The men could have been on the road to and from the tomb, or on the road to Galilee where Jesus had interacted them to go.  Instead, understandably, they were hiding in the house, but there was plenty of reasons for the men to afraid. 

They were afraid when Jesus appeared in the room, and as he had done with the women, Jesus said, ‘Peace’ – not ‘Fear’ but ‘Peace’.  Peace when their gut instinct said to be afraid, to be ashamed, to be humiliated, to be defeated, to be hopeless.  

Later, in the midst of his doubts, even Thomas was given this word, ‘Peace’.

Now, on that same day, Sunday, Jesus appears again.  And again, he appears on a road – and again he brings peace, actually this time he brought peace in the midst of despair long before the hearers even were aware they were talking to Jesus.  Sometimes, Peace itself can be very aggressive.

On this day, again on a road, we have lesson two – Presence 

A Road

Roads are an interesting thing.  They are an avenue to getting to a place or to getting away from a place.  The prodigal son took a road to reject his father and then to return and be embraced by his father.  Today’s road went from from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which was also the road to Jerusalem from Emmaus. 

On this day, on this road, two men were traveling from Jerusalem, they were heading in the direction of Emmaus.  They were heading in the opposite direction of Jerusalem.  They were walking and talking as they headed south on that road – talking about their sadness, their disillusionment, how their hope was gone, how they felt abandoned, how they thought they understood – and, now how they understood nothing.  

They were talking about the cross, they were talking about Jesus.

These men were followers of Jesus but now felt that everything was over, Jesus was dead.  It didn’t make any sense, they were so sure Jesus was the one they had been looking forward to coming to deliver the people.  They had been convinced he was the promise of blessings, the promise given to Abraham.

Had they been mistaken, or worse, had the promise been broken?

It was here, here on the road, here as the sun grew closer to the horizon, that Jesus appeared on the road. In the midst of this grief laden conversation between these two south bound travelers, Jesus joined their journey and their discussion.  

These two men needed to be on the road with Jesus at this moment, they needed to see Jesus, they needed to experience Jesus’ presence at this moment. 

Everyone that experienced Jesus on this first day needed to have that moment, they needed to be eyewitness – Jesus met them exactly where they needed and in the manner they most needed.

‘What are you talking about?’ Jesus asked.

The two men explained that they were talking about, and despondent by,  everything that had taken place in Jerusalem during the recent days.

They were shocked when Jesus asked them, ‘What has happened in Jerusalem?’

‘Are you the only person on the face of the earth who is actually unaware of what took place last week?’ the two men said in unison, both with looks of shock on their faces.

Jesus stuck with the two as they continued to walk away from Jerusalem.  On the way, Jesus – starting with Moses going through the prophets, explained what had been promised, and prophesied, about the coming Messiah, about himself,  about Jesus.

Seeing

Oddly, the men did not identify their new travel companion as Jesus.  Seeing things we truly need to see is sometimes a challenge.  As he wrote this account, Luke used the greek words that, in our English, are ‘they were kept from seeing.’  A very vague statement that means little to us today, or probably even when he wrote these words.  Were they blind to recognizing Jesus because God confused something in their retina connection to the brain, causing them to not realize they were with Jesus – that God was waiting until they were ready to see and recognize.  Or, maybe it was the men’s grief created by their unrealized hopes and dreams they had attached to Jesus as well as their understandings, and possibly agenda about Jesus’ mission.  Maybe, they were just so caught up in their emotions and anguish, along with forgetting to look for Jesus, that the metaphorical tears made their vision fuzzy.

Regardless of the why and how, the men were talking with, and listening to, Jesus without knowing it.

It must have been somewhat funny to Jesus, funny that they didn’t recognize him even though he had walked with them before.  I wonder if it was exhausting to Jesus that they needed an explanation and clarification of the prophets words.  I am sure it had to be precious to Jesus that they invited him to stay with them and asked him to join them at the table for a meal.

Jesus, whose death was the source of these men’s pain, was alive and with the men, Jesus was present in their grief.  They didn’t even see that he was present as they invited him to stay the night with them, their eyes were still kept from seeing Jesus when they invited him to the table.

Present and Presence at the Table 

If you think about it, there is something very radical about the table.

The table is where you break bread, it is where you pass and receive food, it is where you you sit, sometimes where you feel captive, you are possibly with another person who lacks table manners, it is where the real and vulnerable ‘you’ often shows up.  It is where we have all shared great conversation and awkward silence, where we have experienced exhilaration and desperation.  You never really know what you are going to experience at the table – it can be a very intimate experience.

The table is a frequent occurrence in the life of Jesus.  It was a a table of 5,000 people, and again at a table of 4,000 people that Jesus first challenged his disciples to care for those people by feeding them.  It was at the table of a despised tax collector where Jesus radically chose to invite himself to sit and a shocking transformation took place.  It was at the table of his closest friends that he was scandalously anointed with a most expensive perfume. It was a short time after this moment with the men on the road that Jesus would again appear to his disciples and ask to sit at their table by asking ‘Is there anything to eat?’  It was at a beach table where Jesus sat waiting on the disciples to haul in their abundant catch and join him to eat – after asking them to bring some of their catch to add to the meal.  It was at a table where he sat with his intimate group of followers for a passover meal just before his arrest and crucifixion.  As they ate at he told them to use this, and future, occasions at the table to remember how he lived, what he taught, and especially what he accomplished for them.

Eat and Remember, Drink and remember.

It would at that last table that Jesus said he would not eat or drink with them again until his purpose and mission was complete.

Now, he sat with these two men, heading away from Jerusalem and Galilee, at their table.  A table at which they had invited him to sit.

As the two men began to recognize the inexplicable unknown abundance at the table, an abundance which was not about food but something much larger, something huge, they began to put aside their grief, fear, and disillusionment.  Without the weight of the pain, the men began to see, soon they realized that the abundance at their table was the presence of Jesus.

Jesus had been present with them all along.

Jesus was, and is, present.  Even when the men could not see him, Jesus was still present.

This was the second lesson- presence.  Jesus taught this lesson on presence while he, himself, was present.

Now, the men took the same road they had walked on before.  Last time they took the road away from Jerusalem, but now that same road was taking them back to Jerusalem.

Ill: Churches insisting on ‘trusting God’ and meeting during virus quarantine endangering everyone that attends and anyone who comes in contacting those individuals. Confusing the Presence with Arrogance.

Closing Story – Personal thinking about presence (on zoom). Being present  to recognize the presence.

Our Call

Look for (His) presence 

Be present

Enjoy presence

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