“Peace in the Midst of Fear”

Luke 24:36b-48

April 15, 2018 – Third Sunday of Easter

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 24:36b-48 http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=390623186

 

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 that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look 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.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then 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.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

 

 

Prayer.

 

Whenever a scripture passage begins with

“While they were talking about this, …”

The preacher better be prepared to talk about what this is.

 

This is what the disciples were talking about:

 

 

Cleopas and another disciple were walking to Emmaus earlier in the day

When the resurrected Jesus appeared and joined them.

They did not recognize Jesus,

Telling the apparent stranger of all the events they had just experienced:

Arrest, passion, suffering, death, the burial of Christ,

The women’s report that the tomb was empty,

And the woman’s report that two angels told them that Jesus was alive.

The still unrecognized Jesus calls Cleopas and the other disciple fools,

Chides them on how slow to believe the teaching of prophets,

Then begins to teach them about himself and the scriptures.

 

As they approach the village of Emmaus

It becomes apparent that the unknown traveler intended to leave them.

Cleapas and the other disciple invite the unrecognized Jesus to dinner.

At dinner, on the occasion of breaking and blessing the bread,

 

 

Their eyes were opened.

They saw the Lord.

They recognized Jesus.

Then Jesus vanished from their sight.

They immediately became so excited that

They dropped everything, returned to Jerusalem,

And told the other disciples all that had happened.

This is the it, our passage begins with today.

 

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus begins.

 

Like every ghost we have ever heard about,

Just as Jesus dematerialized

In the presence of Cleapas and the other disciple just hours earlier,

He now materializes right in front of the eyes all the gathered disciples.

They are startled and terrified.

Already, they were locked away in the Upper Room

For fear of the Jewish authorities.

They came for Jesus.

They bagged their man.

They’re next coming for us.

Already, their collective anxiety was through the roof.

When Jesus appears out of thin air,

They are startled and terrified.

 

Which begs me to asks,

 

 

What startles and terrifies you?

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says.

 

Jesus appears to correlate fear with doubt.

“Why are you frightened, and

Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” he asks.

Perhaps, if we address our fears,

We might be able to better able to get a grasp

On our faith and our doubts.

Perhaps, we might be able to

Keep our doubts constrained,

At the same time, we might be able to

Deepen and broaden our faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

 

What startles and terrifies us?

 

It is impossible for me to speak for you

Or from your experience.

I can only speak from my personal experience of fear.

 

What do I fear? What terrifies me?

First, and foremost,

My greatest fear is harm coming to my family,

Cynthia, Nicholas, or Christian.

 

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to me.

 

Intellectually, I can think through the theological jungle gym;

God is watching over each of us in the family.

We should just trust in the Lord.

And leave the rest up to God.

Emotionally, I’m far more at peace

With my own passion, suffering, and death,

Than I am with the passion, suffering, and death of those I love.

 

Yet, every day, from my privileged point-of-view,

I experience faithful, God-fearing Christians

Being put through the wringer

Of a loved one’s passion, suffering, and death.

Frankly, I shake my head in awe

At the amazing capacity for faith

That you, and others, show me

All

The

Time.

I can only pray that

If, and when, I should ever have to go through such painful circumstances

That I will have a fraction of the faith and strength to endure the gale.

 

“Peace be with you,” the Body of Christ addresses my greatest fear.

 

 

What startles or brings you fear?

 

For many, I’m confident that we share our greatest fear:

Harm, pain, or suffering coming to our family and loved ones.

 

I’m asking you to join me in a deeper self-analysis.

What about other fears?

 

Some fear a pop quiz, a final exam, an end of semester grade.

Some fear that teacher, professor, confrontation, being misunderstood.

Some fear the prospect of changing majors, disappointing parents or peers.

Some fear there won’t be a job at the end of the line, only debt.

Some fear that they just don’t fit in, aren’t bright enough, or good looking.

 

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

 

Some fear an economic crisis.

Some fear their 401(k) and pension running out of money.

Some fear not being able to pay bills.

Some fear unemployment.

Some fear being forced to choose between food and their prescription medicine.

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

 

Some fear the government.

Some fear our government taking away liberties.

Some fear being racially profiled, pulled over, and shaken down by authorities.

Some fear our local, state, and national leadership.

Some fear war with North Korea, Syria, Russia, or some other adversary.

 

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

 

Some fear technology, social media, big data.

Some fear the loss of privacy.

Some fear being spied upon.

Some fear losing control of everything.

Some fear science and research.

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

 

Some fear going to a nursing home, lingering long, becoming a burden.

Some fear pain and suffering.

Some fear disease, loss of cognitive abilities, becoming the victim of abuse.

Some fear falling off the wagon, having a mental health breakdown, overdosing.

Some fear just going to the doctor.

 

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to you.

 

Some fear our church running out of money, attendance dwindling, doors being closed.

Some fear our church growing, the loss of personal control, the awkwardness of associating with new people.

Some fear handing over the reigns to the next generation.

Some fear the Holy Spirit taking control and driving this train!

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to us.

 

Some fear prayer, opening a direct line with God.

Some fear punishment, wrath, going to hell.

Some fear making peace, ending old grudges and offenses.

Some fear the prospect of forgiving or being forgiven.

Some fear eternal life.

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus says to us.

 

 

We are the Body of Christ;

It is our responsibility to extend the peace of Jesus,

Even as we become recipients of his peace.

Being vessels of Christ’s peace,

Stills our fears,

Lessens our doubt,

And strengthens our faith.

 

“Peace be with you,” Jesus appears right in front of their eyes.

He brings assurance to his disciples that

They aren’t seeing a ghostly apparition

By eating a piece of broiled fish.

 

Peace be with you.

 

Jesus brings assurance to his disciples

By opening their minds to understand scripture,

“That everything written about me in the law of Moses,

The prophets,

And the psalms must be fulfilled.” (24:44b)

Diving deep into scripture;

Academically, critically, emotionally, prayerfully, spiritually, worshipfully;  

Diving deep into scripture and drinking it in completely

Brings peace.

 

Peace be with you.

 

 

“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus commands his disciples then, even as he addresses us today.

“You are witnesses in my name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (24:47b-48)

 

Oh, I forgot to add …

Some fear old school evangelism, knocking on doors, inviting people to church!

Some fear speaking up and giving a personal witness about how God is interacting with your life.

Some fear the witness, the possibility of rejection, confrontation.

 

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“Peace be with you,” Jesus tells us.

 

Take a deep breath.

Start small.

Make a friend.

Be a friend.

Build a network of friendships.

They will know we are Christians by our love.

 

Start local, beginning right here.

Only when you gain traction, take it to the next level.

Responsibility isn’t completely on the shoulders

Of any one disciple to witness to the world.

The responsibility to take the witness and peace of Jesus Christ global

Is upon the network of friends,

Called the Body of Christ.

 

“Peace be with you.”

Have no fear.

Simply be

Peace.

Simply believe.

Amen.