April 30, 2017

“Walking With Jesus”

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Luke 24:13-35

“What one sees depends on how one sees.” – Søren Kierkegaard

[This sermon is based on the series: “A Preacher’s Guide to Lectionary Sermon Series” WJK Press]



Many years ago, when I was a young, strong, fit, athletic kind of guy, I would run between five and ten miles every day. As a kind of spiritual practice, on somedays I would pray the “Jesus Prayer” as I ran. The prayer is quite simple and quite profound. It is this: “Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” Synchronized with my breathing, I would inhale with the words, “…have mercy…” and exhale with the words, “…a sinner.” There were days when that five mile run was a mystical experience. I could do that five mile run today, and it would likely be a ‘religious experience,’ but of a more terminal kind.


In our Gospel lesson, two disciples take a seven mile walk. It became a mystical experience. There is something about being on the move that put’s you in Jesus’ presence.


These two disciples were unable to recognize Jesus in the moment. But, we have the deep meaning communicated in this storytelling that must have been something like the experience of Philip and the eunuch. This was personal, close, specific, filled with questions and mystery, wonder, and in the end it was a beautiful new way to understand themselves and what they are to be about.


There are always those around who insist that our vision is great, our understanding of ourselves and the world around us is complete, and that like Thomas last week, they dismiss every alternate view of the world and life as untrue. If you subscribe to the narrow and binary pigeon hole terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ then you are probably an active participant in this particular version of blindness.


But what if we assumed that our vision isn’t all that great, and that there are times and seasons where we miss the truth that is staring us in the face? What if we sought those moments, like the quiet space of my run, or a church service, or a silent walk with friends, to listen differently and to truly entertain in our heart what God may be speaking to us. If we are lucky, we might feel safe enough, open enough, to have just such an experience.


You probably don’t know that there is a structure here that is designed to accomplish just this experience. You can find it right in your bulletin. Scholars and clergy call it the ‘ordo’. It is the ‘order of worship,’ that follows a certain progression and contains certain elements to as to (hopefully) precipitate a walk with Jesus. It looks something like this:


We Gather, we prepare ourselves to hear God’s Word, we hear that word read and preached, we respond to that Word, and then we are ‘sent’ literally as Jesus said, “…as the Father sent me, so I send you.”   We experience something of the beloved community as we gather, we may be moved through God’s word, and we respond…always with offering…yet because faithfulness to Jesus requires the use of our whole-selves we offer symbolic proportional gifts…and what the earliest church did was to respond by revisiting Christ’s table. If we allow ourselves to be moved along this journey, we are brought to a new place in which we literally move to a table and offer and receive hospitality. Christ is made known in the breaking of the bread, in the community gathered around this welcome table. It is the place where Jesus continues to reveal himself. The Christian faith is born and nurtured where people share in worship through word, gesture, and tactile things such as water, bread, wine, and expressions of mutual care–the smile, the clasp of another’s hand, perhaps even an embrace. That is why a walk like this can never be over done or too frequent so as to loose its meaning.


Still, it isn’t always within the experience itself that we are able to grasp the depth of meaning. The disciples did not recognize Jesus until after the encounter. I don’t know how many times someone has remarked to me appreciation for a worship service, later, after the fact, prefacing their complement with the phrase, “on the way home we were talking.”


So do not be surprised that some scientists have learned that movement that helps our brains integrate information. Our brains receive information all the time. We have a great collection of information and this connection occurs in ways we might not otherwise.


Can you imagine this walk? These two on the road are reviewing the harrowing events of the past few days and are walking in the night under the spell of terror. Jesus appears as a stranger and proclaims to them the stories of the liberation of their people.


…the story for today is one of movement. It contains at least nine verbs describing movement. The two men “are going” (24:13), Jesus “came near and went with them” (24:15), they “came near” Emmaus (24:28), Jesus “walked ahead of them” (24:28), “he went in to stay with them” (24:29), “he vanished from their sight” (24:31), and “they got up and returned to Jerusalem” (24:33). Some of the verbs tell of movements made by Jesus; others tell of the two men. Either way, both Jesus and his followers are on the move. But it is not movement for its own sake. The moves being made have a purpose, and that is to tell the story of Jesus, to interpret it, to understand that a change is underway, to have fellowship (communion) with Jesus and others, and to share it all with others. That is what it means to be the church.[1]

[1] Arland J. Hultgren,, Commentary on Luke 24:13-35, April 8, 2008