Messages from Pastor Raddatz
April 26, 2020 2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:29-42 and 1 Peter 1:3-9 Mount Olive Lutheran Church Houston, TX
Jesus is Not Limited by Distractions, Social Distancing or Death, He is Always with Us
Today’s reading from Luke 24: 13-35 reminds us that JESUS IS ALWAYS PRESENT WITH HIS PEOPLE. He is not limited by (our current) social distancing or distractions. His presence clarifies what is important to him. His priority is that we keep believing and keep our hearts burning because He is present.
A lot has changed during these last couple of weeks. Families are together more often: children are learning from home and many parents are working from home. This can put a strain on relationships because members of a household are spending a lot of time in close quarters.
CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT ALWAYS SHOW US A LOVING GOD
Before we were called upon to enact “Social Distancing’ there was always the problem of distraction. The disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and seemed distracted because they did not understand. While they were walking, “…JESUS DREW NEAR AND WENT WITH THEM…” v. 15. They did not recognize him. They felt their hopes were crushed because this prophet was the one to redeem Israel, v. 21. This was on the third day after he was crucified. They did not believe the women who told them Jesus was alive.
You probably have experienced frustrating circumstances like these disciples where your intellect leads your faith. This leads to false hope. For example, something happens to you or one of your loved ones that MAKES NO SENSE. You cannot understand it. It seems that the occurrence of this tragedy causes you to question the love of God. You had hopes and you had dreams, but these all seem to have been dashed on the rocks of a senseless tragedy! Others tell you to have hope and believe that God can bring good out of this bad time.
The disciples’ false hopes were that Jesus was going to redeem Israel. Their view of redemption was physical in that they hoped that the Messiah was going to free them from the rule of the Romans. God did redeem them physically, but they did not see it. They were redeemed from their sin and the grave. Death and the grave are not the final answer.
Jesus reprimands them, he corrects them, but he does not leave them. He tells them they are foolish of heart and slow to believe, v. 25. He goes on to tell them that the prophets of the Old Testament predicted this. Moses brought this to light when God used miraculous tragedies, in the form of plagues, to free their ancestors from slavery in Egypt. It is now getting toward evening and Jesus stays with them.Night time was not a good time to travel in these days. This was a prayer proceeding from faith. From this text comes the "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide."
SEEING JESUS DURING TOUGH TIMES
These two travelers ask Jesus to join them. They ask him to “STAY WITH US”. It is now near evening, vv. 28f. As they bless the food and break bread their eyes are open! They recognized him, then immediately he disappears.
We do not really know what they saw or what caused them to open their eyes. We do know that God alone can open our eyes and our heart to believe. Their faith is noted by the words, “weren’t our hearts burning while he was with us,” v. 32. Jesus exchanges fear for joy!
Their joy was so great that they returned to Jerusalem and told the other disciples, “the Lord has risen…Then they told him what had happened on the road…”
How interesting, Jesus physically disappears but joy remains! When we hear God’s word, it is like the Lord speaking himself. When you have difficulty seeing Jesus so not look at what is happening around you, look to him with eyes of faith. “THE GRASS WITHERS AND THE FLOWERS FADE, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD REMAINS FOREVER”, 1 Peter 1:24-25.
God is always with us, whether we see him or not. Now that Christ is resurrected, he is present every place at every time.
The author of the hymn Abide With Me, is Henry Francis Lyte. He was an Anglican minister who composed the hymn in 1820 while visiting a dying friend who kept repeating the phrase “Abide with me…” from Luke 24:29. After leaving Williams’ bedside Lyte wrote the hymn. Twenty-seven years later while he was approaching the end of his life at the age of 54 he placed in the hands of a near and dear relative the little hymn, Abide With Me. It was sung for the first time at Lyte’s funeral. (Wikipedia, Abide with Me)
The hymn is a prayer for God to remain present with the speaker throughout life, through trials and through death.
One verse reminds us of the power of the resurrected Christ,
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Some of our Civil leaders talk about a “rolling out” or a “re-entering” to normal life. We have never experienced something like this. Some people have called this a NEW NORMAL.
Amid these changes God never changes. He is always with us and he calls us to believe his word of the Bible. This burns through any distractions or disappointments that we may experience. The Lord has risen indeed! He has conquered death and the grave. He is present with us always.
May this peace which passes every single human understanding keep your hearts and your minds in the one true faith, in Christ Jesus, Amen.
Pastor John Raddatz, Vacancy Pastor Mount Olive Lutheran Church
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