Sermon Archives

That Same Hour ~ Luke 24: 13-35

In May of this year, I read a very interesting article in the New York Times entitled, The Outsourced Life. It was written by Arlie Russell Hochschild. I would like to share some of it with you:

In the sprawling outskirts of San Jose, California, I find myself at the apartment door of Katherine Ziegler, a psychologist and wantologist. Could it be, I wonder, that there is such a thing as a wantologist, someone hire to figure out what we want? Have I arrived at some final telling moment in my research on outsourcing intimate parts of our lives, or at the absurdist edge of the market frontier?…

After a 20-year career as a psychologist, Ms. Ziegler expanded her practice to include executive coaching, life coaching and wantology. ..

Ms. Ziegler explains that the first step in thinking about a “want”, is to ask your client, ” ‘Are you floating or navigating toward your goal?’ A lot of people float. Then you ask, ‘What do you want to feel like once you have what you want?’ “…

The mere existence of a paid wantologist indicates just how far the market has penetrated our intimate lives…

Focusing attention on the destination, we detach ourselves from the small – potentially meaningful – aspects of experience. Confining our sense of achievement to results, to the moment of purchase, so to speak, we unwittingly lose the pleasure of accomplishment, the joy of connecting to others and possibly, in the process, our faith in ourselves.

Now I would like to share with you a Hasidic legend. (By the way, I was born and raised on the lower east side of Manhattan in New York City. For many years my family would go pass a row of Hasidic synagogues on our way to worship. One of my favorite theologians is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of the Hasidic community.)

When God created human beings, the angels were jealous because God had endowed the humans with divine wisdom that would guide them through life. So the jealous angels conspired to hide this gift from the humans. “Let’s take it to the peak of the highest mountain,” said one. “No,” said another, “Let’s bury it at the bottom of the deepest sea.” But the smartest angel of all said: “Let’s hide divine wisdom deep inside each person. It’s the last place they’ll ever look.”

There are obvious contrasts between what we read in the NY Times article and this legend about humans being endowed with divine wisdom. If together we look deep inside we’ll find what we need, what we have been looking for.

The early church was getting down to the work of reaching for something new. To be more specific, they were reaching back, they were reaching in and they were reaching out! And indeed this is the movement of the church that wants to experience its whole story, its full identity and its wider, ever-expanding witness in the world. The early disciples reached for the “US” beyond the “I”. They were reaching for the sacred community of faith, a community of shared faith, shared values, shared beliefs, shared experiences of change and transformation.

To reach is to extend one self. To reach is to move beyond one’s immediate space to grasp, to get a hold of that which you most want.

Hear this: the story of the two disciples walking to Emmaus is the church’s journey, the church’s unfolding story of the living presence of Jesus realized and made visible in the breaking open of the scriptures and in the breaking of bread together and in the breaking open of an expansive witness.

The question of the two disciples is, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

Jesus responds, “‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared…Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all their scriptures.”

They Reach Back to Discover the Whole the Story

What Jesus does is to reach far back to discover the whole story. With this first act of discovery, Jesus says to them my life and truth is rooted in the story of a people, of a faith, of a pilgrimage. You understand me-you get me-in the story of Moses and in all the prophets. My story, my narrative is here in them, in their journey, and now in me. Moses and the prophets are still speaking to me and are still walking with me. This first act of discovery is not about reaching back into a dead past, but back into a living and powerful past that is manifest in the present; it is about reaching back to discover the meta-narrative of faith and call.

What we learn in the Emmaus story is that the story of the sacred community of faith mediates in our midst and in our world the presence and life of Christ. The early church reaches for this sacred story because in it they find the living Christ and their whole story.

They Reach In to Discover the Full Identity

Now the two disciples reach in to discover the full identity of the “stranger.”

They think he is a stranger; they think he does not know what is going on. But he proves to be the one they had been hoping for. It was Jesus’ interpretation of the scriptures that mediated their whole story and prepared their hearts and minds to see beyond limited realities, perceptions, judgments, interpretations, understandings. Not fully clear of who is the stranger, they decide to reach in. Instead of sending the stranger away, the Emmaus disciples welcome the stranger with an invitation to stay with them, to break bread with them.

What we see here is the indispensable need to invite the stranger into our midst. The stranger like Jesus in this story will move on, will keep going unless we extend the genuine invitation to come join us. And, moreover, here in this act of invitation we learn that reaching in to discover the full identity of the stranger and who we are means that we need to know what needs to go and what needs to stay. The two disciples ask Jesus to stay with them.

Don’t worry about traditions; traditions have a way of surviving without us. We create traditions. Then traditions create us. Traditions keep us alive more than we keep them alive. Don’t forget that this is the dynamic interplay between traditions and us. They never go away; they find new garb; they are transformed.

In the wonderful book, Courageous Collaboration with Gracious Space: From Small Openings to Profound Transformation, the authors share that,

When we reside at the level of politeness or civility, we avoid the truth telling that allows us to engage people and confront difficult organizational, community and societal issues at the deepest level…
The need for new models of change that enable both the heart space of deep partnerships and the mind space of strategic, tangible steps, is critical and growing. When we say that [courageous collaboration and gracious space] is integral in its approach to change, we are referring to its ability to engage both the heart and mind at deep levels.

