Sunday, May 21, 2017

sermon for May 21

The reading 

Galatians 1:13-17; 2:11-21

1:13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.  But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned;  for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

The message

In many ways, Paul’s letter to the Galatians picks up where we left off last week. Since the conflict over the question “does a Christian need to keep the Jewish law” is the reason Paul writes this letter to the Galatians (and the whole church really) I’d like to review what happened when this issue was debated in Jerusalem (as reported in Acts 15, last week’s reading). Paul and other Christians convert and baptize a group of non jewish people without any mention of the Jewish law or the demand that people be circumcised (in this case, Paul ignores an earlier decision by the church in Jerusalem that keeping the law was not required for non jewish Christian converts, but circumcision was).

Today, circumcision is a very common procedure for religious, health and hygiene reasons. There is really no polite way to describe it but in case anyone is not sure what we are talking about it, circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin from male genitals.  In the old testament world, this practice was common for health and hygiene reasons in many places.  For the Jewish people though, it takes on a new and spiritual meaning, it becomes a sign of the covenant or agreement with God and a sign that they are included in it.  After all, according to Genesis, God told Abraham to circumcise himself, his household and his slaves as an everlasting covenant in their flesh. Those who were not circumcised were to be 'cut off' from their people (Genesis 17:10-14).  A believer not being circumcised was a big deal, it meant no longer being part of the covenant God made with Abraham.  It meant there was a new covenant God made with people through Jesus life, death and resurrection (which is exactly what Paul argues).  For Paul, anything that is added to the saving work of Christ is an unnecessary distraction, people were saved by grace, not the law and not any ritual.

This is a major, significant change, probably the biggest shake up in history of Judaism. A lot of 
people were not ready to take that step. After learning about Paul’s conversion of gentiles without circumcision, a group comes from Jerusalem and protests, publically confronting Paul, brining anxiety and doubts to the new converts. They cannot resolve the issue so there was another council meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the question. There it is resolved that Gentiles did not need to convert to Judaism first, or keep the law or even get circumcised.

It would seem like the question had been settled but not really. People are still upset, scared and confused by the decision. Just like Paul ignored the earlier decision of the group, others ignore this one. There were still people teaching that circumcision was required for Christians.  They   attacked others over this point, questioned the validity of new converts faith and the surety of their salvation. After all, this ritual was essential, ordered by God as a sign of God’s promises and part of the Jewish faith for over 1500 years. Paul or anyone else was not going to say or do something different.  It had all of the elements of a sacrament (God’s command, physical sign)  

This letter to the Galatians gives a fuller picture of Paul’s view, that we are saved by grace, not the law, that the law is an obstacle to gentiles, This is not pure philosophy or theology, the new church in Galatia was a place under criticism and attack from an unidentified group of teachers who are telling them they needed to be circumcised.  We do not know if these are the same opponents who Paul faced off with in Jerusalem or another group.

At times, Paul’s  letter to the Galatians can be aggressive and condemning.  Overall it is an arugment meant for a wider community, for the whole church.   Paul reviews his life, talking about his time as a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church and then a Christain missionary, ripped from his former life and beliefs though an encounter with the risen Christ (an event that would have shocked the religious authorities, Paul was one of the their own, until he wasn’t).  But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, He then reviews his relationship with them “I am astonished that  you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ

Paul goes on to write honestly about his relationship with the church in Jerusalem, about his years of advocating and debating and confronting them with the good news of what was happening in the gentile world.  After this, there is a complicated and lengthy argument from Paul about faith vs the law. Finally, there is a list of reasons against the requirement of circumcision and a celebration of Christian liberty. 

Galatians is really a long argument and evidence that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.  This is written in a special language I call Paul speak.  Paul was a scholar and expert writer that used the highest traditions of Greek rhetoric and argument which is great but can be complicated for us to follow.  Basically, the cartoon on the front of the bulletin with 2 sheep talking is the point of this letter.   We are saved by God’s grace, by Christ’s death and resurrection, nothing else. 

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As Paul writes  But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned;  for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy, we are reminded that what we do matters. Peter is written off and dismissed as a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another, believing one thing but being afraid to teach or do it. Peter’s weakness leads other astray, even Barnabas (a vital members of Paul’s missionary group) Today, this remains just as true, what we say and do matters, how we talk about, express our faith, what we do in this place, all matters.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sermon for May 14

The reading

Acts 15:1-18

 Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders.  So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.  But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, "It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses."  The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter.  After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers.  And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us;  and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.  Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?  On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."  The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.  After they finished speaking, James replied, "My brothers, listen to me.  Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,  "After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up,  so that all other peoples may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.'

