Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sermon for June 1, 2014; Psalm 68

Rev. George N. Miller
“The Answer of Home”
Psalm 68
June 1, 2014

Last week I received an e-mail from Mel with an update on Maureen’s post-surgery status, telling us that the doctor had signed the paperwork for Maureen to be discharged.

In the e-mail Mel wrote: “Home is a happy four letter word.”

Or as Dorothy would state “There’s no place like home.” Or as cowboys would sing “Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play.”

Home. Not just a house; more than where we lay our head and eat our meals.

Home is a happy four letter word.

Allow me to share a story of when I experienced the difference between where we live and when we are home.

The story starts in Feb 2006 when I lived in Grand Rapids, MI. I was at Petsmart checking out the cats available for adoption, and there he was- Martin.

While all the other cats were sleeping or looking depressed, he was in his cage playing with a toy, knocking it back and forth, a furry mass of energy.

Not a cat person, I took the chance and asked to see him. He was friendly; a bit wily. I took another chance and adopted him, purchasing a cardboard box to transport him back to my apartment.

The first sign of Martin’s personality came when I was driving: he broke out of the box in a ball of fury and clawed his way to the top of my shoulders. It’s amazing that we didn’t get into an accident.

I got Martin to my place, letting him wander around while I took a nap. I woke up 20 minutes later to find that he had crept under the bed and that was where he stayed for 2 weeks.

“Great” I thought, “I just spent all this money for a cat I can’t even see or pet.” But later that night when I went to bed, he dashed out into the living room and explored, his name tag and collar bell making playful noises.

I felt safe that night and drifted off to a pleasant sleep. Thus began our relationship.

Martin would hide under the bed all day, coming out only at night, or when I was in the shower. He decided that was the best time to use the litter box, releasing a stink bomb that permeated the place.

Eventually Martin stopped hiding under the bed, but he had very clear rules: I could pet him, but not near his head. He’d show his belly but he did not want it rubbed.

When company was over he’d plop himself in the middle of the gathering to be seen, not held. He’d not sit on my lap or snuggle during naps.

And he made it very clear: every day at exactly 7 a.m he was to be fed. For the longest time I never got to sleep past 7, even on my day off.

I felt as though I had none of the benefits of owning a pet, but all the responsibility, except that at night I continued to feel safe when I drifted off to sleep, hearing his bell jingle jangle as he played.

So the months passed: winter into spring, spring into summer, summer into fall. Martin was all over the place, playful, napping, bird watching, going outside on his cat leash.

He became more accessible. He allowed me to rub his belly. We began a welcome home ritual: when I came in, he’d run up to the door, I’d pick him up, he’d head butt me, and the two of us would rub our foreheads together.

Still, he would not lay in my lap, or take a nap with me, but then in November of ‘06 disaster struck the place I lived in. An early morning fire ripped through the apartment complex; angry flames brightened the dawn sky.

A person died, many were left homeless. I spent the day providing pastoral care for my neighbors, working with the fire department, Red Cross and the landlords.

That afternoon, exhausted, emotionally spent, sad and in shock, I laid down on the couch...and Martin jumped up and slept right beside me. As if he knew that’s what I needed.

From that point on, my lap became his bed; my couch was where we cuddled. Whenever I had a tough day, he was there for me: when my heart was broke, when my previous church closed, during the search and call process, moving to Sebring.

Eventually we got to the place where Martin would let me sleep in late, sometimes waiting until 8:30 before meowing or poking me with his paws.

Martin was not perfect: he stunk the place up, he was super fussy when it came to canned food, he shredded any cardboard box, he assumed that every blanket, every paper bag, every can that I opened was his. He meowed for hours to be let outside. He clawed up all the screens.

But Martin did some things I never expected: he taught me about patience. That love and trust is something you earn. He taught me to not give up on a relationship even through the difficult times.

Also, even though I thought that it was I who had given him a home, it was Martin who took the place I lived and through his presence and his love, turned my dwelling into a home:

a place where I was greeted at the door, the place where I could snuggle after a long day, the place where I could fall asleep feeling safe, listening to the scurrying sounds of a cat bell.

