The Gospel of Luke tells of Jesus appearance to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, a village whose location is probably about 7-8 miles from Jerusalem. Cleopas and the other disciple, realizing they had seen Jesus on the Road to Emmaus and are told that Jesus also appeared to Peter, so they begin telling the other disciples about their experience. They too had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It is at this point that we read in Luke:
While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; it’s me! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still could not believe it (because of their joy) and were amazed, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in front of them.
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 and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Messiah would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
Notice this summary of Christian witness: “…repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed…” The link between proclaiming the word and forgiveness is fundamental to Jesus’ ministry.
Have you ever felt forgiven, really forgiven? Many years ago, my father was admitted to the hospital for two days and then transferred to a nursing home. My Mother was home sick in bed with bronchitis. I went to visit my Dad in the nursing home. He was 89 but very strong for his age, in fact he only stopped regular weightlifting a few months before. But his health was declining rapidly and so when I saw him my instant reaction was just to take his hand. He managed a strong squeeze and then when I let go I was shocked to see his hand follow mine and reconnect. He didn’t want to let go. He then begged me to take him home. In fact, he even offered to change his will and give me everything if I would just get him out of there. His dementia was in evidence. It isn’t easy to have your father begging you to do something that you know you just can’t do. He had no control over his bodily functions. If he fell, we literally couldn’t lift him. My mom certainly couldn’t take care of him either.
Each day when I would visit him at the nursing home, it started with the begging and the pleading. And I quite naturally felt incredibly guilty and sad. But then I would get him in the wheelchair, take him down the hallways, to the lobby, outside to the garden to sit, into the cafeteria to eat, and round and round and before long he was as happy as can be. When I told him that I was going to go check on my Mother, he said “Thanks buddy, it means the world to me.” In that moment, I felt forgiven.
I think our relationship with God is like that at times too. There are moments when we are incredibly racked with guilt. We have received so much from God – he has been so good to us. And yet we know that we have huge faults and failings. I wrote a poem trying to express that sense of awe for what God has given us. It reads like this:
In the morn, I breathe life you’ve given me
I stand up and see what I can see
I reach out and touch one next to me
Oh Lord my God, you’ve been so good to me.
Throughout the day, I work joyfully for meat
And when I can, I help others in their need
And with your help, remember promises to keep
Oh Lord my God, you’ve been so good to me.
When evening comes, and I return unto my home
I pray I’ll meet you in the great unknown
And sing my song, knowing I am not alone
Oh Lord my God, you’ve been so good to me.
What that poem expresses about the goodness of God only sets us up for the need to seek forgiveness. For if God is so good and so great, what is my excuse for my failings and my weaknesses?
Jesus picked up the message of John the Baptist and called on all of us to repent. Jesus spent his time with those in society labeled sinners – women of poor reputation, unclean lepers, tax collectors and other “sinners” and yet his message made it clear that self-righteousness was the even greater sin. Inhospitality brought Jesus curse on Capernaum – even though it was Peter’s and even Jesus new home town. Jesus saw the hypocrisy of his day and he called it to task. Repent! So much so that Mark calls Jesus gospel, the gospel of repentance. The good news that Jesus brings is that regardless of the mistakes we’ve made, the troubles we’ve been in, the self-righteous piety that we have experienced, by coming to God and humbly seeking forgiveness, we are renewed and made whole.
But there is an uncontrollable desire to proclaim our God as the great God who forgives.
When my Father forgave me with his thanks and his gratitude, I rushed to my Mother’s house to tell her. I told my sister, my brother, and anybody who would listen.
With our relationship with God and the manifestation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, the need to proclaim the good news of forgiveness is even so much greater. That’s why converts are always the best missionaries. When you are a convert to the gospel, the sense of forgiveness is fresh. The recent Christian is filled with a burning desire to tell everyone she knows that Jesus is the mediator of our salvation. New Christians want to talk about it, to sing about it, to shout about it.
And that desire never really leaves you. But it isn’t enough to tell it to others who already know the good news. If the early Christians had simply turned inward and shared the good news. Christianity never would have spread and become the great spiritual movement that it is today. But how many congregations have you seen where that is exactly what happens? Sunday after Sunday, week after week, the story of Jesus is shared with those within the four walls of the fellowship who already know the story. Jesus spent a lot of time training and organizing his disciples so that they could grow the spiritual movement he began by practicing organized missionary disciplines. He told them how to dress, what to eat, what to say and when to recognize that they weren’t welcome. He shared story after story to teach them to be the kind of deep thinkers that could communicate the mystical unknowns of the community called Basileia, the Kingdom or more accurately translated, the realm of God. Welcome to the Kingdom of God, you are forgiven!
Spiritual Practices for Today
Bake a loaf of bread. Break the bread and eat some.
Pray: Bread of Life, I see your resurrection in the rising of the yeast. I recognize you in the breaking of bread. You feed me and sustain all peoples. You become flesh. By your Spirit I recognize my weakness and by your Spirit I see your Word of Hope revealed unto life. Be present in me and incarnate in the world even as you call me to serve as thy hands and feet I pray, in Jesus name. Amen.
Read John 6:48-51, 63: “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ … It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
What word or phrase caught your attention in this passage?
Read the passage again. How is this passage speaking to you today?
Download or open the Community of Christ app on your smartphone or visit www.cofchrist.org to read today’s Daily Bread and Prayer for Peace. After reading the Daily Bread, consider these questions:
Where do you find sanctuary? Where is your spiritual home?
Listen to the I AM in your own breath. “Everything we are to live begins with this encounter.”
Pray the Mission Prayer: God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me the courage to risk something new and become a blessing of your love and peace. Amen.