Past, Present, Future…

past-present-future“Past, Present, Future”
Luke 24:44-53
Sunday, May 12, 2013 – Ascension Sunday

Jesus is amazing, isn’t he?!  In the span of six short verses he brings past, present, and future together into a powerful teaching moment…He ties prophecy to reality and offers us a wonderful image of the Holy Trinity…Then – poof! – He vanishes…just like that, he’s gone…But, instead of being upset, the Disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy…”

These verses are a re-telling of the Emmaus story we are so familiar with…You remember that story…Two disciples are on their way from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus right after the Crucifixion…Jesus joins them on the road, though they don’t recognize him…During their conversation he opens their minds to understand scripture…much like in this story…Then he shares a meal with them and his true identity is revealed “in the breaking of the bread”…Then he vanishes from their sight – poof!  Sounds a lot like today’s story…It really begins in verse 36 when the Disciples are standing around talking about what happened to the two guys on the Road to Emmaus…Jesus appears in their midst and they think he’s a ghost or something…He tries to convince them, but they have a hard time believing it’s really him, so he asks for some food to eat…You see the deal is that ghosts don’t eat!  That proves who he is and then the story goes on with the rest of the teaching moment.  My guess is that Luke thought there was a pretty important lesson to be learned from this…That would explain why he sets basically the same lesson out for us in two different ways.  This is the end of Luke’s gospel and this story provides the connecting link between this and Luke’s second volume – The Book of Acts…It is significant that both stories – today’s and the Emmaus story – deal with the true identity of Jesus and the relationships that exist in God.

Past, present, future…
Moses, Messiah, Go and tell…
Father, Son, Holy Spirit…
What is the Jesus Story really about?

There are a couple things in this story that I want to look at this morning…How does Luke use this story to reveal God’s true nature and identity?  What do we learn here about what the story of Jesus is really about?  And then, what are we supposed to about it?

Jesus points us to the PAST – the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms…Too often we want to reject the past as old and dusty in favor of everything contemporary and new…Tradition is the link that connects God’s work of long ago to our time…Old is good!  The Law describes how God wants people to live their lives…The Prophets warn God’s people of where they have strayed off course…The Psalms reflect how God’s people were feeling – praise, lament, confusion, doubt, hope, – all give us a glimpse of human relationships with God…Jesus points us to this past because if we deny the past, we deny who God is.

For Luke, Jesus used the past to point to his presenthimself as the fulfillment of God’s past…The disciples understood because they had witnessed what Jesus was talking about…It is harder for us to link this past with our present…Where is God’s truth evident in the 21st Century?  Where do we experience God’s grace today?  How do we see forgiveness being offered and accepted?  Where do we see healing in the midst of broken hearts, broken minds, and broken lives?  Where are mercy, compassion, and love of neighbor being displayed right now?  Do you experience reconciliation?  Are people really accepting the gift of faith?  God’s transforming presence is as available today as it has always been available – through GRACE.  The means of receiving grace are:
private and public prayer;
personal and corporate worship;
Bible study; fasting;
frequent participation in the Lord’s Supper…
Luke would call these: “opening their minds to understand Scripture…”  We should call them: “being available to God wherever God is right now.”

Including the future as an element of the story makes it clear that Jesus does not intend for the story to end with Him…That’s why you have heard me so often say that none of this is about you or me – it’s all about God…It’s about making sure that everyone hears the story of Jesus and understands that this story is for them too…Jesus’ story is not for any select group of people…It is for EVERYONE…He tells the disciples to start in Jerusalem – with the Chosen – then go to the ends of the earth and take this story to all people.  The Disciples had a hard time understanding this concept at first…That’s why the Holy Spirit came to empower them to do the work…That is the FUTURE of this story…The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost to inspire the first Disciples to keep going…That same future belongs to us.

Past, Present, Future…God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit…That is the nature and identity of God:
God who created ALL
God who saved ALL
God who inspires and empowers ALL
that is a pretty amazing God!

The story of Jesus is really about how much God loves all that God created and longs for a close relationship with that Creation…It’s about how God gave us every good gift and every opportunity to lead the life we were created to live…It’s about how we have failed over and over to accept these gifts and use them wisely…It’s about how God keeps offering grace, mercy, and forgiveness, always seeking to be reconciled to us…It’s about a love we cannot fully comprehend and the high expectations that go along with accepting God’s grace…The story of Jesus is really the story of US.

PUSHNow, what are we supposed to do about it?
Retired pastor F. Belton Joyner suggests that we PUSH“PRAY UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS”  Today’s Gospel asks us to appreciate the past as it points us toward the present and calls us into the future…The only way that makes any sense is if we believe that God is going to make something wonderful happen…Our faith in God’s ability to keep promises relies on the anticipation and excitement of waiting for God to act…What is the next surprise God will unwrap for us?

As we begin our Pentecost Prayer Vigil this week, I invite you to PUSH…pray until something happens…Pray with excitement and anticipation…Pray with expectation of what surprise God has in store for you.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen