This space is devoted to sharing the sermons preached at Park View Mennonite Church, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Please feel free to read, listen to, or watch any of these sermons, and then offer your comments, questions, or reflections, using the "comment" link at the end of each sermon. May these sermons challenge you to think and to act in new ways, and to grow in grace and in faithfulness to God's call.
Sunday, April 26, 2020
Paula Stoltzfus: Observe. Abide. Trust.
Easter to Pentecost: Following the Light of Resurrection Easter 3: “With opened eyes”
have just heard read a passage that we come to often in the
Lectionary, recounting Jesus’ steps after his resurrection. I
thought it appropriate to walk this path with together, considering
Jesus’ own walk, his presence, intention, and invitation to these
two individuals. You are welcome to follow along in the text or
as you listen and meditate on the steps that were taken.
this account, Jesus was headed to Jericho. He met in his path
two people deeply engaged in conversation. Instead of Jesus
interjecting with certainty into the conversation, he observed and
asked questions. “What are you discussing with each other
while you walk along?” He was curious. As if surprised
by the question, the two stood still, had he not heard what had
happened? Was his head in the clouds?
responds with yet another question, “What things have happened?”
could have very easily declared who he was at this point,“look it’s
me,” but he didn’t.
these men deep in conversation, eavesdropped, and gently entered in a
way that did not call attention to himself.
presence strikes me in this story. We are told that Jesus’
final destination was Jericho, but he was yet walking towards Emmaus
when he intersects with Cleopas and one other. Jesus very well
could have seen the time and asked for a lift on a donkey, did some
long-distance running, or asked for a wagon ride. Instead, he
chose to walk. And not only walk, but walk with people while
don’t know about you, but when I walk with people I tend to go a
bit slower than my fastest gate so that we can talk. If Jesus
really had wanted to get to Jericho by days end, he would have needed
a faster way. Instead, Jesus chose the least efficient, that
allowed him to observe, converse, and pay attention to that which was
the men are given a chance to share their disbelief, their grief, and
expression of deep sadness, Jesus reminds them of what the prophets
have taught throughout the story of their faith. He interprets
for them the prophets words, that God is a part of even this
unfolding of the
story of the Messiah.
connection between the three of them was made through this
encounter. Once they reached Emmaus, the two men insisted that
Jesus stay with them for a meal and night because darkness was coming
was in the act of breaking bread together, communing together, that
Jesus’ self was revealed to the men. The veil of mystery was
made clear in stopping, eating, and looking into the eyes of the
in God’s spirit:
this entire encounter, Jesus took his time, observed, engaged, and
trusted ultimately in God’s spirit to do the work of revealing.
path in a pandemic:
are in a time of where life as we knew it has changed. We are
between the yesterday and tomorrow in a way that calls the landscape
of tomorrow into question. Richard Rohr calls this liminal
space. He says, “It is a graced time, but often does not feel
“graced” in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in
control.” It is a place where we feel vulnerable and
uncomfortable. “It takes time but this experience can help us
reenter the world with freedom and new, creative approaches to
few weeks ago we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection and yet as some
shared last Sunday, it still feels like we are in the shadow of death
with a hope that feels elusive.
can identify with our story today. We, like the two men, have
experienced Jesus’ death and yet look for the resurrection.
Where is Jesus in this pandemic? Where is new life? Where
is our hope? Where are these new and creative approaches to life
that Richard Rohr talks about?
the two men on the road to Emmaus, we are saddened, grieved,
downcast, not sure how this is all going to unfold. We too have
presence in a pandemic:
our own faith community we are being asked to enter different aspects
of this pandemic. Those in the healthcare field or in emergency
management are being asked to give of themselves far beyond what they
imagined. Fatigue is great. Burnout is real. The
stress and strain on personal and family life is exhausting.
in other areas of work are being called to set up office at home.
Schedules have shifted, demands have changed, and expectations are
are juggling a different family life. Sure some aspects that
Susan mentioned earlier are no longer. There aren’t the evenings
running the kids around to their activities, but kids are around all
Where is there time to work? How do they help their kids navigate
this time of lost dreams of graduations and birthdays? Keep
engaged in peer relationships? Navigate school demands?
find their places to volunteer closed down. Once active and
able to give back in fulfilling ways, now are considered high risk
and told to stay home.
reality of a new rhythm is sinking in deep. Some of us want to
run, race to the end. “Let’s get this done and over with so
we can move on with our lives, so we can get back to the way things
used to be.”
we are in uncertain times. Yes, there are different paces we
are being asked to move.
want each of us to consider Jesus’ pace.
pace that allows us to be open to who and what is going on around
pace that allows us to observe people and creation.
pace that allows us time to feel the discomfort and vulnerability.
pace that allows conversation to occur.
pace that takes into consideration the needs of others around us.
pace that allows us to stop occasionally and hear words of
encouragement that feeds, sustains, and grows us into a resilient
people of faith.
is at this pace that I heard people’s experiences of hope grow out
of as individuals shared last week.
Jesus shared encouragement through scripture, I too close with words
of our faith.
to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I
will give you rest. 29
Take my yoke upon
you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you
will find rest for your souls. 30
For my yoke is
easy, and my burden is light.”
We know that the
whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23
and not only the
creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our
bodies. 24 For
hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who
for what is seen? 25
But if we hope for
what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit
helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but that very Spirit intercedes[q]
with sighs too deep for words. 27
who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because
intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.[t]
in the Spirit:
God is with us on this path. We are not alone.
a closing I offer this heartfelt prayer from Paul to the Ephesians.
May it be our prayer as well.
For this reason I
bow my knees before the Father,[g]
whom every family[h]
in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16
I pray that,
according to the riches of God’s glory, God may grant that you may
be strengthened in your inner being with power through God’s
Spirit, 17 and
that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being
rooted and grounded in love. 18
I pray that you may
have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the
breadth and length and height and depth, 19
and to know the
love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled
with all the fullness of God.
Now to God who by
the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more
than all we can ask or imagine, 21
to God be glory in
the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.
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