EASTER SERMON 2019
So we all come to Christ for different reasons. We are attracted to different things about his character and about the Bible. As for me I came to Christ in college because I wanted to know. I wanted to know if God was real. I wanted to know the power of his resurrection that I might be found in him (Philippians 3:10). And through silence and doubt, and faith and miracles, I have found it to be true that God is real. I have found it to be true that there is a living God. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit and it is my mission in ministry to relay to you the this good news. That you may experience God. Not in the way I experience Him. But in the way that he wants to speak to you.
As I was thinking of a good metaphor to explain the mysteries of God I came across this viral video on facebook entitled, ” When you leave the kids alone with dad for five minutes”.
Probably some dads might try this afterwards. I wash my hands of any effects.
The video opens with what appears to be a suburban red brick home surrounded by woods. We see the image of the garage of this home. The garage door has been opened and we can hear the sound of a back mounted leaf blower starting up. It seems from the sound that perhaps the dad in question is about to do some yard work with his kids. There is a little boy waiting outside the open garage door. He is looking inside the garage as if something unusual is about to happen.
Suddenly, we see a little blonde boy, perhaps two to three years old, in little kahki pants, and a little green sweater, come out of the garage riding a little red tricycle. He is not being propelled by his own peddling. Instead, his father is striding fast behind him equipped with a leaf blower, orange helmet, and orange ear phones to protect his ears from the noise. The wind from the leaf blower is propelling his son on the tricycle forward. The older boy points at the father with excitement as he emerges from the garage, propelling the younger son with the leaf blower. This is clearly the coolest thing both boys have seen all day. The little boy’s legs are outstretched forward for he has no need to peddle as his Father propels him with the leaf blower. The kid is having the time of his life as his father propels him around the gravel culd e sac of the family home. As the little boy races around the half circle on his little tricycle the Father encourages him on. As the Son reaches the end of his leaf blower propelled ride the father declares, “woahooo, yeah, my man! Haa, Haa! High five, High Five!” the father says as he turns the leaf blower down and leans down to give his son a high five. The little boy picks up his tricycle and gives it back to his Father, he slaps his father’s hand, declaring, “high five, high five!!!!!”
Though not designed to reveal the mysteries of God I think this video is a helpful metaphor. The Holy Spirit is the leaf blower, propelling us in the Christian life, like a mighty rushing wind, bringing revival to the church. The Dad is the Father, wrapping us in his love, he knows every hair on our head, he knows what the sparrows need, and does he not love us more than the sparrow (Matthew 6:26)? And the tricycle is Jesus Christ. The one who allows us to ride along in our Father’s love, the only mediator between God and man, revealing to us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, giving us entry into this amazing thing we call the Christian life. All we have to do is get on the tricycle, become like a child, and enjoy the ride.
Yet, we have trouble becoming children, we have trouble getting on the tricycle of Christ, trusting our heavenly Father, and moving with the wind of the Spirit. Because when we give up peddling under our own power we don’t know where our heavenly Father will take us. As, the story of the Risen Christ appearing to these two disciples on the Emmaus Road shows us, opening up means becoming open to strangers and becoming open to strange things happening in our lives. Opening up means becoming open to risk. It means opening our homes and opening our hearts that our hearts may be set ablaze by love. I believe the Road to Emmaus is the road we are supposed to ride our tricycles on. And on this road there is good news.
The Good News: When we create a path to open up our the Risen Christ will reveal the living God to us.
- By asking the Holy Spirit to open the scriptures to us
- By creating a path to turn strangers into friends
- By opening up our homes.
First, we create a path to open up by asking the Holy Spirit to open the scriptures to us. The word Luke uses here for opened means to open completely something that was once closed. It is used elsewhere in the scriptures for opening the eyes of the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, and opening the barren womb to life. And it strikes me this Easter that these disciples, may not have been Jesus’ inner circle, but they were good religious people. They had read the scriptures all their lives. Yet they didn’t know when the Risen Lord was right next to them. They knew that the prophets were to be fulfilled but they had an idea of how that was supposed to happen, and they wouldn’t open their minds to the way that Christ wanted the scriptures to be fulfilled.
It is sad yet true that we can open up our Bibles but not open up the scriptures. We can go to church without having an encounter with the Risen Christ. We can spend years seeing how the scriptures already affirm what we want to believe but when the Holy Spirit goes against the grind we resist him. The Holy Spirit could leave our churches, the leaf blower could stop blowing, and as long as the pastor is doing some monkey business on a tricycle, we might not notice. That is why we have the prayer of illumination before the preaching of the Word. Because we believe that even with my study, all my good intentions, if God through His Spirit does not reveal His Word to us, the scriptures will remain closed to us. But if the Spirit of Truth is on our side he will bring to mind everything Jesus has taught us (John 14:26). And he alone is the one to set our hearts on fire. Not any man or woman. But Christ alone. The Spirit alone.