The authors go on to say,

When we say Gracious Space is relationship oriented, we mean that it is largely by and through relationships that change occurs…

Most of what we aspire to do in our lives involves other people – whether at work, at home, or in community. We need each other to get things done. We need each other to understand who we are, what we are capable of, and to accomplish our dreams…

Yet in our human interactions, we often struggle with unhelpful and harmful means of interaction – debate, shouting opinions at each other, polite civility, over-managing each other, selling partial answers versus seeking solutions, working around each other, refusing to acknowledge the truth in what another person says, refusing to share power – none of which advances us toward desired outcomes. We often get in our own way and thwart the results we most desire.

Most people want something different. We want to open ups to new possibilities. We want to feel safer, develop deeper relationships, bridge boundaries that separate us and create greater possibilities for working together.

In chapter four of their book, the authors quote an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

In his life, Jesus reached into the marrow – the heart – of his relationships. His relationships were not a burden to him because they were not superficial. Jesus’ relationships were works of faith and works of grace and works of purpose. Jesus’ example says to us that we need to be much more concerned about reaching in for the deeper relationships, the deeper partnerships, the deeper empowerment, the deeper identity, the deeper collaboration and the deeper space of grace. This is how we move from “small openings to profound transformations”.

When Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to the two disciple, the revelation takes place, the veils fall off, their eyes are fully opened, and they come to know the full identity of the stranger as the One of their longing, the One for whom they had hoped. The limited perceptions are gone. The seeing through the eyes of all the “isms” are gone. (In the words of the jazz musician, “Don’t let the isms get in the way of is.”) This is NOT about being politically correct. This is about a whole new way of seeing – seeing with the heart, seeing with compassion, seeing with true clarity of mind and spirit.

They Reach Out to Discover Their Widen Witness

And then a most remarkable phrase appears in the text, comes to light: That Same Hour. That same hour they get up. This is what the text says. See it! It’s there! There is no gap between the realization of Jesus’ true identity and their propelling identity out into ministry, witness, advocacy, proclamation, to discover and recover the ones left behind, forgotten, the crucified, the oppressed – the ones waiting for the good news of Jesus’ living presence in demonstration of love, in the full participation of the communion of the bread and wine of life. The text says, “that same hour they get up”.

That same hour they reach out to move forward the wider witness of their faith, their mission. That same hour they begin to live with the most important theological question of the church: “Who is missing?” “Who has been left out?”

That Same Hour the Church of Jesus Christ names the nameless. The other disciple was not named in this story because she was a woman, and I guess you needn’t mention them back them. But that same hour she leads the way with the other disciple, never again to remain silent and side-lined.

In his book, Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker Palmer quotes William Stafford’s poem, Ask Me. “Ask me whether what I have done is my life”. Palmer goes on to say, “The poet’s words remind me of moments when it is clear-if I have I eyes to see-that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And in the spirit of the poet, I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?”

In Cluetrain Manifesto, the authors (Locke, Livine, Searles, and Weinberger) write, “All of us are finding are voices again. Learning how to talk to one another…Inside, outside, there’s a conversation going on today that wasn’t happening at all five years ago and hasn’t been very much in evidence since the Industrial Revolution began. Now, spanning the planet via Internet and World Wide Web, this conversation is so vast, so multifaceted, that trying to figure out what it is about is futile…Something ancient, elemental, sacred, something very, very funny that’s broken loose in the pipes and wires of the twenty-first century…There are millions and millions of threads in this conversation, but at the beginning and end of each one is a human being…this fervid desire for the Web bespeaks a longing so intense that it can only be understood as spiritual. A longing indicates something is missing in our lives. What is missing is the sound of the human voice. The spiritual lure of the Web is the promise of the return of voices.”

One more quote – this one from Stephen R. Covey. In his new book The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, he writes, “Tapping into the higher reaches of human genius and motivation-what we call voice-requires a new mind-set, a new skill-set, a new habit…The 8th habit, then, Is not about adding one more habit to the 7-one that somehow got forgotten. It’s about seeing and harnessing the power of a third dimension to the 7 habits that meets the central challenge of the new Knowledge Age. This 8th habit is to “Find your voice and Inspire others to find theirs”.

The Church of Jesus Christ helps us to find our voice – ancient, elemental, sacred.

Bill Bradley, the Senator from New Jersey who ran for the Presidency in 2000, tells a story about his experience on the campaign trail. He was at a banquet. The bread ran out at his table. He asks the server to please bring them more bread. The server forgets. When he comes around again, Senator Bradley reminds him to bring more bread. Again, the server forgets. This time Senator Bradley feeling annoyed says to the server, “Do you know who I am? I am Senator Bradley, and I am running the Presidency of the United States.” The server then responds and says to him, “Do you know who I am? I am the one in charge of the bread.”

Do you know who you are? Do we know who we are? We are the ones who have been given charge over a powerful faith, a radical welcome and witness, a mission to change lives and our world, with God’s love and God’s presence bearing witness to who we are. We are the ones given charge over that same hour the two disciples experienced when their eyes were opened and they recognized the stranger to be Jesus. They got up to reach out to all others who needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

In conclusion I leave with you words from Julia de Burgos’ poem “Dawnings”.

Dawnings in my soul!
Dawnings in my mind!

When the intimate door is opened
To enter one’s self,
What dawnings!

To gather the hour that passes trembling at our
side,
and make it now,
and make it robust,
and make it universal.

Amen.

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