The message

(No manuscripts this week, so I’ll try to write out what I talked about. I did not mention Mother’s Day but we sang all Hymns written by women to celebrate the day)

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I participated in a conference just like this one in ancient Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago.  We had the annual Synod Assembly for the Metro NY Synod of the ELCA (a meeting of the pastors and some members of the 200 or so churches that are part of the Metro NY Synod).   During this meeting, we prayed together, worshipped together, shared communion, listened to each other, approved a budget (and talked about how we use our resources), debated the future of a church in Staten Island in a complicated situation, and learned about all of the different ministries and work of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the larger church organization we are part of).  I can’t say this event is exciting for me but there is something amazing and joyful about being connected to so many passionate, faithful and excited people.

This morning, the church assembly in Jerusalem we hear about in Acts only had one matter of business to attend to.   They were in the middle of the first big church fight, a debate on the question “do you need to become Jewish, be circumcised or keep the law to become a baptized follower of Jesus and be part of the kingdom of God”.    

There were 2 sides and two main figures.  First there is Paul. We heard about him over the past few weeks.  He was called Saul and was a persecutor of the church. Saul was a prominent Pharisee and part of a renowned family of Jewish leaders.  He was there at the stoning of Stephen (the first Christian martyr, the first person killed for proclaiming Christ is our savior). Saul saw the new faith as a corruption of and threat to Judaism.  He sought to catch, arrest or kill any converts to it.   On the way to find and persecute Christians in Damascus, Saul has an experience of the Risen Christ, he is knocked off his horse and struck blind. He hears Jesus call him “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me”.  Saul is instructed to see someone in the city, there his sight is restored, his name is changed to Paul and he becomes one of the great missionaries in the church (as well as the author of many letters that are part of the New Testament.).

For Paul, this question of “do you need to keep the Old Testament law before becoming Christian” was clearly no.  He was a apostle to the gentiles and saw converting them to Judaism first as unnecessary, even as an obstacle. We were saved by grace, by being joined to Christ’s death and resurrection, not by circumcision or keeping the law.  There was a new covenant and way to be part of the kingdom of God. Paul saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jews and Gentiles ( non-Jews) the same way, his position was verified by God. 

On the other side, there is Peter and the church leaders in Jerusalem.  Sure, Jesus challenged the religious authorities and communities on how they kept the law but Jesus never exactly says “stop keeping it”, Jesus kept the law, even the last supper was the observance of the Passover.   This was a big decision and the early church leaders wanted to get it right.  At the same time, Peter has seen the Holy Spirit descend on the gentiles, on people who had no idea what the law was, let alone kept it.  Peter also had a vision.  On the way to Macedonia to pray with a group of new Gentile Christians, Peter sees a blanket filled with pigs and other animals that were ritually unclean and could not be eaten according to the law. God tells him “kill and eat”.  At first Peter refuses, saying they are prohibited.  Again God says “kill and eat” and Peter says “no, I have never broken the dietary law”. Finally God says again, I imagine a little nasty this time, I’m God, it’s my law and im telling you to 
break it, to kill and eat, you better do it”.         

This question was already debated and answered once before (Gentiles were welcome, no conversion to Judaism necessary, all they had to do was be circumcised).  Paul does not adhere to this agreement and baptizes gentiles with no required circumcision.  People come from Jerusalem and say “hey wait a minute, not so fast, we decided they must be circumcised”  Paul and others once again say, that is an obstacle and they are saved by Christ alone.

The people disagreed, leaders and members, new and old, cannot figure it out and so they widen the conversation, going to Jerusalem to debate the question.  What happens in Jerusalem can be a model for all of us today in how we communicate and treat each other.  In Jerusalem, long standing things are challenged,  experiences count (reports of what happened from James, Paul, Peter and Barnabas are central to the discussion), decisions are checked and verified by Scripture, people listened to each other (even though they did not like each other) and prayed together
Ultimately it was decided that conversion to Judaism, keeping the Old Testament law or even circumcision were not necessary for Christians. This was a big decision, one that forever changed the church and one that has impacted the faith of hundreds, thousands, millions and then billions of people for all time.  The early leaders of the church had to make sure they got this one right.  In the end they decide for welcome, for inclusion, for getting rid of any obstacles to people entering the kingdom of God, to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to let God’s grace work and let God’s love do new and amazing things.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sermon for May 7

The reading

Acts 8:26-39

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.)  So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"  He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.  Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.  In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth."  The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?"  Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.  As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?"  He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

The message

Today’s reading is one of the most important events in the early church.  What happens on that desert road will shape what the church is (a place for all people) and who leads it (God).   The author of the Gospel of Luke continues to stress that the kingdom of God is open to all people in the Book of Acts.  It is also a story of obeying and trusting God’s call (even when you have no idea what is happening) and the work of every believer to invite and be ready to share their faith.     

