Biblical Text: Luke 24:36-49
Full Sermon Draft
The Lukan resurrection texts are one long story – one long Easter. When I read it I wonder if that is authorial privilege, or Luke’s research. The eating of fish sounds so much like John’s beachside story. The road to Emmaus is uniquely Luke’s. The rest are reflections of the other gospel stories. Luke pulls them all together and tells a very tight story that focuses reflection on seeing the body of Christ in three things. The Emmaus disciples are the first in Luke to see the risen Christ, and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread which is a Lord’s Supper scene. We recognize the body in the Supper. We recognize the body is the Peace of the gathering is the next one. It is in this one that we also recognize that the body is not just a spiritual reality, but is flesh and blood. Lastly we recognize the body because the scriptures have testified to it.
This sermon starts out playing with the Nicene creed’s phrase “according to the scriptures” which was one that young Parson Brown didn’t really get. But Luke gets it, and Jesus goes to great lengths to make sure the disciples get it. This sermon meditates on those scriptures not as the proof, but as the family album. In and through those scriptures we can recognize the body of Christ. And because we can recognize it, we can also move forward in faith on the promises that are not yet.
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If I’m looking at this sermon critically – it is too much lecture and not enough preaching. Here is what I mean by that: a lecture conveys information while preaching reaches beyond that.
The core of the text (1 Pet 3:13-22) as I read it was a summary of Peter’s argument up to this point, and a reiteration of the purpose. The argument is be holy. The longer form of that is Be Holy because you are a child of God and that is what God’s children do. The purpose – to point the glory and all eyes toward Christ.
Peter’s words are “be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you.” For me the summary of the hope that is in me is creeds. The creeds themselves are intellectual things. The make statements of what I take to be facts. (Non-Christians would say that make claims that are probably not facts.) But it is not that intellectual content that is the basis of my or the church’s hope. The basis is the truth that the creeds speak about – the God, Father, Son and Spirit, reigns. Hope rests not in this suffering world, or hope rests not in this ill-at-ease contentment of safety and plenty and its continuation. Hope rests in the fact that God acts and has acted and continues to act. Hope rests in the fact that the God who has acted has revealed himself not to be a harsh judge, but one moved to compassion (I’m bringing back a greek work – splagnizomai), who has his guts torn out over his world.
Our proclamation of that Hope (the church’s proclamation of that hope) is displayed in our holiness. Being prepared is not just about knowing the creed, but also about living it. And living something is always messy.
Yesterday was Veteran’s Day or Armistice Day for those who like history. In prepping for Thursday’s bible class I has read this article. The author’s source – the Homeric Epics – is remote from most people. My attempt at a translation didn’t hit the mark yesterday, but I’ll use it here. If you have seen the young Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall, think about the attitudes put forward by the youngest brother who enlists for WW1. The young Princeton lad is full of duty and glory and enlists, surely in part to live up to his Civil War vet father – a man who had no use for ‘Civilization’s wars’ and was living in Montana as far away as he could get.
In that War the West burned out its concepts of glory. Tom Howard in that article was asking just that: where today do you find glory and its companion holiness? His is a familiar lament from a certain section of the church yearning for a more stately form. And that yearning in some should not be denied. There is holiness and majesty in God. But that feeling I think is foreign to most we are called to reach today. It took 2000 years, but I’m pretty sure that those wars of the 20th century burned out a bad idea.
The bible’s picture of the glory of God might often be expressed in grand language (the Hebrew’s thought of glory in images of weight while the Greeks thought in images of light), but that seems to be a nod to God using our language. The “Ur” story in in Exodus 33:22-23. Moses wants to see God’s glory. He is shown God’s backside (in a euphemism). Hannah’s Prayer (1 Sam 2:8) and Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55) both equate God’s glory to the radical reversal, to the lifting up of the lowly. The Psalms (Psalm 24:7, 85:9, 96:3, 102:15) always equate God’s glory with his work of salvation. God’s glory is not an attribute but an action. By Zechariah 2:5 the glory dwells within (foreshadowing the indwelling of the spirit?). That picture of God’s glory continues in the New Testament. We’ve seen Mary laud the glory of the great reversal. John (John 1:14) equates the glory of God with Jesus who is the fulfillment of grace and truth. The biblical picture of God’s glory is His work of salvation. God’s glory is seen best in what this world sees as abasement. Think of the progression of the Apostles Creed: only son of God to human infant to suffering to crucifixion to death to burial to hell. It is only when the Son has become the lowest that God raises Him up, places Him at the right hand and gives Him the authority as judge. What we think of as glory comes after what the Father thinks of as glory. God’s glory is seen in that work of service. In this world, we see the glory in the backside. In the next, we see face to face.
So where do we find glory? In Christ on the cross. In everyone who portrays Christ amongst us. Not in pomp and ceremony but it service. And what about glory’s mate holiness? 2 Pet 1:3 – “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Because of Christ’s glory which has grabbed us, we are now equipped not just for life but also for godliness. Where do you find glory and holiness today? Look low.