Friday, April 24, 2009

What Are You Afraid Of?

Here's my sermon for April 26, 2009. After re-reading, it's obvious I was preaching to myself!

Luke 24:36-48 (New International Version)
36While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
40When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

What was it like for the twelve between Good Friday and Easter, between the moment they knew Jesus was dead and the moment they knew He was alive?

Were they hurt? Probably. Jesus was dead. Their hopes were dashed. They were most likely sad; not only had they lost a Messiah, they had lost a friend. Spend three years with someone and you’re bound to feel close to Him. His death changed all that, and there was loneliness to their gathering.

They most likely began to doubt everything they believed when Jesus was with them. Maybe God wasn’t as powerful or loving as they thought? Rome had won the battle and probably the war. Jesus just “clammed up” and took on the cross. Where’s the power in that? Jesus argued with the Pharisees; where was that Jesus when his life was on the line?

Luke tells us clearly that they were afraid. Afraid of what? An uncertain future? Could you go back to fishing or tax collecting after three years like they experienced? Afraid of punishment? If Pilate could get Jesus, he could surely get them!

I doubt you could find a more confused bunch of folks than these twelve men (and maybe a few women) – unless you look around our sanctuary this morning. We often find ourselves stuck in the same sort of “funk” that the disciples were in. We’re in that “in-between” time, too. For 40 days of Lent, we looked forward to Easter; we talked about how great it would be. It was! We got a glimpse of what a full sanctuary looks like, families were reunited, both nuclear families and spiritual families. We felt God’s glory through the worship at sunrise, the fellowship of breakfast, and the beauty of the lilies.

But now? Where’s the Easter Jesus when you need him? A couple of weeks later and its back to the same old grind. Kids go back home. Lilies wilt. We struggle to make it to pay day. There’s work to do. Glory never lasts!

Are we hurt? Scared? Lonely? Sad? Could be. But, then, there’s a knock on the door, and into our rooms of drudgery and disappointment comes Jesus – the Risen Lord!

His first word to us is the most important – “Peace!” In the midst of turmoil, he brings peace. “Don’t be afraid,” he says, “Touch me. Shoot! Go ahead and hug me! I’m no ghost!”

His second word is just as important, “Got anything to eat?”

In these two statements, we hear a remedy for the lost and lonely times in which we find ourselves:
  • Touch – Have you ever felt as if the touch of a loved one’s hand is all you need to feel better? When emotion is welling up inside of us, the touch of a hand is all we need to feel supported and loved. Holding a hand is often a “release valve” for all those emotions. Touch lets us know another’s presence is real, that their love is tangible and warm.
  • Food – I’m glad I serve a church that knows how to eat together. In a few minutes, we will go into the Fellowship Hall and share a meal. Never underestimate the importance of eating together! That’s where we talk, where we laugh. While our bodies gain nourishment, so do our spirits.

Yet, when times get hardest, these ways of connection are often the first casualties. Some of us withdraw from others when bad times hit. When we are overwhelmed by bad feelings, we shut ourselves off from friends and family. When things get rough, more often than not, we refuse to let others know. We stay home from church. We don’t go out. We certainly don’t invite anyone to a meal. The very thing we need is the very thing we avoid.

After Jesus reminds them about presence and the fellowship of a meal, he gives them a purpose: “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

It’s not enough to feel the loving touch of a fellow Christian or to share a meal together. To truly defeat the sadness and confusion of hard times, we must have a purpose. We must be about the work that Jesus has given us to do. Repentance and forgiveness must be proclaimed, starting right here! Starting with us! The Great God of Life needs the Good News to get out and we are just the ones to do it!

Even though we suffer, even though we might be sad, we are the ones called to proclaim the Good News. We are the witnesses of the Living Lord!

Even though we are filled with shortcomings and failures, even though we doubt, we are the perfect messengers because we know the power of the Risen Christ!

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