“Simply Be Peace”

Luke 24:36b-48

April 18, 2021 – Third Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 24:36b-48 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=390623186

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

| Centering Prayer |

Whenever a scripture passage begins with

“While they were talking about this, …”

The preacher better be prepared to talk about what this is.

This is what the disciples were talking about:

Cleopas and another disciple were walking to Emmaus earlier in the day

When the resurrected Jesus appeared and joined them.

Strange; they did not recognize Jesus.

It is as if he was unexpected.

They told the apparent stranger of all the events they had just experienced:

Arrest, passion, suffering, death, the burial of Christ.

They briefed him about the women’s report.

They said the tomb was empty.

They claimed to have met and spoke with two angels who told them that Jesus was alive.

The still unrecognized Jesus calls Cleopas and the other disciple fools for being

Slow of heart and

Not believing in the teaching of prophets (Ouch!).

Then begins to teach them about himself and the scriptures.

As they approach the village of Emmaus

It becomes apparent that the mysterious traveler intended to leave them.

Cleopas and the other disciple invite the unrecognized Jesus to dinner.

At dinner, during the hospitable act of breaking and blessing the bread,

Their eyes were opened.

They saw the Lord.

They recognized Jesus.

Miracle number one: Jesus rose from the dead.

Miracle number two: Jesus vanished from their sight.

They became so excited that

They immediately dropped everything,

Returned to Jerusalem, and

Told the other disciples all that had happened.

“While they were talking about this,” (24:36)

This is the this, our passage begins with today.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus begins. (24:36)

Like every ghost we have ever heard about,

Just as Jesus dematerialized

In the presence of Cleopas and the other disciple just hours earlier,

He now miraculously materializes right in front of the eyes all the gathered disciples.

This is something like right out of a scene of Star Trek.

The Gospel account in Luke is different than John.

In Luke, this is the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to all his disciples.

They are startled and terrified.

Already, they were locked away in the Upper Room

For fear of the Jewish authorities and crowds.

‘They came for Jesus.

They bagged their man.

They’re next coming for us,’

Or so they probably thought.

Already, their collective anxiety was through the roof.

When Jesus appears out of thin air,

They are startled and terrified.

Which begs me to asks,

What startles and terrifies you?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says.

Jesus appears to correlate fear with doubt.

“Why are you frightened, and

Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” he asks. (24:38)

Perhaps, if we address our fears,

We might be able to better able to get a grasp

On our faith and our doubts.

Perhaps, we might be able to

Keep our doubts constrained,

At the same time, we might be able to

Deepen and broaden our faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

What startles and terrifies us?

It is impossible for me to speak on your behalf

Or from your experience.

I can only speak from my personal experience of fear.

What do I fear? What terrifies me?

First, and foremost,

My greatest fear is harm coming to my immediate family,

Cynthia, Nicholas, or Christian.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells me.

Intellectually, I can think through the theological jungle gym;

God is watching over each of us in the family.

We should – I should – just trust in the Lord.

And leave the rest up to God.

Emotionally, I’m far more at peace

With my own passion, suffering, and death,

Than I am with the suffering and mortality of those I love.

Yet, every day, from my privileged point-of-view,

I experience faithful, God-fearing Christians

Being put through the wringer

Of a loved one’s passion, suffering, and death.

Frankly, I shake my head in awe

At the amazing capacity for faith that you, and others, show me

All

The

Time.

I can only pray that

If, and when, I should have to go through such painful circumstances

That I will have a fraction of the faith and strength to endure my gale.

“Peace be with you,” the Body of Christ reassures me.

What startles or brings you fear?

For many, I’m confident that we share our greatest fear:

Harm, pain, or suffering coming to our family and loved ones.

I’m asking you to join me in deeper introspection.

What do you fear?

Some fear a pop quiz, a final exam, an end of semester grade.

Some fear that teacher, professor, confrontation, being misunderstood.

Some fear the prospect of changing majors, disappointing parents or peers.