To get at those observations, we need to understand who the cast of characters are in today’s reading.   There are two, Phillip, who serves as a deacon in the early church and the Eunuch who serves as an important official in the kingdom of Ethiopia. (Since he is not named and I do not want to only identify him by his country or deformity, I am going to call him Bob)   First, there is Phillip.  He was one of the deacons of the church that was selected to help the early church care for those in need (as we heard last week, this work was nothing more than “waiting on tables”, a job not fit for the actual 12 disciples of Jesus).  Phillip is deeply faithful and a competent part of the community but not exactly doing the most exclusive and prominent work.  Phillip ends up on this road after a series of events and visions.  Right after seeing the killing of Stephen for preaching Christ dead and risen for the forgiveness of sins, Saul, is attacking and persecuting Christians in Jerusalem.  He wants to eliminate this group before they grow any bigger or stronger.  We are still weeks away from his famous conversion on the road to Damascus where he encounters the risen Christ, comes to believe and changes his name to Paul.  He can do a lot of damage in a few weeks. Everyone except the apostles flee from the city. Phillip ends up in Samaria, where he teaches, preaches, and casts out demons. Many people in the area listen to the word of God and come to believe.  After this, Phillip calls in the big guys, Peter and John come to Samaria to see what is happening, to pray with and for the people there, and they receive the Holy Spirit.  After this, an angel appears to Phillip and sends him out to the middle of nowhere. (The isolated desert between Jerusalem and Gaza).  Phillip being the good and faithful worker he is, accepts this bizarre, confusing and dangerous mission. If you wanted to climb in power and the hierarchy of the early church, this was not the road to it.  
Then we have Bob the Eunuch. In general, the term eunuch refers to a man who has been sexually altered (the term has changed meaning a lot over different times and cultures. What exactly it means here is unclear). In the East they were preferred for important roles in serving female rulers.  Bob is introduced as a court official of the Candance . This was a title for the queen of Ethiopia, similar to pharaoh for the leader of Egypt. Based on the time, it is likely that he served Amantitere, the queen who ruled from a.d. 25-41) Ethiopia refers to the kingdom of Nubia in the northern Sudan, whose capital was Meroe (not to be confused with Abyssinia, which was later called Ethiopia and converted to Christianity in the 4th century a.d). Bob was a convert to Judaism (otherwise, there would be no reason he was going to the temple to pray).  He is very wealthy (he can afford this long, dangerous journey to Jerusalem, is literate, owns his own chariot and even a very expensive, rare scroll of Isaiah). Being in charge of the treasury means he has great power, responsibility and trust in the kingdom of Ethiopia. If you were a robber hiding on this road, he was the person you dreamed of coming across. If you were a Christian looking to build the kingdom, he was a great find as well. 
The meeting of Phillip and Bob is not so smooth at first.  To set the scene, Bob has completed what he came to do, he has prayed in the temple at Jerusalem. He is now is heading home.  His mind is filled with relief that he made the trip safely, joy at what he experienced and anxiety about all that has to be done back in Ethiopia.  Perhaps he is even worried about having a job when he gets back (after all, he has been away for a while and things change).  Phillip, already confused about what he is doing there, is now instructed by the spirit to go up to the chariot and join it.  All of a sudden, a stranger comes out of nowhere, runs up to his chariot and asks “do you understand what you are reading”.   Bob could have easily dismissed Phillip “how dare you question me like that” or had him killed by a guard as he ran up on the chariot and appeared to be a danger. Phillip could have been run him over or merely not seen in the dust.   Instead, Bob answers “No, not really” and they hold one of the first few Christian bible studies in the chariot. After hearing the story of God’s love revealed through Christ, Bob wishes to be baptized.  While studying the word of God together with Phillip, after hearing the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection, Phillip must have mentioned Baptism, perhaps Jesus great commission to spread the word and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit or perhaps the events at Jesus own Baptism.  After this, Bob notices water in the desert and shouts out “there is water, what is to prevent me from being Baptized”, what is to prevent me from entering the kingdom, from publically affirming my belief, from being part of this Christian community, from being joined to the saving work of Jesus death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins, to free me from the bonds of sin and death.
Phillip could have easily said, um, time or danger prevents you from being baptized, umm, im just a deacon, this is not my decision, im not authorized to baptize, im not sure how to do it.  He could have said, you are a Eunuch (and considered ritually unclean) and you are not an Israelite so I’m not sure what to do with you, it’s not safe to stop here, I don’t have my baptizing robe or the service book with me.  Instead, Phillip realizes this is why God had him on this road, this was the point of that odd, nonsense trip. He Baptizes Bob.  
Bob becomes the first fully gentile, non-Israelite convert to Christianity (the Samaritans were seen as inferior or half breeds but still part of Israel, just a part no one wanted or respected).   This Baptism is one of the most important events in the early church, helping to shape the decision to open the church to all people, showing the importance of faithfully following God’s direction even when it makes no sense and a reminder that all of God’s people are called to teach and share their faith. Sharing the Gospel is not reserved for apostles, pastors, or professionals; God has given everyone the word to share.   In many churches today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The reading is John 10 where Jesus tells the crowds “ I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. We are standing all around that Jesus Gate, pointing to it, showing it to people, inviting them to come and see,      

