Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter
May 4, 2014
Few things in life are for certain. You hear the old adage about death and taxes, sure. But I’m thinking of more. I think one of the certain things in life, is that the Houston Astros are bad. Like, terrible. Here are a few stats about our beloved Astros. Out of all the teams in Major League Baseball, the Astros are 28th in slugging percentage, 29th in runs scored, 29th for on base percentage, and 30th for batting average. If you don’t know what those numbers mean, that’s alright. Just know that there are only 30 teams in Major League Baseball. So they’re real bad.
Not too many years ago, fans of the Boston Red Sox would be saying the same things. But at least the Red Sox could blame it on their curse. The Curse of the Bambino. See, the Red Sox had been one of the best baseball teams in the early years of last century. Then they sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920, and entered into a decades long drought. That was the original sin, the great fall of the Boston Red Sox. In 2004, the Red Sox finally won a World Series again, and the people of Boston proudly proclaimed that the curse is reversed.
The curse is reversed. At the very beginning of the first book of the bible, there is a curse. It only takes until the beginning of the third chapter of Genesis for humanity to start going off the rails. The first sin is Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit. That, in a weird way, is the first meal talked about in the bible. They are ashamed of their sin, and when God comes walking along looking for them, Adam and Eve try to hide. And from then on there is a curse. Now, you don’t have to believe that Adam and Eve were two people who ate an apple thousands of years ago to see the deeper truth to this story. Humans, despite our best intentions, can’t seem to get things right. We screw up all the time, even when we know what not to do. Plus, death has this unshakable grip on our lives. That first meal in the bible is not so much what creates sin for all of us. That first meal in the bible, that forbidden fruit shared by Adam and Eve, is the sign of how all of us go off the rails.
Of course, the bible doesn’t end in the third chapter of Genesis. There’s a lot more to go. Fast forward to the Gospel of Luke, and to our passage for today. It is Easter afternoon, and two disciples of Jesus are walking along the road to Emmaus. Now read this passage very carefully. And you’ll see that the curse is about to be reversed. Cleopas, a man, who is a disciple, is with another disciple. Our best guess is that this other disciple is the wife of Cleopas. And they are walking home on Easter afternoon because they are ashamed. The man they thought was their redeemer has died an awful death on a cross. So, notice, who comes walking alongside them. Jesus. God. Hello! For anybody who has read the story of the Garden of Eden, alarm bells should be going off right now! Man and wife. Ashamed. God walks up to them. This is big! The curse is being reversed!
Cleopas and the other disciple don’t recognize Jesus. That’s probably because their grief was so great, and they were so confused, that they didn’t put two and two together. So after talking with Jesus on the road, they convince him to stop with them for dinner and to spend the night together and to eat together. Hello! Alarm bells! Man and wife. Eating a meal that is given to them by God. This is big! The curse is being reversed!
Yes, that is what Easter is all about. Easter is about reversing the curse of death that holds humanity captive. Jesus has risen to new life, so we too can have new life. The true curse, which is death, has been reversed. The curse of the first meal in the bible has been reversed by another meal. The shame that we have as humans when we sin and God finds us has now been reversed to the joy we feel when God finds us. This brilliant, beautiful little story in the Gospel of Luke is packed with meaning. It’s all about reversing the curse.
So I know what you’re thinking. “Jimmy read a commentary on the Gospel of Luke, thought this was a great little nugget of wisdom, and now he’s sharing it with us. Big whoop.” You know what I have to say to that? That’s exactly what’s happening. But there is more.
Not only is Luke smart enough to catch how God twists the whole Garden of Eden on its head; but now we’ve got an image of just how much God forgives us. Now we can finally see how far God is willing to go to reverse the curses we make for ourselves. God is willing to go all the way back.
Because I know that each of you have done something that you’re not proud of having done. This is not some weird guilt trip I’m trying to pull on you; it’s just a fact of life. We give in to hate. We’re narcissists. We have affairs. We cheat. We lie. We steal. We sin. I could go on for hours at how much of a screw-up I am; and I bet you could too. We could all talk about the curses we’ve put on ourselves.
So here’s the good news. The curse is reversed. Whatever has happened in the past does not have to be the defining factor in your life. For us, as Christians, the meal that defines us is not the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. The meal that defines us is the broken bread with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. In that meal, the curse was reversed. For us, as Christians, when God comes looking for us, it does not have to be because of the shame of the forbidden fruit. When God comes looking for us, it’s because God is searching us out to love us.
There is nothing you have ever done that can stop God from loving you. There is nothing in your past that is too big of an obstacle for God to overcome. There is no sin or curse or anything in your life, that you have ever done or not done, that will make God walk away from you. That is the good news of Jesus Christ. But can God really love me even though I did fill in the blank? Yeah, even that thing that you can’t forgive yourself for doing, God has already forgiven you. No matter how much of a sinful screw-up you are, God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. And that’s what it’s all about. God is love.
This is not to say, however, that the Church has done a good job of getting this message across. We can all name churches, either now or in the past, that have turned people away for some made up reason. If you have experienced that pain and hurt of a church shutting its door on you because you weren’t not holy enough; because you weren’t Christian enough; because you weren’t part of the right denomination; because you were this or that; or because of some other made up thing, I am sickened for you. Exclusion based on who you are or what you have done is not Christianity. See, whatever has happened in the past is in the past. God reversed the Garden of Eden. God reversed death itself. God sat down with two confused, rattled, scared, and sinful disciples – Cleopas and his wife – and had dinner with them.
And that’s what God wants to do with you this very morning. Around this very table. Regardless of your history or background, God has a place for you at this holy table. No matter where you have been or what you have done, the God of love loves you. The curse is reversed.