Have you ever been disappointed with God? Have you ever felt that God wasn’t doing what you thought he would do? Have you ever been puzzled by what God was up to in your life and just couldn’t figure it out?
I would be surprised if you answered “no” to those questions. I wonder if the Christians in Iraq can figure God out after they see their churches and congregations being destroyed, something that didn’t happen under the former regime. I wonder if the believers in Jesus as Savior and Lord in Darfur ever wonder how God can let their children starve, their women raped, their men brutally tortured and killed, when God has promised in his Holy Word that the righteous would always have plenty?
When debilitating sickness arrives at your house, when relationships you believed were God given begin to unravel, when everything you thought was solid ground on which to stand turns into sinking quick sand, what are your thought about God then?
Job, that archetypical suffering hero of the Old Testament was told by his wife to “curse God and die” to escape the misery of loss, disease and seeming abandonment by his God. Ah, yes, we remember that the cause of so much misery in life is our sin, our straying from good and godly paths. But then wasn’t forgiveness of those sins going to free us from the results or are we fated to suffer temporal consequences of our forsaking God?
Of course, we all know that “we must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God.” And as Jesus himself pointed out in the case of the man born blind to whom he restored sight that the man’s blindness was so that the glory of God could be clearly displayed. But that all leaves us somewhat mystified as to what God is up to in my case, in my situation.
Are we too blind to see his “glory”? Are we simply to take whatever God or this world dishes out without screaming in agony and simply trust him? After all, even children cry out in pain over accidents and hurts to their parents, though the cause of the pain is self inflicted. How is the mystery of God’s dealing with us his creation going to be solved?
A couple of the followers of Jesus felt much like we often may feel. They had been with Jesus for sometime. They had seen his miracles; they had heard him talk about God being present; they knew that God’s triumph was soon to take place through this Jesus. They had been present when Jesus entered Jerusalem, being greeted as the son of David. That person could only be the promised King, whom God had promised so many times in their Scriptures.
They had been there when the temple guards, soldiers and Judas had betrayed him. It was the beginning of the end, which ended with the name “king of the Jews” being nailed over his head on that accursed cross. Then death, cold pale stillness and the dark of the tomb.
Wild rumors about some kind of visions of him being alive and of angels, but… They were going to go home, saddened, disappointed, hurt, totally without any understanding of any of the events of the past week.
Then a stranger asks them about their take of the events. He seems unaware of all that had taken place. Cleopas, one of those sad disciples, tells this stranger of their hopes that this Jesus would finally free God’s people. This stranger is somewhat confrontational. He calls them foolish, slow to believe what their Scriptures revealed. He makes a very necessary point of telling them that it was necessary that the Christ should suffer all that took place and then enter his glory. Suffering was necessary? A shameful death part of the whole plan? Death and the tomb all there in their Scriptures, already starting with those first five books of the Bible written by Moses?
Well, we should surely like to know all that was spoken on that journey to Emmaus. What Scriptures did this stranger quote? How did he put it all together. And it was all about Himself.
They arrived in Emmaus and this stranger accepted their invitation to stay with them. He accepted. They were sitting at the table, when the stranger took the bread and broke it in pieces and gave it to them.
The lights came on. This stranger was Jesus. They clearly without any doubt recognized him. It was Him. He had risen from the dead. He was alive. They simply had to rush back to Jerusalem and tell the others. And so they did.
Now through the interpretation to them of the Scriptures about himself, Jesus had shown them how all that had happened in Jerusalem was necessary so that God’s glory might be displayed in his work, his suffering, his dying, death and then his resurrection.
A note about God’s glory. God’s glory is seen when we get a glimpse and it is always a glimpse, of what God is and is all about. What is God’s glory?
It is shown in the fact that God who became man in the person of Jesus cares about us so much that he took upon himself everything that stands in the way of each of us having a right relationship with him. He came to “save his people from their sins.”
Who would have thought that this God who seems so obtuse at times would do this for each of us?
Who could imagine after all we have done to walk away from God that he would enter what stands as the guillotine of our lives, death and enter it in our place?
Who in their wildest dreams could conjure up life after death as this God’s free gift to those who call on his name?
That’s God’s glory. That’s what God is truly all about in our lives.
And perhaps the most interesting part of this Scripture from the Gospel writer Luke is that he tells that it was in the breaking of bread that they eyes were opened and they recognized him.
We often do not see him in the events that rumble through our lives-events that often seem to disturb our peace, destroy our dreams, plunge us into sad depressions and worse. In these things the Devil, the world and our own foolish and sinful desires would make us despair of God and how he means to see us through these tornado-like happenings.
Where may he be found? Where may we see him again?
It is the breaking of the bread in the Blessed and Holy Sacrament. If we are broken, we see him broken. If life seems to be seeping out of us, we see his blood seeping out of him so that we might have life.
For it is in the breaking of bread that he tells us, no more than that, gives us himself, broken and shed for us that we might know he is with us whatever comes.
It is why we come each Sunday to the altar to receive him, for we are more frail than we want to admit, more harmed by our disappointments than we believe, more frustrated with God thanwe would like to say. Here he says “I am with you always.” “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “All power, all authority is mine. It is not in the events of your life.”
So we are give him who is the way, the only truth, life itself honor and praise. Then we can say as St. Paul who went through more than we can image says: “I am persuaded, convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, not the present situation I am in or the future who looms so dark ahead of me, not any forces out there, not highs or lows in m life, nothing else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8).
Will I, will you understand all of what is happening to us? No, but like that pioneer of faith, Abraham we will follow the adventure as God leads us to the promised land.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Sermon by Rev. Walter Harms, brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Mountain View, Arkansas