Coming back from a wonderful holiday with family and friends, I told myself that I mustn’t just stick loads of holiday memories into my sermons for the next few weeks… well, that didn’t last.
We’ve been looking at the passages in Luke’s gospel that follow on from his resurrection- last week we heard about the conversation on the road to Emmaus, this week I was talking about the time when Jesus met his disciples in the evening, in the room where they were all gathered- its in Luke chapter 24.
Sometimes in life, you find yourself in a place where you’re out of your comfort zone, where everything you’ve gone through so far hasn’t prepared you for what’s in front of you now. The disciples, Jesus’ friends, found themselves in exactly that situation in the passage we just heard- they’d known Jesus, followed Jesus, seen him do amazing things, but they were not prepared for this… just that morning they’d been getting ready for a burial, then the body was missing and the women who’d gone to the tomb were talking about him being alive rather than missing… some of the group were already dispersing, leaving Jerusalem to head home and then this… the disciples are talking, and suddenly Jesus appears among them- he speaks, they’re terrified. He invites them to check that it is him- look at my hands and feet, and they still don’t believe because- he was dead. They hadn’t got an ‘ology’ yet to explain all this- the framework hadn’t yet been put together to explain how Jesus could rise from the dead, but there he was… he’s not a ghost, he’s really there, he’s not a hallucination because he can explain things to them, and they’re all experiencing the same thing… I once had concussion and began seeing things- hallucinating red and green snakes crawling across in front of me. But even while I was seeing these things, I knew that they were not there- I can still recall seeing them, but there were no snakes… I’m afraid of snakes, but I wasn’t afraid of these hallucinations. Jesus friends were afraid- this was something beyond their comfort zone, way out. But they were going through it, experiencing it, and afterwards they tried to make sense of it, to see how it worked…
I was trying to think of something that would help me draw some parallels between the disciples experiences and our own lives, and my mind drifted back to the holiday I’ve just come back from… and a morning spent skiing on one of my favourite mountains. One side of it is in France, the other in Italy- its called Chenaillet, but is more usually known as Eagle’s Rock or Rocher de l’aigle… on this particular morning I found myself, along with 2 others, skiing down one of the less skied sides- away from the main routes. I’d been there a couple of days before, and on previous occasions, but I found myself standing at the top of a particular spot that I hadn’t skied down before. To my left was the route I’d come down a few days ago, and to my right was a fairly clear line, but right in front of me was a steep, narrow passage that I’d never skied before… at this point, you may be thinking that the story will go one of two ways, and as I’ve not got my leg in plaster it’s the gloriously wonderful success that seems more likely than the crash… but it was something in between… I tried to be careful, cautious, and suddenly found myself about 2ft from quite a large rock, knowing I had to turn around and that falling over would result in an embarrassing, and probably quite painful slide/fall around 40ft of chute… in that situation the only real option was to go for it- to embrace the reality of it, that I was skiing down this narrow passage and so I really better do everything properly. And 10 seconds later I was skiing out of the bottom, a big grin on my face.
At the moment where I was standing at the top, I had to commit, if I was going to make this work. In the same way, Jesus followers, faced by the risen Jesus, had to commit to what was in front of them- and try to make it work. The thing is, that underlying their experience of meeting Jesus like this, was all the background- they’d known Jesus, they’d lived with and walked with Jesus, they’d heard his teaching and shared food with him… and that had stretched their understanding of what God could do… In a similar way, I spent years learning the basic skills of skiing- how to ski across the mountain, how to weight the skis and turn. And there’s one lesson that I hold to beyond almost all the others- when it gets scary and you want to hide, to avoid the hill or the turn… if you do that you’ll fall and hurt yourself. It’s a bit counter-intuitive but its really important. I guess it could have been tempting for the disciples to hang back, to wait for someone else to say that they believed Jesus first, but where would that have left them?
Jesus is alive, we believed he was dead. For most of us who would say that we’re Christians there has been a moment where we’ve discovered that to be true… what did it feel like for you… if it was a long time ago or you were v young, you may not remember it, but thinking of some other area of life where you’ve had an eye-opening experience… remember that sensation… for some of us its connected with our baptism- particularly for people who have been baptised as young people or adults, there is a close connection between becoming a Christian and being baptised. For others who, like Bentley, have been baptised as a young child or infant, it will be later on that we become conscious of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
If you’ve not yet discovered the truth about Jesus, you’re in the same place as those disciples were… and they needed to discover that it was true. And they couldn’t do that by hanging back in the corner- they had to come forwards, to touch Jesus and speak with him, to listen to him… But what does that mean today for us? You may be able to think of a time when you’ve met with Jesus…or may be wondering how I can talk about meeting Jesus today. what does that mean? …We can encounter Jesus through worship, in prayer, when you’ve been reading the Bible, just talking with someone etc.
When we have that experience, or that opportunity… the basic things of knowing how to pray, knowing the Bible, feeling reasonably confident in doing those things… they stand us in good stead when Jesus says ‘come beyond your comfort zone’, our thinking is flexible enough that we don’t get tied in knots but are able to journey with Jesus- to go on a spiritual journey, that starts with the sort of things we celebrate in baptism, but it doesn’t end there.
Have a great day.