26 April 2020†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church
Easter 3††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Vienna, VA
ďDonít Miss the Big for the SmallĒ
Text: Luke 24:13-35; Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-25
Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
It had been a Passover unlike any other. Oh, sure, there was the killing of the lambs, the family gathering, the remembrance of the Exodus, the rites and the words. But it was different. The festival-like atmosphere, the joy that usually overtook the whole city, was missing. The week had started out like that. Even more than usual with the whole Jesus-riding-into-Jerusalem-on-the-donkey thing. But it ended with blood. Crucifixions during the Feast. And this Jesus, this prophet mighty in deed and word, who we had hoped was the one to redeem Israel, well . . . turns out He couldnít even save Himself. And now it was time to go back home. Usually, the conversation on the way was a happy one. But not this time. Not this year.
And then a strange week got even stranger when a stranger came up to them and started walking with them. That wasnít so unusual, traveling together. But what was is that this man didnít seem to know what had happened. The unrest, the blood, the crucifixions - he was clueless.
It would have been like if you, today, were to take a walk around the neighborhood and strike up a conversation with someone you meet about the coronavirus and social distancing and all that is happening in the world, and that person says: what virus? and social what? Thatís inconceivable, isnít it? Everyone knows. Itís impossible not to know.
And it was the same way in Jerusalem. Everyone knew what had happened. It was impossible not to know. The Jerusalem rumor mill had been in high gear. The carrying of crosses through the city at one of the busiest times of the year. Jesus had been crucified on the main road. You couldnít miss it. Yet apparently this man did. How, they did not know.
Now, of course, this man hadnít missed anything. He had been right in the middle of it all! It had all happened to Him! He knew better than they did. In reality, it was those two disciples who had missed what really happened. They thought they knew, but somehow they missed it.
So how had they missed it? Well, like this: they missed the greater because they were looking for the smaller.
Now that sounds odd, doesnít it? Because if weíre expecting something really big and something smaller happens . . . okay, thatís easy to miss, to overlook. But if weíre expecting something small and something much bigger happens, how do we miss that? But thatís exactly what happened to those two disciples.
For they had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel. They thought that was big, but it was really far too small. For Jesus had redeemed Israel! But not just Israel - Jesus had redeemed the world from sin, death, and the devil through His own death and resurrection. He had accomplished a far greater redemption than they could imagine. So they missed it. Rome was still there, Pilate was still there, the soldiers were still there, the crosses were still there. Israel was still in bondage. Or so it seemed.
So you and I . . . are we like that? Missing the big, or forgetting about it or overlooking it, because weíre too focused on the small? Missing the eternal because weíre too focused on the here and now? Missing life because weíre too focused on death? Maybe we are we more like those two disciples than we realize . . .
Consider what we heard in the other Scriptures that were read today . . .
In the first reading from the book of Acts, Peter said that Jesus was made Lord and Christ, but the people missed it! Why? Because they just wanted Him to be their king.
Peter went on to say that Jesus had provided them with the gifts of forgiveness and His Holy Spirit, but they missed it! Why? Because they just wanted the gift of freedom from Rome.
They wanted Jesus to save Israel, but instead He saved the world! So they missed it.
Then in second reading, from First Peter . . . Peter mentions silver and gold. We get that. Money. And the government is giving out lots of money these days - checks sent directly to us, the paycheck protection program, bailouts of industries, lots of silver and gold. But God has given us something far greater than all that, Peter says - His own Son! And the blood of His Son. But how many miss it? Because hoping for life now, do they miss the gift of eternal life? Donít miss it! Peter says.
And even more in the reading from Luke . . . Those two disciples said that some were saying that Jesus was alive. But just alive isnít enough. Thatís too small. Greater than that is to be dead - really dead! Three days in the tomb dead! - and then alive again, risen from the dead. Just alive is too small. Jesus has come not just to make Himself alive, but to make you alive. To raise you from the dead, too.
So the small can make us miss the big. Or, to use the thinking of Peter, what doesnít really matter can make us miss what really does. For the stuff of this world and life, Peter says, is like the grass and the flower of grass - it is passing away. It doesnít last. You know that from your own life. Things break and wear out and die. Our loved ones do too. So if this - this world, this life, this stuff - is all we hope for, all we want, thatís not much. Pretty small, in fact, when thereís so much more. When thereís what Jesus has come to provide for us.
So how do we make sure we donít wind up like those two disciples and miss the big for the small? Well, we donít . . . but Jesus does. He comes to those two disciples but doesnít just show Himself alive - thatís not enough; not big enough. So He shows them the big; the big picture from the Old Testament, and how their wants, goals, hopes, and desires were too small. He explained to them how all that stuff in the Old Testament was about Him. How all that stuff in the Old Testament that seem like really great stuff, really big stuff - the deliverance from Egypt, the promised land, the miracles and all - really wasnít big at all. But it was pointing to it. To how God would and rescue, redeem, and save the world. And thatís the big thing that happened this week, Jesus tells them. And He turns the tables on them - How could they have missed it?
Well, Luke says, their hearts burned within them, started pumping faster, getting their hopes up again. Maybe they were thinking too small . . .
And then it happened: a small meal becomes big. Jesus opens their eyes to see - not just Him alive, but the whole Old Testament, the whole Word of God, alive and fulfilled in Him, risen from the dead. That what they had hoped for, the redemption of Israel, had indeed happened.
So now for us, too, it is Jesus coming to us and the Word of God that will help us know what the big stuff is. Our eyes, our hearts, our ears, and our minds will fail us, and the devil and the world will try to deceive us and mislead us into thinking what is small is big. But the Word of God will point us true and keep us focused right.
That whatís big is not the sin someone has committed against me, or the sin that Iíve done, but the forgiveness Jesus provided for those sins and for all sins.
That whatís big is not the death we see around us or the death creeping up on us, but the resurrection from the dead Jesus provided for us.
That whatís big is not getting what I want or having all of my hopes and dreams fulfilled, but receiving the kingdom of God and being a baptized child of God.
That whatís big is not having my stomach filled, or my bank account filled, or my house filled with stuff, but being filled with the Body and Blood of Jesus.
That whatís big is not having people remember me here after I die, but being remembered by Jesus when I die, and so being with Him in Paradise.
That whatís big is not receiving healing now, but living where healing is no longer necessary because there is no more sin, sickness, disease, or viruses.
That whatís big was not being in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and having a tongue of fire on your head, but when the gift of the Holy Spirit was given to three thousand persons that day through baptism!
And what else? What seems big to you now? In your life? Thereís a lot of big things being cancelled or put on hold in the world - proms, senior recitals, graduations, call day, championships, elections, events. And theyíre important, and I hope weíll be able to enjoy them all eventually. And God wants us to enjoy them and all the creation He has given us. But donít miss the big for what is really small. These things will come and they will go, but the word of the Lord remains forever.
The Word spoken and fulfilled. The Word made flesh. The Word dead and risen. The Word who sits on the throne and now lives and reigns for the good of His Christians and His Church. Focus on that, focus on Him, and the rest will fall into place. If you focus on the small, you might miss the big. But if you have the big, youíll have the small, too. And true joy. Joy that will last through time, through death, and to eternity.
The joy Jesus brought to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the joy He brings here for you. Even in this Easter season that has been unlike any other.
For Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.