Sermon 4-12-2015  ‘The Ultimate Stranger’

Luke 24:13-19

Weavings – A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, John S. Mogabgab, September/October 2003, pp.3-4.

The Easter Stranger, Rev. Roy Almquist, Washington Memorial Chapel, Valley Forge, PA

Luke 24:13-19  “Now on that same day two [disciples] 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?’

Jesus – the stranger.  ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ [Matthew 8:20]. 

·        He dwells among us a foreigner in a tent.  John 1:14

·        He is rejected in his hometown. Matthew 13:54-58

·        He depends on the hospitality of others. Luke 10:38-42

·        His teaching provokes misunderstanding. John 3:1-7

·        And hostility. Mark 14:1-2

·        He dies outside the city walls.  Mark 15:22-24

·        He is buried in someone else’s tomb.  Matthew 27:57-61

Jesus .  He was ‘despised and rejected-a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.’ [Isaiah 53:3 NLT] Jesus was the ultimate stranger – estranged from us in so many ways.  The editor of the journal ‘Weavings’ says this:  ‘In Jesus, the strange God and the strange neighbor dwell together in the extraordinary intimacy of one flesh. In him, the full measure of our alienation is revealed.’ 

I ask you… are you a stranger?  Have you ever been a stranger?  Have you ever been rejected? Are you misunderstood in your work or at your workplace?  Is it safe for you to go home?  Do you have food and housing security, or do you rely on others for help?  Do you know, when the times comes, where you will be buried?  Perhaps, you understand this stranger.  This Jesus.  This man who joined the others on their seven mile hike home.

The travelers think it strange that this man wouldn’t know about all that’s gone on in Jerusalem.  Instead of taking offense or being embarrassed about his ‘strangeness’, Jesus uses it to move into conversation…. And that’s when the travelers become the strangers… they have no idea they are telling the Stranger his own story.

Luke 24: 19-23  Jesus asked them, ‘What things are you talking about?’ 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.

God, thank you for your mercy.  For the way you find us, no matter where we are on our road, and long to hear our frustration, our astonishment, our confusion poured out.  Thank you for walking beside us in and through all these things, great Listening God.  Amen.

How often do we become strangers to Christ?  Totally oblivious to Christ’s presence, we spin our own story of what Christ has done, or hasn’t done.  We can lay out lots of facts, but do we understand the motive, the intent?  Without paying attention to the Light of God that accompanies us, that experiences life with us, we make assumptions about Christ as Stranger… and sometimes miss that he’s been there with us all the time.  

Once the disciples share the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, they discover they’re not the only ones who are anxious, frustrated.  Now Jesus is – with them

‘Jesus the Prophet?  Hadn’t they paid attention to all the prophecies that had come before?  Foolish!  Slow of heart! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things, and then enter his glory?’ Their hoped for Redeemer was walking with them, just then.  Hadn’t they understood what his life – what that suffering – his death – was all about?  Imagine how Jesus the Messiah, the Stranger, felt that day.    

My husband, Jon just served as the Chair of the Committee for the 5 Year Review of the Ophthalmology Dept. at the Univ. of Iowa. Doctors from outside the Department of Ophthalmology, plus two physicians from outside the University, had to scrupulously look through the Opthalmology Department. What have they done wrong? What have they not done so well? How are they doing in all the different parts of that department? They had to interview everyone that’s a part of the department and then sit down with them. At the end they had to bring in the Chair of the Department and review - go over carefully and gently, well…maybe not so gently! He’ll get a write-up eventually, but they had to speak with him about all that had happened. How do you think he felt sitting there listening to the work of his life? I’m thinking it’s kind of like Jesus felt that day on the road to Emmaus. 

It’s the day of his resurrection, just a few hours since, and he’s walking down the road listening to these guys talk about him and wonder what they’re saying. And they haven’t gotten it at all! Wow! That’s kind of horrible!  And it isn’t so good… Jesus didn’t turn out to be what they had expected.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  “We had hoped he would be….” “We really needed him to be…” “We wanted him to be…” “We know he was crucified and died.  It’s been three days, and now we’ve heard rumors – a lot of hearsay – that he’s alive.  No one has seen him.  Just visions.”  They see him – they just don’t recognize him. 

These disciples, on the day of Jesus’s resurrection, are about to get a ‘love’ lesson from the one they know only as a Stranger.  He will honor the mystery of God in each of them.  He will change their hearts.  How?  By using stories – lots and lots of stories.  He begins with what they know, what they already know about Jesus, and then reminds them of things they’d forgotten.  Jesus explained their significance and meaning, and ‘interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’  Remember, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans… that hasn’t been written yet. So when he’s talking about the scriptures, he’s talking about the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st and 2nd Samuel… Those seven miles went by fast. 

It came time to part company, but the Stranger had somehow become a friend, and the travelers couldn’t let him move on without something to eat.  They sat down at the table, and he took the bread.  There was something about the way he held it, the way the Stranger blessed it, and broke it… it seemed so familiar. And then, they recognized him… and he was gone.

Jesus is strange… he’s different.  He’s one of a kind.   He knows what it is to be the stranger.  He knows what it’s like for us, when we feel like strangers.  One stranger connecting with another… You and I understand Jesus in this way.

We become strangers to Jesus, when we speak for him, trying to tell him his own story.  We make an awful lot of assumptions about him.  We forget many things.  Better, if we would allow Jesus to speak into us… to share his own story.  We need to give him seven miles, rather than seven minutes.  We need to listen, with our hearts.  We need to hear him say, rather than listen to hearsay.  What does Jesus say to you?

This past week I opened an account on Facebook.  (I’m so proud of myself! Thank you, Becki Heusel!) One of the fun things I did was to discover my nephew, Aaron.  I haven’t seen Aaron in a long, long time.  My sister told me to look him up – ‘He looks a lot like Curtis now, Ruthie.  (Curtis is our younger brother.)  It didn’t take me long… and I was so surprised!  Here is this handsome young man – the youngest of my nieces and nephews.  (Of course, all my nieces and nephews are either beautiful or handsome.) Aaron’s got pictures there of his fiancé – he just asked her to marry him the day before Easter… He’s all grown up, and Coey’s right!  He looks a lot like Curtis! 

If you haven’t seen Jesus lately, you need to sign up on his Facebook page.  He probably looks a lot different to you now than he used to.  He might be a Stranger… He might be a Friend.  I don’t know.  But I do know, I know this, he wants to take a walk with you, maybe not seven miles, maybe just a walk around the block or down the hall. Maybe fourteen miles. He wants to spend some time, have a good, long conversation, and tell you his own story.  (I’ve heard it’s really heart-warming.)  The question is, are you willing to listen?