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sermon for April 23

The reading
Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?"  He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him." Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" 

 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.  As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The message

This is our last Sunday with the Gospel of Luke for our reading.  Since Christmas our Sunday worship has been shaped by this Gospel and its focus on Jesus welcome of all people into the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God was the thing that Jesus talks more about than any other in the bible (money is second).  It refers to the presence and impact of God’s love and power in the world.  Jesus has welcomed the religious authorities, outsider, leper, tax collector, prostitute  and sinner.  Luke reports that even with some of his last breathes from the cross, Jesus forgives and welcomes a criminal into the kingdom of God.  Each time someone is welcomed into the kingdom of God, they change, they are healed of an illness, repent from their abusive ways and work to invite others in.  

Starting next week, we will go on the to the book of Acts. This biblical book was written by the same author as Luke and tells the story of the early church, what Jesus first disciples did after his resurrection and ascension.  Over the summer months we will have 3 series, five weeks on the psalms, four weeks on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and four weeks on the book of Revelation. 

This morning, we complete Luke’s Gospel with a story of walking around and eating.  In Luke (and Acts) things often happen on the road, while people are walking around.  The story of God’s active love brought to the world through Jesus begins with a journey as Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for the census. To see John the Baptist, who first announced the savior was here, meant a walk out to the wilderness.  Jesus calls his first followers as he walks around the towns and seas. In Luke 9:51, Jesus sets his face to Jerusalem, where he will be welcomed as the savior then be put on trial, suffer, die and rise again. Jesus gets there by Palm Sunday (reported in Luke 19:28).   At a time when every single word mattered, this trip to Jerusalem takes up more than a third of Luke’s Gospel.  The famous parable of the Good Samaritan takes place along a dangerous road and the prodigal son gets interesting when the young, wasteful son is spotted on the road back home.  In the book of Acts, we will see Paul, a persecutor of the church, encounter the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.  This will change the world.  This morning the walk to Emmaus becomes bible study, perhaps the best one ever participated in and it becomes the revelation that Christ is Risen.

In Luke, eating is also central to Jesus ministry and relationships. The obvious place is through Holy Communion, where in Jesus last days, bread and wine, the stuff everyone had, the most common elements of a dinner. Combined with God’s word, they are transformed into an event and ritual where the presence and forgiveness of God can be contained.  There are others. Jesus is often criticized by the religious authorities for eating with tax collectors and sinners because he often did.  To eat together meant to accept, to recognize others as fellow people and to enter relationship with them.   A few years later St Paul will write a scathing and nasty letter to the church in Corinth about how they eat with rich and poor separated, they might be in the same room but they don’t get it.    This morning, the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus experience God in a simple act of hospitality, when they invite this unknown traveler to “stay with us and eat”.  In this meal, Jesus followers know he is truly risen because he eats (ghosts or illusions could not consume food).

I know a thing or two about walking around and eating and so does this community.  Pastor Tilly, who served here from 1898 to 1952 is still remembered by some long time neighborhood  residents for walking (or riding a horse) around the church. Sixty plus have passed but still remember him being in the community. When Jen and I first meet and in the years afterwards, we spent a lot of time walking around and eating (I sometimes think that’s all we ever did).  You find stuff, unknown places, new places, interesting people or opportunities, new cultures and new experiences.  I try to eat with all of the churches that share the space with us at least once a month.  It is a chance to remind each other, we are coworkers in ministry and not all that different. We might have different languages, food and practices but we know each of us is loved by God, and that’s enough.

Eating and walking used to be ways that we were in the world and connected to each other, the way we meet people and participated in the world.   I say used to be because these things were before we became glued to our smartphones and headphones, before we were able to control every part of our social lives, before we could be in a community but not really there.  

(I filled in a few different stories here about my experiences of walking around with my clergy clothes on or even just wearing a simple cross. This includes being stopped for a moment of prayer or blessing by someone drunk and being greeted with great joy by other Christians, despite language barriers.)   Recently, there was an experiment where a man dressed with different uniforms like nurse, doctor, construction worker and firefighter and traveled around a city. The most difficult was walking around as a priest. That was the one he had to stop.  He was constantly greeted, asked questions, asked for prayer, for help, for answers.  It showed a great longing for the presence of God in a community, one that pastors often miss. Of course, it’s not only pastors responsibility.  (there’s not enough and some ain’t so good), each of you should be signs of God’s presence in the world.

This story of the road to Emmaus reminds all of us that we express our faith in our daily lives, we are called to be part of our communities, to share the news that Christ is Risen from the dead outside of these walls.