Sadly, due to a heart condition, Martin only lived to age 5, but even in that short span he made my home a happy four letter word.


Home is a place that stirs up a mixture of emotions in all of us. For some, home was a place of safety and love, for others home was a place of abuse and neglect.

Whenever we reflect on the home we grew up in, no matter how fond the memories are, there’s always a touch of melancholy because those days are long gone.

Most likely the childhood friends we grew up with are no longer there and development has changed the shape and look of the neighborhood.

For some of us home no longer exists because our parents have either died or moved to a different location, so homecoming to the exact spot we were raised becomes a thing of the past.

So we work on creating a new location in which we can call home. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, the new location just never feels right, and we long for where we once were.

Our spiritual ancestors often wrestled with what home meant to them. Adam and Eve were not only the first humans, but they were also the first to be homeless.

The Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years clinging to the promise that God would lead them to a new home of milk and honey.

40 years later when they finally did enter the Promised Land they had to deal with their homes being under repeated threats and attack.

During the exile, they watched as their homes and their community was destroyed, and many of them were taken into captivity, forced to live as aliens in a foreign land.

And when they did get to return home, they discovered their fields, their streets were in rubble and disarray.

Even Jesus himself experienced home-related issues by being born in a stable and spending most of his life wandering from town to town, having no steady pace to rest his head.

When we read the Bible it may seem that these stories are so long ago and far away, and therefore have no bearing for us. But how many here today know what it is like to not have had a permanent, safe place to call home?

How many have had their houses robbed or struck by tornado, hurricane or fire?

How many know what it’s like to face foreclosure or to move or to downsize?

I wonder how many of us feel displaced or know what it’s like to live as a stranger in a strange land, longing to return to the place we grew up and where people knew your name.

What would the answer be if I was preaching this morning at Royal Care, the Palms or Kenilworth?

Life changes; family changes. And, as the biblical stories testify, almost all of us at one point or another are looking for a place to call home.

We’re tired of feeling like wanderers, exhausted of walking through the wilderness of life. Our feet hurt from all the stones we’ve walked upon, we need relief from going through the fire and being up against the wire and the wall.

How many would love nothing more than to go back in time and have home be the way it was?

If this is you, listen to the words of Psalm 68:

Sing to God, Sing praises to his name...
Father of orphans and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation
God gives the desolate a home to live in.


Psalm 68 present many images of God: God as a cloud rider, God as King, God as warrior. But the image that always strikes me about this psalm is this notion of God being the provider of a home.

The needy, the desolate, those who have lost their parents, the mothers who have lost their husbands, the men who can’t find a bride, they all have a place they can go: to God.

All of those who wander through life feeling weary and feeling lost can find refuge in knowing that God is the ultimate resting spot.

God is the ultimate home where the lonely find a family; a community they can belong to.

God is the ultimate home where the languished are restored, where the weak gain power and strength.

And home is where God’s children gather to sing, to bathe and to eat.

In God, we are always welcome because God is home.

What that means is that no matter what your home life has been like, you will find love and safety in God.

No matter how restless you find the outside world, in God we find a home that is rest full.

No matter how bad we have cut our feet on the stones in our path or burned our fingers on the flames we have faced, in God we have an eternal home in which our wounds are bandaged and our hurts begin to heal.

And in this home we encounter Christ, who pays special attention to our voices, who reaches out to those who are sick.

In Jesus Christ we find someone who is willing to bath us; to invite us to a heavenly meal made up of the most basic of ingredients: some bread, some juice, the gift of grace, of forgiveness and a welcome to all.

As Christians we discover that not only is there rest and comfort in God, but we are gathered to become a home for all the other weary travelers who are tired and dirty from wandering the wilderness of life,

who have scraped their feet, who have burned their fingers, who seek refuge from the week before and strength for the week ahead.

And when a congregation like us does what is right, and what is faithful, then we too become a home were the orphaned find a family, the hungry are fed, the sick experience a sense of wholeness and healing, and the prisoner finds freedom.

