April 26, 2020 Easter Sermon Series:  Jesus our Game Changer, 

Week 3 TROUBLE and the “Walk to Emmaus” Luke 24:13-35 

          Today we’re continuing our Easter sermon series of Jesus our “Game Changer.” We’re looking at some popular board games that can represent the struggles of life, and we’re going to see how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes the game. The game for today is “Trouble.” Have any of you played this game?  I spent hours playing this game as a kid – and then I spent hours playing this game as a parent. I loved and I hated the sound of that popping dice rolling bubble.  Uh Oh Trouble!

The object of Trouble is to be the first person to get your pieces out of start, around the board and safely into home base. So, you’re moving around the board, and you’re just about to make it into that safe space, and then “BAM!!” somebody lands on top of you, and you’re in “trouble.” You go all the way back to the beginning. You thought you were gonna make it, but your hopes are dashed. And you can’t get out of that starting space until something special happens, that special number six POPS up.  Until then it’ just sit and stew and everyone else moves by you.

And isn’t that just like real life?  You’re a student—and you’re writing a paper or you’re taking a test, and you thought you did pretty well—until “BAM” the teacher gives it back and your hopes are dashed.  You’re working hard at your job, they like you there, and the economy tanks and “BAM” trouble you’re out the door sitting on the sidelines waiting for that special something to pop up.  In the meantime, you’re watching what seems like everybody else getting ahead.  Or You’re struggling in your marriage, going to counseling.  You’re working on it, and it looks like you’re going to work through it, but then – “Trouble!” and you’re back to square one.  A place full of worry and tension. Or You’re a teenager—and there’s this boy you like, or this girl you are interested in—and you’re thinking maybe they like you too—but then “BAM!” you get shot down, hopes dashed, watching from the sidelines.  Or You’re sitting in a doctor’s office, as you hear the doctor coming down the hall, you’re hoping he’s bringing, “Good news!”—but when he opens the door you can tell by the expression on his face—"Uh Oh Trouble!” You are instantly transported to the place of fear and worry. 

          I asked earlier how many have played the game “Trouble.” The fact is in real life we’ve all played it! We’ve all had trouble. We’ve all had times when our hopes were dashed.  We’ve all experienced those setbacks that put us on the sideline, made us wait in nowhere land when it seemed like everyone’s else’s life was moving on.  We’ve all encountered the “Bam!” of life that puts us in a lonely place of fear and sadness. 

Now pay attention because Jesus has good news for troubling times and troubled people.  Jesus is a game changer.  Our Gospel today has good news for troubled folks like you and me. It’s a gospel that recalls faithful people with real worries, real problems, real fears, and Jesus enters those fears with them and changes the game. Jesus comes to folks in trouble and helps them find a place of peace.  Jesus change their game of worry and fear and makes it an opportunity for joy. He can do that for you too. 

So, let’s look at our gospel, Luke 24 or page 6 of your bulletin.  Luke tells us there were two guys walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were high tailing it out of town because they were in trouble. Luke says these guys were followers of Jesus. The fact that they were leaving the other followers tells me they had given up. They were discouraged, defeated, in despair. Verse 21 gives us a glimpse of how their hopes had been dashed.  They confess to a stranger “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel!” 

          They were hoping that Jesus was the Messiah that they had been looking for, who would drive out the Romans and usher in a new age of freedom, peace and prosperity. They were hoping that their people would be not only rescued but back on top! All those hopes were dashed when they saw Jesus being nailed to a cross by the very Romans, they hoped he would defeat. 

We all know how crushing it can be when our hopes are up and then BAM trouble crushes them.  “Oh, this coronavirus is just a regular flu bug”– Bam Nope!  “The country will reopen by Easter…” Uh NO!  “Oh, the stimulus checks are on their way, that’ll get us moving…” Yeah right! BAM.

These two guys walking to Emmaus had thought Jesus was the virus crushing stimulus check writing savior of Israel.  Their hopes had been dashed on that cross.  And now they are high tailing it out of town because they feared for their lives because they knew if the Jews and Romans could do that to Jesus, they could do that to them, too!  They were in trouble. They were worried. They were frightened.  They were sad because they’d lost a friend and abandoned their community.  The Romans had landed on top of them and sent them back to the beginning, back home, back to Emmaus. 

Luke says that as they were walking, they talked. And the word Luke uses in the original Greek means they were “talking strongly,” which could indicate they were having a debate – or as polite folk in the South might phrase it, “a discussion.” And so I wonder, what was that discussion like? 

          And about that time, a stranger showed up. They were probably glad for this because they were tired of arguing with each other, and they were looking forward to changing the subject. But the stranger said, “So what are you guys talking about?”  I can picture this awkward silence. They stop walking and all their troubles and discouragement show on their faces. Finally, Cleopas breaks the awkward silence looks at the stranger and says, “Are you the only person in town who doesn’t know the things going on!”  “Kind of like, what do you mean you haven’t heard of the Coronavirus?!!”

          Now I want to point out something.  When you are in trouble its okay to talk to someone.  Its not a sign of failure, or weakness, or neediness to want to talk about your troubles.  Now I do have to say, a lot of times strangers are not the best ones to talk to. But I do have to say by in large I’ve seen a lot more people helped by talking about their troubles than damaged by it. 

          Its important to talk and this is coming for a died in the wool, stoic German, “think before I speak,” introvert.  First off, just regurgitating some of the poisonous thoughts and feelings out into the open is often all that’s needed.  Get it out of your system make room for something in your system other than the poison and negativity. 

I think that’s what these guys were trying to do during their dusty lonely walk.  Maybe they could get it out of their system before they got home so they’d never have to talk about it again. So it’s important to spit it out but even more important is to know who to go to, to trust to talk with when you are in trouble.  The “town gossip” is not the place to go, the person you are hurt by may or may not be the one to talk to.  Sometimes there is a lot of question as to who to talk to but there is always someone you can always talk to and that always the right person to take it to and that is Jesus.  

I’ve heard from a lot of people when trouble strikes that they give Jesus the silent treatment. That’s okay Jesus can handle a cold shoulder.  Nevertheless, I just want to warn you that giving God the cold shoulder often means spiritually, in your head, in your heart, in your soul the only voice your hearing is Satan’s. Turn to the back inside cover of your bulletin. I’ve put some items there that I hope will be more than just “Pinterest platitudes.”  I’m hoping they can be reminders of the good news Jesus has for you in times of trouble.  So, look at the mostly black meme.  I think it says so well why its important to talk about our problems with God.  “Satan tries to limit your praying because he knows your praying will limit him.”  Amen?!

Nuff said, let’s get back to the troubled walkers.  They decide to talk it over with a stranger.  They think he knows nothing about what’s going on: their situation, their problems, their sorrow.  And here’s the ironic thing. The stranger was actually THE only one in town who really did know what was going on! Because the stranger was Jesus! Jesus was right there walking beside them. Jesus wants to know your story, so he asks “What things? What things are you talking about?” 

          So, Cleopas shares how disappointed they were the Jesus the miracle worker who hadn’t punished the priests and pummeled the Romans like they though he would. I picture Jesus laughing at this and them being really upset! Who is this guy?!  But the stranger looks at them with joy in his eyes and laughter in his voice, and say, “Oh, you are simple folk! Don’t you know the prophets said this is exactly what would happen to the Messiah?” And I picture them responding with “Say, What?!” 

          The stranger goes on, “Yeah!! Scripture has said all along that the Messiah would suffer— pain, rejection, humiliation, death—and then after that, enter his glory.” And again, they respond with, “Say What?” And the stranger said, “Well, then let me explain it to you.” And Luke says, “Beginning with Moses and the prophets, the stranger (who was Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Now Luke doesn’t tell us exactly which Scriptures Jesus talked about.  Maybe he talked about Genesis, where God told the serpent that the woman’s offspring would crush his head. Maybe he talked about Exodus and the Passover lamb, when God saved his people through the shedding of blood. Maybe he talked about King David, the forerunner of the Messiah, who came from a backwater town called Bethlehem, who was tiny and overlooked, who was persecuted and suffered before he became king.  Maybe he quoted from the prophet Isaiah chapter 53:   “And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all… [and] after he has suffered, he will see the light of life…by knowledge of him, my righteous servant will justify many.”

And as the stranger explained the Scriptures, Cleopas and his friend started to think, “Yeah, yeah, this makes sense!” And they started to see that the movement wasn’t over—it was just beginning! And they saw that their hopes weren’t dashed—that in fact, their hopes were going to come true in ways they never dreamed! 

In your bulletins flip back to page 15.  I want to point out that saying “When Satan huffs and puffs and tries to blow out the flame of your joy, you have an endless supply of kindling in the word of God.” But how many of us in times of trouble reach for God’s word?  A drink maybe, get lost in a movie maybe, or head to the fridge for some binging.?! But how many of us really consider when our joy is being snuffed out bingeing on the word of God? 

I admit quarantine living is full of trouble.  But it can also be full of peace and an opportunity of joy.  I’ve seen several memes that have Satan telling God “I’m going to use this virus to close all your churches,” God responds “I’ll use it to open a church in every home.”  Let me tell you this virus has not stopped Greenford Lutheran from proclaiming the gospel. Amen?!  This virus doesn’t have the power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. 