Second, we open up by creating a path to turn strangers into friends. For most of my life I thought the story of the Emmaus Road justified my propensity to trust random strangers without testing their trustworthiness. I am the type of person that if you told me that gullible was written on the ceiling I might be tempted to look up. But this text does not say that we should trust people without testing their trustworthiness. Instead, it says we should create a path to turn strangers into friends.
As I prayed over this passage the Spirit showed me something new, well at least something new to me. These two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Emmaus was a town about 7.5 miles from Jerusalem. At some point on their journey a man who they thought to be a stranger came up to them. We are not told at what point in their journey this happened. But let us be generous and say that it happened at the beginning of their journey. The text implies that this stranger talked to them about the scriptures for the majority of their journey. Considering that an average person walks a mile in about twenty minutes, that means that these two disciples talked with this stranger for two and a half hours straight before they felt comfortable inviting him into their home.
Now we Presbyterians would say that if a church service went for two and half hours long that would not be in good and decent order. But it seems to me that much of Jesus’ ministry wasn’t about programming or well managed schedules. He was just available. He accepted invitations unless he needed to rest or had a good reason not to. He showed up and let the Holy Spirit do the rest of the work. We can always make more money, we can gain more prestige or power. But we can never have more time. It is our most precious commodity we have in this life. And our text today shows us that the best thing we can do with our lives is to gather around the fire of the scriptures and to set aside time not just for our friends, but to make strangers into friends.
Finally, our text today suggests that we open up when we open our homes to one another and break bread with one another. In the words of the text, “ 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. And he vanished from their sight.” There is something more personal about opening our homes than opening our church building. There is something more primal about sharing a meal than sharing a common background.
Percy Strickland, founder of the mentoring organization Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT) showed me the power of opening our homes. I moved to Richmond in 2006 for seminary. Percy and his wife Angie had moved to Richmond several years before. His wife Angie to be a medical resident and Percy to be a staff worker for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Richmond. They moved into inner city Church Hill, a predominately African American neighborhood. Not to make a social statement but simply to be good neighbors to those who were different from them. And when they saw all these children with no where to go after school, they just opened their home. Let them play video games, offered them snacks, tutored them in reading and math. And it started to build. More children came when they saw there was a home opened to them. And Percy recruited College students to help. When he studied at seminary he recruited me.
And now over fourteen years later CHAT is a million dollar nonprofit. They have their own school, they have their own coffee shop, they have their own wood working shop. I know kids who I tutored who are going to college now. I know kids who I tutored who have good jobs now. I know kids who I tutored who may not be alive if it were not for the power of opening our homes.
Percy didn’t abandon his roots when he moved to the inner city. He is brilliant. He is from Spivey’s Corner North Carolina. He didn’t grow up with anything. He grew up on a hog farm. One of CHAT’s fundraisers when I was there was an annual event called Hog on the Hill. Once a year Percy’s family down in Spivey’s corner North Carolina would kill a very large hog, and bring it up to inner city Richmond for a North Carolina style BBQ. Now you may be wondering what it would be like for Percy’s extended family from Spivey’s Corner, N.C to roll into Church Hill with a giant hog ready for the rosting? Well it was pretty yummy. So if you are good at North Carolina Barbecue perhaps you could provide some for me. I think it points to a vision that John of Patmos, the writer of the book of Revelation says. There will be a time when we will all come to the table. He said,
“ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” ( Revelation 7:9-10). You see coming to Jesus doesn’t mean giving up our heritage, it doesn’t mean giving up our background. Because there is good in all our heritage, whether we come from the west or east, the north or the south. He just asks us to come, to come to the table, to partake, to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Where do we need to open up today? Where do we need to open up in your understanding of the Bible, in our friendships, in our parenting, in our marriages, in our churches? Take a moment and ask what the Spirit is saying to you? What is the Spirit saying to the church today? The Risen Lord is here. He has drawn very near. Waiting to be let into the very center of our lives. He speaks gently through the door frame of our lives, “ Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”( Revelation 4:19-22).
My friends the time has come, our hearts are warm and ready, Jesus our first love knocks at the garage door, our Father stands behind us with his leaf blower ready to go. He revs up the engine of the Spirit and tongues of fire go forth setting our hearts ablaze, pushing us forward in faith. Jesus has our tricycle ready to carry us on the ride of our lives All we have to do is put our feet up and enjoy the ride for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). But for there to be liberty the Lord requires something of us. He knocks and at the door and whispers to us saying it is time, it is time, it is time my love, to open up.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen .