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Worship Theme: Jesus Is Our Hope
Sermon Theme: Recognize Hope
Transcript of this week's message:
I have to admit, I really wanted to avoid bringing up the topic of coronavirus in today’s sermon. Every sermon that has been preached from this pulpit for at least the last month has talked about COVID-19 and how it’s affecting our lives. I almost feel like it might even be a game for you watching at home: how many times will the pastor say coronavirus or COVID-19 during the sermon today?? That’s four times already if you are keeping track. I know that for some of you, you’re tired of hearing about coronavirus and the last place you want to hear about it is in a sermon. I get it! It’s everywhere. The coronavirus and how it’s affecting our world and your life is every headline and top story. Everyone’s talking about it. Maybe it’s not all that different than the big news that two disciples of Jesus were talking about that first Easter day as they walked to the village of Emmaus. “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days…about Jesus of Nazareth?” Could you image talking to someone who had no clue about the coronavirus? I can’t because it’s affecting everyone. Maybe it’s leaving you feeling hopeless.
Think about hope for a moment. Hope is a feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen. I hope that something will happen. What does hope look like in the current situation we’re in? Maybe you hope that safer-at-home will end soon so that you can leave your house again and businesses can reopen. But the original April 24th date passed and was extended for another month from today and maybe longer. Hopeless. Maybe you’re hoping that you won’t contract coronavirus and you’re doing all the right things: staying at home, social distancing, washing hands, wearing a mask. But you’re still uncertain because you can’t see it. That might leave you hopeless. Perhaps you are hoping that you’ll be able to soon return to worship here in this place. But none of us know when that will happen again. A quick return seems hopeless. We long for these things, but the loss of things and uncertainty leave us feeling hopeless.
That’s where a couple of disciples were as they traveled together towards the village of Emmaus. It was the first Easter day. That morning some women who loved and supported Jesus went to the tomb to give him a proper burial. But when they got there, the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb was rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone. Some angels appeared and told the women that Jesus was alive. The women took this shocking news to the disciples and a couple of them ran to the tomb to see if it was true. This whole morning was a mix of mourning, fear, joy, confusion, and wonder. And that’s what filled the hearts of the couple disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were trying to make sense of it all.
As they walked, Jesus appeared to them. From where we get to view this scene from Luke’s writing, we get excited. “Look guys, it’s Jesus! He’s alive!” But the disciples are kept from recognizing him. When Jesus asked them what they were talking about, they were amazed that Jesus didn’t seem to know the news that all of Jerusalem was talking about, it was a trending topic on Twitter! So with downcast faces they began to tell this seeming stranger about Jesus, his suffering and crucifixion and now the empty tomb and reports of Jesus being alive.
But notice something about these disciples. They didn’t recognize Jesus, but that’s not the only thing they didn’t recognize. They didn’t recognize what it meant for Jesus to be the Redeemer, the one who would rescue people from their sins. Look at how they talk about Jesus. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.” Right. Jesus was a prophet and powerful in word and deed. But that’s not enough. Where was the beautiful confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lord, Almighty God, more than just a prophet? That hope had been lost. “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” We had hoped. That hope was lost. Why? Jesus had been taken from them. The one who was going to conquer death, died and it seemed in their minds impossible for him to live again. They were uncertain because perhaps they were hoping that as a redeemer of Israel Jesus was going to restore an earthly kingdom. That wasn’t happening. We had hoped. They didn’t recognize Jesus, not as the one standing next to them, not as the promised Savior. They didn’t recognize hope.
I wish that was just a problem for those two disciples on that one day. But even today, with the joy of Easter and the news of an empty tomb still fresh, you and I too often don’t recognize hope either. This happens when we lose things in life. This past week on an online community forum called Nextdoor there was a post discussing things that people have lost in this crisis. People listed things like losing out on meeting a newborn, saying goodbye to students, attending a funeral, visiting a loved one in the nursing home, jobs, Sunday dinners with family, going to church, health, and so on. I’m sure that you could add to that list of things that you have lost too. It’s not necessarily the losing of things that is the issue, but the uncertainty that these troubles bring. Will things ever be normal again, when will this end, how will this affect me? And deeper, does God love me, does he care, is he with me? I had hoped that God would… give me answers… help me out… make things right… but he didn’t. And so often in life we lose hope. Why? Because we don’t recognize hope.
Jesus isn’t a solution for earthly problems. He isn’t a magical cure for diseases and he’s not a quick fix for the troubles of this life. He did not come to make life perfect for you on this earth. He came to make life perfect for you eternally.
Jesus called the two disciples out for their lack of faith and hope. “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Then what did he do? He took them to the Bible. He took them to all the passages from the Old Testament that spoke of the promised Savior and showed how they applied to Jesus. He explained how the Messiah would suffer and die and then rise to glory. The events of Good Friday and now Easter morning were all part of God’s plan of salvation to rescue sinners and bring believers into his eternal kingdom.
When they got to Emmaus, the disciples didn’t want the conversation with this stranger to end. Can you blame them? They invited Jesus to stay with them. When they sat down for a meal together, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them and suddenly they recognized Jesus. Could you imagine that? It might have been like sitting on a bus next to a celebrity, maybe Brad Pitt, although you don’t recognize him, until he gets off the bus and the driver says, “Have a nice day, Mr. Pitt.” And you’re blown away! You were sitting next to Brad Pitt. Why’s he on the bus?! What would you have asked him? How cool was that?! The disciples were with Jesus. He was risen! He was alive! What they would have asked if they had known! But really, they already were recognizing Jesus. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Hope that Jesus really was the promised Savior was already growing in their hearts along the road as Jesus took them to Scripture. They recognized Jesus as the Savior. They recognized hope.
There is real hope for you too. Not this fickle worldly hope that is so dependent on desires and wishes, but certain hope that is firmly grounded in truth and in the completed work of Jesus. It’s the real hope that your sins against God and others are all completely forgiven because of Jesus who took your place in life and death and rose to life. It’s real hope that the risen and ascended Jesus himself walks with you each day walking with you through the hopeless times, walking with you when you doubt, walking with you through uncertain times, walking with you through your shame, walking with you even when you don’t always recognize him. Because of the risen Savior, you have real hope of eternal life with God in the peace and security of heaven. This is a hope that no virus, that no trouble, that no loss of anything in this world can take away. Recognize hope.
To recognize this hope, go with Jesus back into his Word and see all that the scriptures say about him. That was Peter’s point in the sermon he preached in Acts 2. He showed the people from the Bible who Jesus was, the Lord and Savior, who was crucified and rose to give them forgiveness of sins. The disciple John wrote this in his first letter, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). That’s hope! Peter wrote of the hope we have, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3–4). There is reason for hope even when life is uncertain. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17).
There is hope even in this pandemic. The COVID-19 curve is flattening. People are recovering from the virus and coming home from the hospital. Aid is going out to those who need it. Governments are looking at ways to safely reopen society. But today, recognize an even greater hope. The hope that is secure. The hope that is certain. The hope that is real. Trust in Jesus and recognize him as the Lord and Savior who gives you eternal life. Amen.
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