Some fear there won’t be a job at the end of the line, only debt.

Some fear that they just don’t fit in, aren’t bright enough, or good looking.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus gives to you.

Some fear Covid19.

Some fear being ruined by the pandemic.

Some fear not being able to pay bills.

Some fear unemployment.

Some fear being forced to choose between food and their prescription medicine.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

Some fear the government.

Some fear our government taking away liberties.

Some fear being racially profiled, pulled over, shaken down, and shot down by authorities.

Some fear our local, state, and national leadership.

Some fear war with China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells all who follow him.

What do you fear?

Some fear technology, social media, big data.

Some fear the loss of privacy.

Some fear being hacked, personal data and identity stolen, and bank account wiped clean.

Some fear being spied upon.

Some fear losing control of everything.

Some fear science, research, and innovation.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

Some fear going to a nursing home, lingering long, becoming a burden.

Some fear pain and suffering.

Some fear disease, loss of cognitive abilities, becoming the victim of abuse.

Some fear falling off the wagon, having a mental health breakdown, overdosing.

Some fear going to the doctor.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells you.

Some fear our church will come out of this pandemic wounded, weak, and in decline.

Some fear our church growing, the loss of personal control, the awkward hassle of associating with new people.

Some fear handing over the reigns of leadership to the next generation.

Some fear the Holy Spirit taking control and driving this train!

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to us.

Some fear prayer, opening a direct, intimate line with God.

Some fear judgment, punishment, wrath, going to hell.

Some fear making peace, ending old grudges and offenses.

Some fear the prospect of forgiving or being forgiven.

Some fear eternal life.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to us.

We are the Body of Christ;

It is our responsibility to extend the peace of Jesus,

Even as we are recipients of his peace.

Being vessels of Christ’s peace,

Stills our fears,

Lessens our doubt,

And strengthens our faith.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus materializes right in front of their eyes.

He brings recognition to some of his disciples,

Showing them his wounds.

For those still stunned, whirling, or questioning

Jesus gives them more.

“Have you anything here to eat?” (24:41)

Ghostly apparitions don’t have a functioning GI tract.

More importantly,

The hospitable act of breaking bread had become the signature act of Jesus and those who follow him.

Peace be with you.

Jesus brings assurance to his disciples

By opening their minds to understand scripture,

“That everything written about me in the law of Moses,

The prophets, and

The psalms must be fulfilled.” (24:44b)

Diving deep into scripture;

Academically, critically, emotionally, prayerfully, spiritually, worshipfully;  

Diving deep into scripture and drinking it in completely

Brings peace.

Peace be with you.

“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus teaches his disciples then, even as he informs us today.

“You are witnesses in my name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (24:47b-48)

Disciples. Christ followers. That make you and me witnesses.

Witnesses testify.

If you’re not testifying to others about the risen Christ

And what he brings to the world,

You’re doing it wrong.

Christians witness and testify,

Some more, some less,

Some better, some not so certain,

All somewhere on the spectrum between absolute belief and doubt.

Oh, I forgot to add …

Some fear old school evangelism, knocking on doors, inviting people to church!

Some fear speaking up and giving a personal testimony about how God is interacting with your life.

Some fear the witness, the possibility of rejection, ridicule, confrontation.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells us.

Take a deep breath.

Start small.

Make a friend.

Be a friend.

Build a network of relationships and fill each full of love.

They will know we are Christians by our love.

Speak from your personal experience.

Marry your word with the hospitality of the table,

Exactly as Jesus did.

God stirs the souls of those who bring together Word and Table.

Start local.

Gain traction.

Spread your witness and experience.

Watch it take off like wildfire.

Be assured,

Responsibility to witness doesn’t rest completely on any one disciple.

The responsibility to take the witness of Jesus Christ global

Is upon the network of friends and relationships we call

The Body of Christ.

“Peace be with you.”

Be not afraid.

Witness to your experience.

Simply be peace.

Simply believe.

Amen.

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