Sermons from Pastor Jim

West Nottingham Presbyterian Church
April 15, 2018
Dr. Jim Horn

Luke 24:25-48

Weren’t Our Hearts Burning?

Who among you hasn’t wanted your hearts burning? No, not the kind you take an antacid for!! This is when your heart is racing. No, not an episode of tachycardia!! This isn’t when something is wrong with you. It’s about when something is totally right with you!

Imagine that you have the opportunity to eat dinner in the privacy of your own home with Jesus Christ on the day of his resurrection. What is the most important question you ask him? Are you going to ask him if he takes cream and sugar with his coffee? There are better questions to ask him. You need to ask them or you’d miss the opportunity of 20 centuries. Even more importantly, what would he tell you? “…And beginning with Moses and the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Here’s the scene. The disciples are huddled together and they have just heard Simon Peter’s account of experiencing the risen Christ when Cleopas and his companion enter and add their excitement about their encounter with the risen Christ. Luke describes the scene like this: “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought they were seeing a ghost” (v. 36). This account picks us up at a point where – if we were in the Upper Room with them we also would have been – “talking,” “startled,” and “terrified.” Those words sum up how we behave in the face of unexpected news, good or bad. Yes, I said both bad and good. When the news is bad, such responses are understandable. But we also experience them when the news is good.

People sometimes feel their lives are unfolding in ways that seem really blessed – or as the skeptics say, “too good to be true.” They may even say that the goodness scares them a bit. The implication is clear: they are not sure that their life should be that good. Consequently, they wait for the other shoe to drop.
James Evans McReynolds was onto something when he wrote:
Whatever else the resurrection of Jesus means; it means that God is getting very close and personal to us.
We fear that.
Easter, we say, is a day of joy and it really is.
We say it is a day of hope and it really is.
We say it is a day of promise and it really is.
But we are not as fond of it as we think.
We are afraid of it.
We are more afraid of it than we will ever say. (James Evans McReynolds, “Afraid of Easter” (Alive Now! March/April 1978), p. 58)
The shock is Good news, that Jesus is Risen. As we face the total truth, this makes us quake in our shoes. It’s no wonder that Jesus says to these shaking, quaking disciples: “Peace be with you.” Or to put it casually, “BE calm.” “Relax.” It’s going to be fine. I know you don’t understand how all this has come to pass, but it’s going to be all right. In fact, it’s very good. Everything’s made right.”

What’s next? “While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’” Jesus invites these believers to touch him and feed him, and in that way they come to know that they are a select, chosen people. We all get Jesus at his best. We are chosen by the Risen Christ to share eternal life in him. The greatest gift of all is to live in the glory and wonder of his Resurrection. As Risen Savior, Jesus still calls us, “Come, follow me.” Do you hear him? Do you know what it’s like for Jesus to speak to you as if you are the only one that matters in the whole world right now?
Wouldn’t you like to have this kind of spiritual life? It’s as if you are the only one who is important to God right now! As another once put it, “Solitude is the audience chamber of God.”

There was a Scotsman who found it difficult to pray. He consulted his minister and the minister made a very simple suggestion. “Just sit down and put a chair opposite you, imagine that Jesus is in it. Listen and talk to him as you would with a friend.” To the Scotsman, the chair made all the difference in the world. The Scotsman experienced for the first time that he was asked to be a friend of Jesus. That’s what it means to be a friend of the Risen Christ.

Still, a part of us wishes we could have it as those primal disciples did; we too wish we could avail ourselves of Jesus’ invitation: “Touch me and see for yourself.” Share the bread he breaks. We also want to feel the touch of Jesus on us. The point is, we do feel that touch, and probably most of the time we are not even aware of it.

Charles Wesley, whose hymn “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today” is sung on Easter morning in virtually every Christian congregation in America, died in 1788. But he continues to be present when we sing his hymn. Beethoven died in 1827, but every time we sing “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Beethoven affects us in a very personal way.

Similarly, every act or thought of ours that can be called Christ-like happens because we are in the presence of the Risen Christ, whether we happen to discover it or not. At some level, conscious or not, there has been a knock on the soul’s door and a voice has said: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20). To do the Christ-like thing means that on some level we have heard that knock, knowing that God-in-Christ and have opened the door to us.

You are chosen by the Risen Christ. He wants you to touch Him, in his hand and feet and side to know he is real, He is Risen. He is present to as if no one else matters as much as you do.

If we are followers, it means that we are led by the Risen Christ. We are a led people. After breaking bread together, Luke tells us that before the Ascension, Jesus led them out: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.” Luke 24:50. John describes Jesus as the shepherd who “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3b).
As I shared in our Time With Children, you are given the best gift you could ever have each day. Your sins are washed away. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection has set you free this hour. You have that best gift this afternoon and is waiting for you tomorrow morning. Thank God we’ve come here to this place of worship, at this time, today and found God in Christ, just as he promised. Aren’t our hearts burning?

The central event of who we are is the Living Word of God. It happens when Scripture comes alive in our hearing. It happens you had been lost and now you are found. You walk in the footsteps of the Risen Christ and you understand where he is taking you. He leads you to the very presence of the One True God and you know you belong in his Kingdom forever. And you know that the Kingdom of God is in the midst of us here, and now. It appears when and where God needs it – to find the lost, comfort those who mourn, to heal the sick, to help those in need, and to bring the Word of God and joy of salvation to those who need to hear it.
We didn’t dream up these values or ideals. They come from the Lord as he emerged from the empty tomb. His resurrection is our hope, our sustenance, and our joy. If you want to find the Risen Christ, be still. Open your hearts. Let your hearts burn within you while he opens the Scriptures to you.

You will be moved by compassion, drawn by what creates genuine community, joyful over the colorful diversity of our world and impassioned by what is Truth. Then, you can say: “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared” to me.
It’s never been expressed more eloquently than Albert Schweitzer did in The Quest of the Historical Jesus:
He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old by the lake-side. He came to those who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word, “Follow thou Me,” and sets us to the task which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who He is. ( Marcus J. Borg, Jesus, A New Vision (San Francisco: Harper & Row, l987), p. 19. OR https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/518564-he-comes-to-us-as-one-unknown-without-a-name )

Let your hearts burn within you while he opens the Scriptures to you. Then, you can say: “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared” to me. After the sermon we will sing “Above All” and your hearts will be burning as the scriptures are opened to you. The last verse is the greatest gift. “Like a rose, Trampled on the ground, You took the fall, And thought of me, Above all.”

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