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Archive for May, 2014

May 5th, 2014

Love Unrecognized
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 4, 2014

Luke 24:13-35 Psalm 116

In our story from Luke, two disciples of Jesus meet the resurrected Lord on the way to Emmaus. They walk about seven miles talking with Jesus, but do not recognize that it is Him. Only when Jesus breaks bread with the two disciples do they recognize that it is He. Then they reflect on their experience on the road, talking with Jesus. They say, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32). They had an experience of spiritual power, but for some reason, they did not recognize it. Their hearts burned within them, but at the time, they did not notice.
Why did the disciples not notice their burning hearts? Were they overcome with grief over the crucifixion? Were they intent on Jesus’ teaching while He opened the Scriptures to them? What was it that prevented the disciples from being aware of their burning hearts while they talked with Jesus?
Earlier that day, women had been to visit the tomb of Jesus. They saw that the stone had been rolled away. And they had a vision of two angels in dazzling clothes. The angels told the women that Jesus had risen. The women told this to the disciples, among whom were the very same men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The appearance of Jesus to the disciples on the way to Emmaus was the first time Jesus appears to anyone in Luke’s Gospel.
There are some variations in the different Gospels about whom the resurrected Jesus appeared to first. In Mark, we don’t have a record of Jesus appearing to anyone. The oldest and most reliable texts end with the angels appearing to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. In Matthew, Jesus appears to the women as they leave the tomb after the vision of angels. In John, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene after the vision of angels. As in Luke, Mary Magdalene does not recognize Jesus at first. All four Gospels agree on the angels appearing first and announcing Jesus’ resurrection. The variations are in how Jesus appears to the various followers. So in three of the Gospels, Jesus first appears to women. Only in Luke is Jesus’ first appearance to men.
I have difficulty understanding why Mary Magdalene and the two disciples did not recognize Jesus at first. The two disciples, in fact, walked seven miles with Jesus without recognizing Him. One explanation that comes to mind is the nature of spirituality.
I find that in this world, spirituality comes to us in a quiet voice, while worldly issues and demands are loud and noisy. I think of the appearance of God to the prophet Elijah. While Elijah is on the Mountain of the Lord, there is a strong wind, an earthquake, and fire, but God isn’t in any of these violent phenomena. When God does appear it is as a still, small voice. The passage reads as follows,
And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Elijah finds God in that still, small voice.
The voice of God is a still, small voice amid the noise of this world. And it is the nature of God not to overpower us with His presence. We are left in freedom. This means that God leaves it up to us to seek and find Him. God does not impose upon us. God doesn’t force recognition of His reality on us. God leaves us free to find Him or to deny Him.
So God’s voice is still and small, not overbearing and domineering. That being the case, we can easily become so caught up in the business of this world that God’s still, small voice can be overwhelmed. This can happen in the least affairs of our lives.
How many times are there opportunities for us to do good or show love that go unredeemed? Are we too preoccupied to say a kind word? Are we too busy to notice the opportunities to give of ourselves to others around us? You should see how I treat the other drivers on the road when I am late for an appointment! Do we take time to ask others how things are with them? Or are we too anxious to tell them the things that are going on with us? There is a song that Janiva Magness sings called “Things Left Undone.” In it are the following lyrics that bear on this discussion,
When a stranger come knocking, would you let him in?
Was there food on your table for that down and out friend?
Did you hide the shadows, or did you walk in the sun?
Do you regret the things left undone?
It was Jesus Himself that reminds us that when we do good to the least of His children, we do good to Him.
This goes not only for friends and family, but for everyone we encounter. We have an opportunity to spread love in every aspect of our lives. From the grocery clerk to the MacDonald’s cashier, we can make others around us feel good and glad that we came by.
We have been talking about belief and disbelief over the past few Sundays. Here is a place again where the issue comes up. As God’s voice is still and small, it can be overlooked. Indeed, God’s presence is so subtle that there are those who do not see it.
God’s presence is like this because of the nature of love. God is all love. In fact, God is the source of love. And the nature of love is that it cannot compel another person to return that love. When we are forced to do anything, we resent it. It completely crushes our love and willingness to help out. There is no sweeter feeling than a task done freely of our own will to help out. That is the nature of heavenly use that we hear about in this church. Make it a duty or an obligation and the joy is gone. When we love another person, we want that love to be returned. We cannot force that person to love us back. To do so would destroy the very love that we seek.
That is how God is. God wants His love to be freely returned. To appear in the clouds of glory and with flashes of lightning would destroy a person’s freedom. Then, one would be compelled to believe. And it would be worse for a person who has seen God in the clouds of glory and with flashes of lightning to later deny Him. That would be a deliberate denial of God from someone who has seen God. So to protect our free will, and to save us from cold hearted denial, God is that gentle, still, small voice in our hearts. It is a voice we can turn to, or ignore. It is a voice we can heed, or let the worries of this world overpower.
Let us walk with our eyes open, then. Let us look for opportunities to spread the love that God so plentifully gives us. Let us listen for that still, small voice. And when we hear it, let us joyfully, prayerfully respond.

PRAYER

Lord, this morning, and every day, we ask that you help us to hear your still, small voice amid the noise of this world. For your speech with us is quiet and the affairs of the world can be noisy. You do not overpower us with your love and your presence. You are there when we turn to you. And you are ready to receive our love when we open our hearts to you. But you honor our free will, and do not force your will and your love upon us. It is we who must come to you. So we ask this morning, and every day, to help us to hear your still, small voice in our hearts. And we pray that you turn our hearts to you and away from the distractions of this world.

Lord, we pray for those who are sick. Send your healing love to those ailing, and comfort their family and friends. Lord, we ask for the grace of your healing love for all in need.

And Lord, we pray for peace in this broken world. Be with the people who are suffering in unjust regimes. Heal the nations of their conflicts. Let all peoples see that they are alike in wanting what is good for their country and for themselves. Where there is misunderstanding, grant that there be recognition of our common humanity. Bring your peaceable kingdom here to this broken world.

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