Easter 3 Luke 24:13-35
Do We Get It?
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It is often said of those in gummint, or large corporations, that advancement is not so much what you have done, but who you know. The disciples in today’s text would have done well to know that. In the end they got it, but what is most interesting is “how” Cleopas and his buddy finally got it.
In this day, when our Lutheran flocks run hither and yon, to and fro, seeking “THE PERFECT PLAN” to make themselves successful and “grow the membership” – as the supposed experts put it, Jesus comes across as really old-fashioned – unable, say some, to grasp the reality of today’s world. It began, that way of thinking, with us “Baby-boomers” – born as WWII ended and up to the mid-sixties. Of course we are in the news again as we retire and start putting the real stress on Social Security, which the gummint has robbed blind and which is now a budget item. Another story, another time.
But the Boomers’ generation seems always to get what it wants, and we got vacuum-sucked into the calvinist “church-growth” movement, which as it has gotten old and atrophied, like the movie star with too many plastic surgeries and/or botox injections – it shows. And it shows badly! Michael Jackson actually lost his nose!
And we – we lost our very Lutheran focus along the way. That is the saddest thing in all of it. As with Cleopas and his side-kick, the answers are right smack-dab in front of us, and we can’t see them. When asked about recognizing the Church, Luther said quickly: “The Church may be found wherever the Gospel is preached in its purity, and the Sacraments administered according to the Gospel.”
Of course, that succinct sentence, there to help us in what should be a simple matter of Worship and the Liturgy, and the Sacraments, is ignored in favor of some programmatic plan of success to do what Jesus, God bless Him, could never really do – organize and grow the Church. Please pardon my facetiousness here and there – I have had to endure any number of “better than Jesus” growth approaches that usually send our money to some group outside our fellowship who themselves, were they to be asked directly “What is the Church?” would stare at you like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.
So it is no surprise than many in our fellowship – yes, even Pastors – get that look. When they get asked why they continue in such things, they get the look yet again. They don’t get it. They are as slow and dull as Jesus said of Cleopas and his buddy. Jesus had to start all over teaching them of the prophets’ promises and the fulfillment of them in that Jesus fellow they were talking about. Still, after having gotten the weekend’s events and Jesus’ many explanations and the three of them having traveled as slowly as the surely did those 6-7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they still came up with –
Pastors put long hours into their sermons – we do – rule of thumb is one hour of preparation for every minute preached. No matter how clear it is, we still get that “deer caught in the headlights” look when we are done.
So Jesus went with what today would be called “The Nuclear Option!”
“So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.”
I’m not sure this following phrase (it sure fits!) should be in a sermon, but – “Bidda boom, bidda BANG!!”
No worries, I am Irish, my Guardian Angel has a special “in” with the Lord.
But “whack!!” – up side o’ da haid!
“Pastor – you mean to say that all of that 3rd rate rock-and-roll played to 4th rate music with 5th rate lyrics doesn’t help us recognize Jesus?”
No – I didn’t say that . . . Jesus just did!
“So skipping Communion for the “speshul” program last week, or when we want to be outta here in 45 minutes and the Liturgy takes too long or gets in our way – we are wrong?” I didn’t say that, but Jesus just said:
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”
Given my years in the Holy Ministry, I better know the right answers to all of this. But do you? Are you grasping the phenomenal meaning of this Gospel Lesson today!!?
Jesus – “Preacher par Excellence!” – could not jar the grey matter of these two dullards. All that He said, much as happens to us here in the pulpit, was lost on Cleopas and his pal. EVEN with the Resurrection, EVEN!
Now – some of you have already guessed where I am about to go and what I am about to say. That’s great, because it means I didn’t waste my time composing and delivering this sermon. And for you new folks, who are still looking around and wondering about this Lutheran thing – it’s okay – relax! There is a happy ending coming almost immediately!
And to the life-long Lutherans here this morning, who have always done this or that in just a certain way or that and NO other, this is YOUR Sunday. Your Holy Day, because Jesus is about to tell us all why all those programs didn’t work, or the music is . . . or was a flop, or why so and so finally quit here because the schedule didn’t let them be here on the appointed Sunday for what really mattered, and what is the saving grace of even bad preachers:
“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.”
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Honest question, Sports Fans. Can you now, at this point, understand why Luther insisted in the Lutheran Confessions, that we have the Liturgy and the Lord’s Supper every Sunday and Feast Day? Not because I say so, but because, with all five of our senses – even if the Pastor didn’t have the best day in the pulpit, or like Jesus in our Gospel, just couldn’t get through to them – all five of our senses can apprehend All of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar! The Sacrament makes the sermon – well – make sense! And it fits so perfectly with that our hearts and minds and ESPECIALLY our souls desire – Jesus actually WITHIN us! Forgiving us, cleansing us from the inside out, making us and declaring us to be His Holy brothers and sisters of the Cross!
Then, the question arises, or dawns on us as the whole matter dawned on Cleopas and his partner . . .
“Why would we ever want LESS Jesus?”