Home is where survivors learn how to thrive, and those who thought they were without discover that in Christ they will indeed have enough.

And like any home, there’ll be jubilation and good times, sad times and loss. There’ll be dashed dreams, disagreements, and there will be death.

But as members of the same home we are called to watch over and to care for one another.

Like the ancient Israelites, we are wanderers of the land where everything changes; trials and tribulations take place.

When others try to hurt us, when people let us down, when the past slips away and things change at too fast a pace, God remains and God is our home.

No matter where we have been, no matter where we are going, we are always welcome here, and in God we will always find a place to rest our heads.

All thanks be to the Son who welcomes us to the table, to the Holy Spirit that washes us in the waters of baptism and to God who softly, tenderly calls to you, calls to me, calls to us all: come home.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sermon for May 25, 2014

Rev. George N. Miller
Psalm 66:8-20
“Stories of Our Songs”
May 25, 2014

There are two kinds of news: the kind that matters and the kind that distracts us from what actually matters.

Many folk are fans of the 2nd type. It’s nice to be distracted; to run away from the issues of the world and read about places to travel, the newest movies or latest celebrity gossip.

This weekend the big news was the nuptials of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Love ‘em or hate ‘em most people have at least heard of them.

Kim is famous for being famous. Kanye, well some say he’s the greatest rapper alive. Others recall him as the narcissist who disrespected Taylor Swift at the MTV Awards; others recall him as the loud mouth who criticized Pres. Bush on national TV.

But before the fame, fortune and controversy, there’s a back story about Kanye. Before the cover of Vogue and the platinum records, he was an underdog. In fact, Kanye’s story is more like a Never-Shoulda-Happened-Dog story.

In 2002 Kanye was an up and coming rapper. He had some success as a music producer, working for Janet Jackson and Jay Z, responsible for bringing a new style of sound to the radio, meshing modern rap with traditional soul.

He was poised for greatness when one day tragedy struck. He was an innocent victim of a car crash and was put on life support.

Days later he awoke and it was not pretty. His youthful, skinny face ballooned to twice its size. A steel plate was put in his chin. His mouth was wired shut.

Imagine being a rapper whose main source of livelihood is the ability to speak fast rhymes with amazing dexterity and here he is in the hospital, mouth wired shut, the only sustenance he could get was by sipping Ensure through a straw.

The average person would be downtrodden, allowing depression and failure to creep in.

But Kanye was raised in the church; he was raised with spirituals that spoke of pressing through. He was also raised to the sounds of soulful divas like Chaka Kahn who sung of personal strength.

So he pulled from these songs their stories of survival and their stories of hope and he did something unique.

Two weeks after the accident, with his face still bloated, with his jaw completely wired shut, he recorded a song called “Through the Wire” in which he sampled the music of Chaka Kahn’s classic song “Through the Fire.”

It wasn’t easy. It was incredibly painful. It took a long time to create. Kanye rapped one line at a time until many days later he had an entire song pieced together.

The song detailed his accident, his hospital stay, his will to survive and thrive, and it became his first solo hit.

I personally think this is amazing stuff, a spiritual testimony told through secular tools about what God, faith and perseverance call pull one through.

The chorus plainly states:

Through the fire
to the limit; to the wall
Right down to the wire
Even through the fire

Would today’s palmist approve of Kanye’s lyrics? Hear how they compares to vss 8-12:

Bless our God, O peoples…
who has kept us among the living,
and has not let our feet slip.

For you, O God, has tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried…
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us into a spacious place.

Psalm 66 is a much needed reminder of “You’ve come a long way, baby; and don’t you forget who brought ya.”

Psalm 66 makes up a group of songs called the Psalms of Thanksgiving; songs designed to be sung by the congregation, celebrating all that God has done in our lives as a people and as individuals.

These psalms do not take an ignorant view of the world; they do not proceed forth with blinders. They are fully aware of the hardships in life, they are songs that know all too well about war, disease, and famine, and still choose to focus on the ways in which God is working.

These songs are designed to shape us, to help us develop trust in God in the midst of our pain, and to denounce that which is spiritually unhealthy.

Psalm 66 acts as a way to bring the community together in remembrance of all the times God has been present, to remind us that God has brought us through the fire, past the limit, over the wall.

Psalm 66 reminds us that even when we thought there was no way, God found a way, bringing us into a good, spacious place where we can worship God, give thanks and freely place our offerings.

These Psalms were important for God’s people back then, over 2,000 years ago, and they’re still just as important for God’s people today.

You know why? Because we still go through the fire. Money is funny. People are not who they seem. Natural disasters strike any time, any place. Our bodies have a way of becoming our worst enemy and time keeps marching forward regardless if we are able to follow or not.

The stories of the Bible talk about this. The newly freed slaves are led to a wall of water that seems impossible to pass.

40 years later when they’re done wandering the wilderness and ready to enter the Promised Land they confront a river that’s too flooded to cross.

An outcast of outcasts is asked to retrieve water for a stranger even though it is she who thirsts.

Jesus is humiliated and nailed to a cross simply for teaching people the truth and his willingness to share a meal with all.

Each of them faced their own fire, their own limit, their own wall. And yet…

…and yet even to the wire, the Red Sea parts, the River Jordan runs dry, Living Water is supplied and the tomb is declared empty.

Surviving moves to thriving. Why? Because God continues to work in the world which God has created and called “good.”

There is no fire, there is no limit, there is no wall in which God is not present and God is not willing to lead us through.

And as Psalm 66 teaches us, the good news and the thanksgiving doesn’t just stop there. We get to share the good news with one another and we get to share our own stories of deliverance.

Why? Because when we share our stories, we remind ourselves of just where we’ve come and how far God has taken us.

We share our stories to inspire those who are facing hard times. It’s difficult and ever so lonely to be in the fire; the flames can make it almost impossible to see and believe that there’s a way out.

But when we tell our tale, we offer others a glimpse into a future that’s possible with God.

We share our stories because when we do we are also offering God our praise and thanks for all that has been done. Doing so allows us to celebrate the ability for love and hope to carry us through.

The simple act of worship and thanking God is transforming and should never be neglected.

We give thanks for God’s delivering love during the Exodus because even today God is surely bringing us from one place to the next.

We give thanks for God’s actions at the Jordan River because even today God finds ways to stop the floods and to make the ground a bit drier to travel upon.

We give thanks for Jesus’ offering of Living Water at the well because even today we find our spiritual thirsts quenched and satisfied.

We give thanks for the mystery of the resurrection because even today we come to the garden alone, in need of reminding that death and deceit do not have the final say.

This does not mean that we won’t get wet; it doesn’t mean we won’t get mud on our feet or our hands a little scorched. It doesn’t mean we won’t still experience thirst or the dread of death.

But what it means is that at the Sea, at the River, at the Well, even at the Cross, God is there.

Even in the fire, God is there.

To the limit, to the wall, Psalm 66 calls us to praise God together and to celebrate how God has taken us through so much.

Psalm 66 teaches us how we can look beyond the current moments of discomfort and with the eyes of faith see the ways in which God is working, moving and bringing us to a spacious place where life is good and we can praise God some again.

Thanks be to God whose name is glorious, to the Son who is victorious and to the Holy Spirit that takes us through.

Their steadfast love endures forever. They are the story of our songs.

Amen and amen.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sermon for May 11, 2014

Rev. George Miller
1 Peter 2:1-10
“Rocks of Life”
May 11, 2014

Picture this: the people of Israel have been wandering the wilderness for 40 years. They’ve faced trials, tribulations, topes and times of scarcity. Right before they enter the Promised Land, Moses gathers them and (according to Deuteronomy 32) he speaks these words:

The Lord is your mighty defender,
perfect and just in all his ways...

Think of the past, of the time long ago;
ask your fathers to tell you what happened…

(Of how God)...
found them wandering through the desert,
a desolate, wind-swept wilderness.
He protected them and cared for them,
as he would protect himself.
Like an eagle teaching its young to fly,
catching them safely on its spreading wings,
the Lord kept Israel from falling.

They found wild honey among the rocks;
their olive trees flourished in stony ground…

The claim of finding honey among the rocks reminds me of today’s reading and the notion of spiritual milk that’s provided by Christ, the living stone.

I remember as a kid when my friends and I would gather stones and break them open to see what was inside. Not once did we ever find milk or honey.

The beaches on the north shore of Long Island are covered in jagged stones. I don’t recall seeing olive trees flourishing there but I do recall how the stony ground was no fun to walk barefoot on.

There was one time when I was about 7 playing in the Atlantic Ocean and I stepped into the water and felt an unbearable pain rip through my foot.

I thought a crab or a shark had grabbed a hold of me and my father rushed into the waves to drag me out of the water.

Turns out it wasn’t a crab or a shark but a glob of tar with stones and spikes sticking out of it that I had stepped onto and pierced the sole of my foot.

So I know that stones are not always pleasant; they can be painful…could that perhaps be part of the point that today’s scripture is trying to make?

1 Peter was written for a community of people who feel lost, who are facing challenges and need a reminder that God has not forgotten them.

They are Christians, a teeny tiny group of folk who are looked down upon and viewed as a dangerous cult of trouble makers and evil doers.

Under Roman rule, some of them have been jailed, others murdered. To save their lives and to keep their faith some of them go into hiding, others move into a new land.

They have a mix of emotions; they may be physically safe but they feel lost; they know they don’t belong where they’re at.

They may have a house; but they do not feel like they are home.

On one foot these Christians are experiencing the joy that new life in Christ brings, but on the other foot they are also experiencing the social and emotional owies that come from walking bare footed on a rocky beach.

It would be so easy to lose one’s faith. It would have been easier to just go back from where they came and say “You know what, I was wrong about the whole Christ-thing. Let’s start over.”

But this letter encourages them not to. Instead of shying away from the hardships they are facing, this letter really brings home the point that life is hard, that there will be trials and tribulations, but through God we will receive the victory; that in Christ we have a living hope.

There is dispute on who actually wrote this letter: Peter, or his assistant or someone claiming his name, either way the author does not shy away from the facts of life.

He states that as Christians we will suffer through trials, but just as gold is perfected by going through the fire, we will become stronger through the trials that we face.

I don’t believe he’s saying that God puts us through trials and suffering to test us or make us stronger; I believe what he’s saying is that God will use those trials and sufferings to refine us and to make us stronger.

That God will work with and through whatever it is we face to bring forth that spiritual milk we need.

Think of how much of our lives are spent in struggle. First our mothers have to struggle push us out of the womb.

We struggle to learn how to walk, falling down again and again, bumping our butts, getting owies on our foreheads.

We struggle in school, learning how to read and do math; we struggle against other candidates for a job.

We grow older, we struggle with weakening eyesight, expanded waists, chins that double and triple.

We struggle watching our children struggle. We struggle with a report from our doctor, a note from the bank, the burying of a loved one; confronting our own mortality.

We struggle with our memories.

Life is a struggle. A constant stepping on stones with our bare feet, a constant trying to avoid the spikes in the water that can pierce our sole.

Do we look at those struggles and say that God caused them, that God is responsible for all the hurt and pain?

Or do we discover, as we look back over our lives and think things over, that it was often during the times that we were walking across the stones that God’s presence was most felt?

Recall the stories in the holy scriptures: was it during green pastures and still waters that God called some of the greatest leaders and touched people’s lives?

Or was it during moments of stony ground and rocky circumstances?

Think about our spiritual mothers. When did God call Sarah to become the mother of a great nation and to bless all the families of the world?

Was it when she was a young, fertile and nubile woman? No. It was when she was considered to be “advanced in age”, barren, and in her own words, too old to know joy.

Was Miriam, the sister of Moses, a noble princess pampered in the royal courts with figs and the finest of clothes?

No, she was enslaved by the Egyptians, forced among many to turn straw into brick so the Pharaoh could further build his empire.

Yet it was Miriam who made sure her brother was reunited with their family; she worked alongside Moses and Aaron in bringing the people through the wilderness and it was she who led the women in praising God when they crossed the Red Sea.

What about the Woman at the Well that we meet in the Gospel of John? When did she encounter Jesus and finds out about his gift of Living Water?

Was it when she was a popular, 1st-time newlywed out strolling with the girls in the cool morning breeze?

No. She encountered Jesus as a despised Samaritan, married five times, all alone at a well in the hot afternoon sun; an outcast of outcasts.

Yet Jesus enters into her life and she becomes solely responsible for bringing an entire town of people to Jesus.

Sarah, Miriam, the Woman at the Well: our spiritual mothers who experienced rocky times who were in their own way each called, consoled and recreated by God to become something greater then what their worst could ever be.

Today’s reading reminds us that the times when the way seems to paved with nothing but jagged stones may also be the times when God is working to make a new way; a smoother way.

Do you think that things have become difficult? Do you feel like things are hard?

…They are. But because of your faith and because of the love of God as known through Christ you will get through.

Do you feel like you are an outsider and you don’t belong?

In Christ, you have a community right here where you fit right in and a spiritual home where you belong.

Have you been hurt, used and abused?

We all have; so was Christ, which means there is no suffering you can go through that you can’t take to Jesus and he won’t understand.

Life is not all green pastures and still waters. Stone after stone after stone we step, often with bare feet.

God is mindful of our pain, and if we give it to Jesus, those stones can actually become part of what is used to build us up and to further build God’s holy house.

Stone upon stone upon stone, we are given the opportunity to give them to Christ, who is the living corner stone.

When we are weak, when we are weary, we can turn to Christ, and know we are not alone.

We will be fed, we will be nourished; we have found our honey in the rock.

In conclusion, being a Christian does not automatically mean we will have an easy life, free of owies or situations that pierce our souls.

But it does mean that when we encounter the rocky paths of life, we are not traveling alone, but with Christ. He will give us the strength, the ability and the spiritual nourishment we’ll need to see it all through.

We can’t live our lives afraid of the stones we may step on, but we can live knowing we are part of something greater then ourselves and in Christ we will not be put to shame.

All thanks to God who spoke to both our spiritual mothers and our fathers; to the Holy Spirit that fills us with holy wisdom and for Christ, the cornerstone of our lives and of God’s holy habitation.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sermon for May 5, 2014

May 4, 2014
Luke 24:13-35
“Jumping for Jesus”
Rev. George N. Miller

A few years ago I read a book called The Velvet Jesus by Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill, a church of over 3,000 people.

I was curious to read what he wrote, expecting something mind blowing. What I discovered was that Rev. Bell sounded like a UCC pastor.

He discussed the ability to question and wrestle with scripture; to not shy away from its difficulty and the tremendous leaps of faith that the Bible asks us to make.

Rev. Bell noted that there are two kinds of faith. The first is like a brick wall: we’re not to ask questions and everything is put together in such a way that if one item of faith is changed, challenged or taken away it will all fall down.

Then there is the other kind of faith; the trampoline kind of faith. It’s springy and can bend and you can jump up and down and it gives and it moves, inviting you to jump around.

Sometimes you may bounce higher, sometimes lower. You may bump your head but you’re also bound to laugh and smile. And no matter how much it gives, it still stays in place.

That’s what we have in the UCC. As a denomination we’d say “Ask, seek, question, do cartwheels, because no matter how much you jump, God will be there jumping with you.”

Today’s scripture is just the kind that asks to be jumped on like a big, victorious trampoline. It has so many places to launch off from and so many places to land, designed to make us smile with wonder.

This is Luke’s telling of the Resurrection. It’s the first Easter day, the women find the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus is missing. They tell the disciples and Peter runs to the tomb and sees the linen cloths by themselves and is amazed.

Later that day, Cleopas and his companion walk from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus. While talking about the latest town gossip, Jesus appears to them and asks what’s going on, but they do not realize it is he. So they walk and they talk and as they do, Jesus teaches them all about the scriptures.

It’s like a moving bible study.

They get to their destination, invite Jesus in and there, at the table, this stranger who is their guest, suddenly becomes their host as he took the bread, blessed, broke it, and gave it to them.

As their eyes are opened, they realize that Christ is with them and has been in their presence all along. They say to one another “Didn’t our hearts burn within us on our journey and while he discussed scripture with us?”

And so goes Luke’s trampoline...a beautifully written piece of narrative that continues the mystery and the wonder of the resurrection.

But can we be honest for a moment: don’t you find the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to be one of the most perplexing pieces of Christianity?

As if a virgin birth, singing angels and water into wine were not enough, here we have stories of a man killed on a cross, buried in a tomb and reappearing to his followers three days later, and we’re supposed to believe it’s true.

As members of the UCC, we are encouraged to think about these scriptures we read and hear, and to jump on the trampoline asking: is the Resurrection true? Did it really happen? Is it a metaphor? Is it a state of mind?

Or is the Resurrection a dizzying, dazzlingly combination of all of the above?

I believe that the Resurrection is designed to be a mystery, a mystery that has the power to transform.

Once we take the Resurrection for granted or assume we have it all figured out and have the final say, it loses its power and presence in our lives.

The Resurrection is something only God and Jesus truly know about. Not Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or Paul could get their accounts of the Resurrection to mesh, yet they all had something to teach us, something that we can all learn.

The resurrection stories are in many ways about a new way of life, in which we learn to live and love together and to continue the teachings of Jesus.

One of the lessons Luke wants us to learn is just how important it is that we sit at the table and eat together, especially with the stranger. Not because Luke was a food addict or wanted to see our waist lines expand, but because as Luke sees it, when we gather together and break bread, Christ is present.

I believe that part of what we have here is a narrative designed to tell us just how important celebrating Communion together really is.

This whole passage is liturgical. It takes place on a Sunday. It features 2 people together discussing scripture, sitting at table, sharing a meal, and in the process Christ appears to them.

What we have here is the celebration of word and sacrament, using the words blessed, broke, and gives in which Jesus becomes present to weary travelers and leaves a burning in their hearts that prompts them to proclaim the Good News.

One of the marks of Christianity is that no matter who we are, no matter where we are on life’s journey, no matter how much we worry about what lies ahead or are woeful about what was past, we love to eat together; as such Communion has a special, sacred place in our faith.

In fact, there was a time, centuries ago, when people lived to celebrate Communion. When the priest lifted the bread, the bells would ring out and folk claimed to have miraculous visions of Christ.

Those who lived in large cities would spend their Sunday going from church to church just to see the bread consecrated, to hear the bells ring out, hoping that they too would catch a glimpse of the risen Christ.

Personally, that is why I always pause while lifting up the bread and before breaking it, because I believe in that moment Christ becomes present in a way then we cannot put into mere words.

In today’s reading, Luke has two trampolines tied together, the miracle of the resurrection and the mystery of communion, and through them we discover that the love and lessons that Jesus shared were not a singular event confined to history, but living realities that still speak to us and burn within our own hearts today.

Jesus is always in our midst, even when we may not realize it, and when we share a meal, we have a chance to experience a scared moment.

Every dining room, every restaurant booth, every table in the Fellowship Hall has the chance to become a way for the resurrected Christ to make himself known.

And when Christ is made known, there is bound to be a burning in our hearts, a reminder that death does not have the final word, God is in control and Jesus Christ is Lord.

In conclusion, what does the resurrection mean to you? What do the sacrament of Communion and the act of fellowship represent to you?

And what kind of faith do you have? A brick wall kind of faith where everything is neatly in place, and if one brick is moved, it all comes down?

Or the trampoline kind of faith that no matter how much it gives, it stays in place allowing us to jump and laugh, to wonder and do new things?

All thanks be to God who sets the journey before us.

One step, one bounce at a time, may we trust that Jesus will watch over us, God will catch us when we fall and the Holy Spirit is walking and bouncing with us as well.

Amen and amen.