Worship Message Texts

I concluded my final interim pastorate in March 2016, so I am no longer preaching on a regular basis. I am available for pulpit supply and these sermon scripts and videos give a picture of my approach. For pulpit supply, I am happy to write new sermons targeted at specific concerns or needs of congregations, otherwise I will rework previous sermons based on the texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for that Sunday.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Too Good to Be True

1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-48
April 19 2015
© 2015

If you’ve been using email for any length of time you’ve received scams from someone in Africa asking you to help them retrieve millions of dollars that they promise to share with you. Ponzi investment schemes and even routine advertising make promises we know are too good to be true.
Though rare, a few things that seem too good to be true turn out to be true. After 46 years of marriage, I would certainly say that about my wife, Candy.
Bewildering grief is even more so when the deceased returns to life, which helps explain the confused responses and accounts of the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples.
It’s not too good to be true! The more we see the risen Jesus, the more we become like him.
We’ve looked at the accounts of Easter morning and evening in John’s Gospel. Today we get another take on Easter evening from Luke 24:36-48. In deep grief and bewildered of reports that the risen Jesus had appeared to some disciples, Cleopas and his wife Mary, I suspect (I can’t prove the connection with John 19:25. Most scholars who comment on this acknowledge Clopas and Cleopas are alternate spellings of the same name but do not think these are the same men. I am pretty sure, and several scholars do agree with this, that Cleopas' companion was his wife, not another man. In 1st century Palestine two Jewish men would not be likely to maintain a household together.), walked home to Emmaus. Jesus met them and they invited him for dinner. When he broke the bread, they recognized him, and he vanished. They rushed back to the bewildered disciples in Jerusalem.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.
Jesus said, “look and see,” and “touch and see.” (v. 39) Jesus wanted the disciples to see him as he really was. 1 John 3:2 says, “When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Too good to be true!
Jesus appeared right while they were talking about the experiences different ones of them had had seeing him. If the men disciples had dismissed the reports of Mary Magdalene and the other women, now Peter had seen Jesus too. In the middle of this conversation Jesus appeared and spoke to them. It was exciting but too far out of their realm of experience to make sense of it. We might think they should have all believed at once, but they were understandably startled and terrified. It was just too good to be true. So in their joy the disciples were disbelieving and still wondering. (v. 41) We’d probably say, “pinch me so I know I’m awake and not dreaming.”
When Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures, he didn’t stop at “the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead,” but went on to say, “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” If it seems too good to be true that Jesus had risen, how much more wonderful that forgiveness was not only possible but available to all of the world’s people! You witnesses of this get to start spreading the word!
Through their witness, Jesus has been revealed to us! 1 John 3:3 says, “When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” The more we see the risen Jesus, the more we become like him. It’s not too good to be true!
1 John 3:1 invites us to see ourselves so identified with Jesus that we know we are loved by the Father and called the children of God. Everything that has come between us and God has been wiped out. It’s not too good to be true!
No matter how contaminated we feel, when we see how pure Jesus is, we have hope in him of purifying ourselves. Paul wrote that we are destined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son in Romans 8:29. And in 1 Corinthians 15:49 that we bear the image of the man of heaven. And in Ephesians 4:13 of reaching the maturity of the full stature of Christ. It’s not too good to be true!
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote that Christ is the first fruit of all who will share in his resurrection. Christians have been intrigued by the appearances of the risen Jesus and speculated about what our resurrection bodies will be like: tangible but not limited by time, space or matter. I believe all these speculations are far too limited for the reality that awaits us. It’s not too good to be true!
The disciples didn’t wait around for their resurrections. They began living and proclaiming what they had witnessed: forgiveness and life. The more we see the risen Jesus, the more we become like him. It’s not too good to be true!
Playing “ain’t it awful” is all too easy when we look at the world around us: violence, power and wealth seem to run things at the expense of the weak, poor and struggling. The hope of reign of Christ’s righteousness and mercy, justice and peace will one day prevail seems too good to be true. But we who have seen the risen Jesus know a cosmic joke on the world: by resurrection power already at work though hidden, it’s not too good to be true!
Your new pastor, Jonathan Brink, met with the Elders Thursday evening. I am impressed and confident that he will focus your spiritual eyes on the risen Jesus and lead you to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in Lake Highlands. It’s not too good to be true!

Candy and I do not see our next step yet, and I will admit to moments of anxiety. Yet, we focus on the risen Jesus and believe he will lead us through the transitions of ministry, launching our son Erik, and supporting Candy’s Dad. You may feel that you cannot clearly discern the path immediately ahead of you. Fix your attention on the risen Jesus so you become like him: loved by the Father, becoming pure, hoping in resurrection. It’s not too good to be true!

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