Rev. Alex Wilson
May 24, 2020
Rev. Alex Wilson

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          We are back on the road to Emmaus, mere days after the resurrection. There is a sense of familiarity in what is being shared with us, but it feels disorientating given both our current context and the context of what we are hearing. It is familiar in that we have heard the story before and disorientating in that we are isolated at the moment and unable to bear witness to what we are hearing. Indeed, to be a witness to something is about giving evidence by presence. When we are called as witnesses in court, we are asked to either speak from our professional knowledge or recall the details of what we saw. Now remembering can hold two meanings, one which suggests it’s just about dwelling on the past, a past which is now gone, or it can also mean a putting back together. A remembering perhaps of facts, a movement, a way of life, like what we are called to hear today. We are witnesses today to a remembering of the Jesus movement, a movement on the cusp of a new Pentecost.

          The Gospel of Luke’s whole point is the resurrection, an experience which opens the beginning of the chapter in which our story comes from. The resurrection of Luke is one of encounter, a theme which carries forward to encapsulate our story this morning. Now this is very familiar to our experience of Christ on the roads and in the towns during his ministry, he was continually a person of encounter. He went to homes and ate, he received the sick and healed them, he called new people into ministry with him, and over his time with us we saw his following grow from a few freaked out disciples, to a pretty sizable crowd. By the time he died, the small gatherings in someone's home had gone, and Jesus had to preach from a boat in the middle of the water in Galilee, he healed the sick at Capernum in such a crowd that they had to take off the roof of the house in order to lower the sick man into the house, and he was carried into Jerusalem along a throng of well wishers on Palm Sunday. What connects these experiences for us is the action involved in what was happening. Each of these experiences was a moment when Jesus was giving us experiences that we would need in this time we are now experiencing as we are being remembered to one another, put back together into a movement, into the Jesus movement. A movement which is to show the world about what it believes, by what it does for that world. Something which becomes even more important given our context and the needs of our world in the midst of a pandemic.

          You see, Easter provides us with a season of 40 days in which we get to reengage and remember our witness of both the Christ we experienced on the road, and the resurrected Christ. Throughout this season we are shown glimpses and reminders of the appearances he made to us since the crucifiction, which are connected to the experiences of his life with us before the crucifiction. Basically Jesus comes to us post resurrection and says “remember that time when I showed you this and told you this about who I was on the road? Remember when I healed that person, or called that person, or showed you who I was? Yeah, that was intentional and it's important you remember that now because of what's about to happen. You’re about to go out and do what I did in my name and with my authority.” That's the new Pentecost moment, the experience of our re-animation as the Jesus movement in the world when we are brought to our fullest sense of self via the indwelling of the spirit, where the church begins to grow and spread beyond just Jerusalem, beyond just us. But we aren’t there yet, we are still in Jerusalem in a known context, a context where we must wait and prepare for what's about to happen.

          Waiting and preparation in the context of what's felt like a decades long isolation seems counterintuitive as there is a deep desire to just crack on with life and help heal the wounds this pandemic has caused. However, rushing back to something unprepared leaves us in ungrounded territory. We never really know how to respond to what's happening because all we are doing is guessing. We transpose the cookie-cutter processes of our pre COVID-19 lives into a post COVID-19 life, and expect it all to work again. It's akin to getting into our cars without gas or a GPS map, no matter how hard we try, the car will not turn on without gas and we will get lost without GPS maps to help us arrive at our destination. As Christians, our fuel is Jesus and our animation, our GPS, is the Holy Spirit. Without Jesus and the Holy Spirit we do not know where to go, because we can’t go on our own. Christ calls us into ministry, we do not call ourselves. God gives us the presence of the Holy Spirit, we do not create it ourselves, so in order to be remembered, to be reknit together into the Jesus movement for a post COVID-19 world we must prepare with patience.

          So what are we waiting for? We are waiting for God’s time, rather than our own. Practically speaking that means that our return to fuller worship and even reopening our building will be a slow and intentional process which will take time, but that is not wasted time. Like the community of Acts, a community post resurrection, they were unified in their waiting knowing that in their waiting they were gaining valuable experience to be able to spread and grow the church with vigor in the new season of Pentecost. And the same applies for us. We will try new things, take one step forward and two steps back, listen, struggle and succeed as we are reknit together into the body of Christ sent out to serve and seek the presence of the risen Christ in our world. More information about what a reopening plan will look like will be coming in the coming weeks, but for now we wait. But waiting isn't in vain, it is a season deeply embedded with purpose.

          We waited in the garden with Christ, on the road with Christ, at the Cross with Christ, at the tomb for Christ, and now we wait in these last days of Easter for the promised Spirit which will enliven our hearts and minds into action for this world in the name of Jesus Christ. These actions are the normals that you and I have been contemplating rushing back to in this season and the challenges that this isolation has called for us to address afterwards. During our beatitudes classes on Sunday, some have mentioned how this time has revealed the need to address housing issues, treatment of our care and support staff, access to living wages for everyone, and the call to reconciliation with all people, among others. These are the areas where the Jesus movement must move into post COVID-19 as we are given an unprecedented opportunity in our lifetime to directly impact the reshaping of society, just as the disciples post resurrection got to as the moment of Pentecost came and the church expanded with the message of love, inclusion, hope and ability spoken into a landscape of isolation, fear and challenge. Remember church, that you are witnesses of these resurrection moments in your life today, moments that are informing how we are coming back to the world after COVID-19. How will you share your witness of these things with the world today, as we prepare for the greatest Pentecost in our lived history?