In fact, it can be an opportunity to draw us closer to God than ever before.  I’ve tried to be in contact with so many of you, to make sure my sheep are surviving out there.  It’s been heart-warming to hear from a few of you things like, “I always struggled to do my daily devotions.  You know what with this quarantine thing, I’ve found the time.” Do you know the Apostle John was under quarantine when he “downloaded” that big book at the end of the Bible? That’s right, his being drawn up into heaven, seeing the end times and writing it down to inspire persecuted Christians to keep the faith during troubled times all happened while being confined to shelter in place. 

So, they got their hearts joy rekindled by the word of God on their lonely walk and then, before they knew it, they were home. And the stranger said, “Nice walking with y’all” and kept going, but they said, “No, stay with us! Come spend the night with us. We don’t have much, but what we have is yours.”  And Luke says, “They urged him strongly,” meaning they weren’t going to take no for an answer. So, he caved, and they sat down to eat.

Cleopas put the bread before the stranger and said, “You do the honors.” It was customary for the guest to say the blessing and break the bread. So, the stranger picked up the bread and held it up and said, “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who brings forth bread from the earth.” And then he broke the bread.

And at that moment, Cleopas and his friend noticed that the hands breaking that bread were scarred. Deep, ugly scars. The scars of somebody who had suffered. The scars of somebody who had been … crucified.  And they looked from the hands up into the face, and they saw that it was him! It was Jesus! He was alive! And he’d been with them the whole time! In the midst of their grief, in the midst of their sadness – when they thought it was over, and hope was lost, Jesus was there. He was right there with them, and they didn’t even know it. 

          After Jesus appearance and departure, they start to realize the game for them had changed! “Didn’t our hearts burn within us when we talked with him.” “And then When we invited him in. That’s when he really revealed himself to us.” “When our hopes were dashed, he was still there, walking beside us. And when we invited him in, he changed everything!” 

We’ve all had trouble. We’ve all had times when our hopes were dashed. But here’s the Game Changer: The risen Jesus is with you. He’s walking right beside you. You may not realize it, but he’s there.  And if you invite him in, that’s when he reveals himself, and that’s when things start to change.  Maybe Jesus comes in and he changes your situation. Maybe he changes the way you see your situation. Maybe he changes you and gives you the strength you didn’t have before for you to deal with your situation.  But it only happens when you invite him in. 

Flip back to page 15, I have a final thought to share:  “Don’t let the devil steal your joy, shake of the gloom he’s trying to cover you with.” If you’ve ever been in depression or just had your joy stolen you know it’s like a shroud that envelopes you. Like hunkering down in bed under the blankets, at first it feels secure but then it suffocates.  Throw off the devils’ wet blanket.  How do you do that?  Praise God– (think of your favorite scripture, church song, recite its, better yet, sing its lyrics.)  “Praise God in the face of your problems.  Sing in the midst of your stress.  Shout Hallelujah”– it takes everything in Satan to stand being around people who are truly shouting God praises.  What’s interesting is that if you do that, 9 times out of 10 you’ll feel Satan’s grip on your mind slip away as you feel God’s hand holding heart. 

Let Jesus in!  In times of Trouble– it isn’t so much “let it be,” but let Jesus in.  Turn to his word, it’s the tinder to rekindle the fire of your joy!  Turn to him in prayer– it’s your conversation conduit to peace the world can’t give.  Turn to him in prayer– it’s your number one way to limit Satan in your life by opening yourself up to Jesus in your heart.  Prayer doesn’t eliminate trouble in life, but even during our troubles it gives a place for peace and eyes to perceive an opportunity for joy. 

Finally, let him in because you are worth it. Those troubled disciples on that dusty road were defeated, depressed, deflated.  Their egos were probably in the trash bin.  They felt Satan hadn’t just taken their friend but their hearts as well.  Why would this evil have tracked them down, when they were trying to be so good?  Is God out to get me?  Does Satan really reign supreme?  Satan is not supreme unless you let him be.  Satan may be picking on you specifically because there’s something special in there that God put there that he wants.  “The enemy wouldn’t be attacking you if there wasn’t something valuable inside of you.  Thieves don’t break into empty houses!” YOU have value.  You have a purpose.!

So, if you are on that lonely, questioning, troubling walk to Emmaus remember You are not unwanted– You Are Chosen.  You are not unloved– You Were to Die For.  You are not alone– You Are His.  You may have serious troubles, but you always have someone you can seriously talk to.  You may have troubles that are stealing your joy, but God’s word has a ton of tinder to relight the fire of your joy.  You may be walking through troubled times but inviting Jesus to share your troubles allows him an opportunity to provide you a place of peace in your heart and mind. 

 And now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding and transcends all our troubles, guard your hearts and your minds in our game changing, life giving, eternity enhancing Risen Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.