Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
There’s a saying amongst pastors that Confirmation students ask the best questions. Where as older adults might hesitate to ask certain questions for fear of being perceived as rude, inappropriate, or making others uncomfortable. Confirmation students often lack any such filter, so they just blurt out the first thought that inevitability pops into their head. So this morning I wish to begin our sermon by answering one of the best Confirmation questions, it’s a question that probably all of us have wondered about at some time in our life.
The question to consider this morning is “If believing in Jesus is the only way to get to heaven, then what happens to a man living on an island in the South Pacific that never has encountered any missionaries, nor even heard Jesus’ name. Would God be so mean and unfair as to condemn someone for all eternity for either bad luck or ignorance”?
I think before answering this question, we need to consider the concept of God’s fairness. What should be stated is that Heaven is the unfair outcome, whereas Hell is the fair outcome. If I were to die in a car accident this afternoon, death would not be an unfair result, hell would not be an unfair result, what would be unfair would be God’s forgiveness, what would be unfair is to be a recipient of God’s promises of eternal life.
We speak of salvation by grace, salvation by what is unmerited or undeserved for this reason. So the question about the South Pacific Islander’s eternal destination is not a question about God’s fairness, but rather a question about God’s nature.
So does God save the man born in the middle of nowhere who has never heard the Gospel? I think the first thing to point out is that God ultimately wants to save all people and come to knowledge of the truth.-1 Timothy 2:4
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son”-John 3:16
We remember that Christ came not to condemn the world, but rather Christ came to save and redeem the world. Christ wept at the awfulness of sin as he witnessed his friend Lazarus’ death. We are continually reminded throughout the scriptures that God can save the non-believer through any means that he chooses.
In the Book of Acts, God saves Cornelius a religious man who had never heard of Jesus Christ by choosing to make him the first gentile to convert to Christianity.
In the Book of Joshua, God worked through the prostitute Rahab who limited knowledge of him or the scriptures, yet was later referred to in the Book of Hebrews as a person of great faith.
God poured out his grace upon the Syrian Army commander Namaan, even as he lived in and served a nation that was openly hostile towards his ways.
So we must be continually brought back to the nature of God’s mercy being poured out upon the most unexpected of people.
I think what we must ultimately come back to when considering the fate of the unevangelized is Jesus’ emphasis on the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Jesus said to “Bring the Gospel forth to all nations."
The Disciples then proceeded to risk their life and reputation for spreading the Gospel. If Christ’s earliest and closest of followers didn’t believe that sharing their faith mattered for the sake of heaven/hell then, their actions would make no sense.
For whether God might grant mercy to all people at some point in time, I can’t say. We reflect on this question of the South Pacific Islander, who never heard the Gospel in many of the same ways as we reflect upon the question of unbaptized babies. I think it’s best to point towards the nature of the God that we do have. The God who proclaimed to an unbaptized Thief hanging alongside him “Today you will be with me in Paradise”
We can very rarely answer with any certainty questions regarding anyone’s salvation, all we can do is take comfort in the God that we have, the God that went forth to the Cross. While I believe that people cannot receive salvation apart from the Gospel of Christ, what I can’t say with any certainty is how far his Gospel can reach. I believe that the potential reach of the Gospel goes way beyond my own prejudices and biases. I wake up every morning giving thanks that the fate of humanity is not governed by my own whims and wishes, but rather by God’s mercy and grace.
I ultimately don’t consider myself to be a Universalist (one who believes that everyone is automatically saved) not because I have any certainty whether it is so. I have trouble with universalism because it says that Word and Sacrament don’t matter. Universalism makes the Death of Jesus into an unnecessary event. Universalism also doesn’t speak to why Christ’s closest followers were so were to risk their lives in the Church’s earliest days.
One of these stories from the Church’s earliest days comes to us this morning from the Book of Acts the 17th Chapter in the story of Paul preaching at Mars Hill. There is a very large church in Seattle called “Mars Hill” because when they started out their whole mission was reaching the unchurched and religiously unaffiliated of the Pacific Northwest. Our story for today is perhaps the Bible’s greatest tale of evangelism.
Our story for today begins a few verses before our lesson. The Apostle Paul is out walking through the streets of Athens where he is disturbed by all that he sees. Paul sees religious idols everywhere that he walked. Paul could have easily given up, and figured it was all a lost cause. Paul could have gone back to his home and been much more comfortable than trying to engage strangers in a foreign culture.
Paul instead decided to engage with the people of Athens and deal with the inevitable consequences. Paul’s first stop was the Agora, where Paul debated academics. Most of the people rejected Paul that he encountered, but some were willing to give him a second chance. Leading to our lesson for today where Paul speaks at Mars Hill. What makes Paul’s speech, so remarkable is his approach to the people of Athens, Paul doesn’t seek to lash out at them rather Paul commends them for their pursuit of religious truth. Paul was willing to engage the people of Athens, where they were at, not where Paul hoped they should be.
Let me tell a story, I know a lady named Janie. Janie’s a kind, sweet, old lady who seems to love everyone that she encounters. Janie’s getting up there in years; she has to have oxygen and walking is quite difficult without losing breath. Janie has four children and nine grandchildren. Janie overtime started to realize that she wasn’t seeing her grandchildren as much as they moved away, or got tied up with school. Janie noticed that her phone calls were being returned way after the fact. So Janie at seventy some years old decided that she was going to learn how to send text messages on her cell-phone to communicate with people better.
What I admire about Janie so much is that she is terrible at text-messaging. When I worked as a substitute teacher I would see kids that could send message after message keeping their phones inside their pockets the entire time. Some kids can text 30-40 words a minute with ease, whereas for Janie every letter that she types into the phone time. Janie trying to identify a letter on her phone might look like a bird trying to find a worm on the ground. The reason Janie learned text messaging is because she believes that it’s important for her to stay connected. The thing that I admire so much about Janie is she reaches out, even when it involves doing something uncomfortable for her because she knows the cost of it all is of infinite worth.
Janie teaches us something important about evangelism that evangelism isn’t ultimately about being a great mind. Evangelism is instead the act of becoming.
Janie reminds me of Paul at Athens. Paul knew the Athenians were lost in the wilderness in their pursuit of spiritual truth. Paul didn’t view the Athenians as his enemies; Paul rather viewed them as fellow travelers in pursuit of trying to figure life out. Paul sees that the Athenians had built an altar to an “unknown god," so Paul takes what was unknown to seek to make it known.
Paul made it known that the God he worships has so much power that he raised a man to life who had been in the tomb for three days.
“People who inspire others are those who see invisible bridges at the end of dead-end streets”- Charles Swindoll.
Some rejected Paul's message to the people of Athens on that day, yet Paul also gained willing ears wanting to hear more.
“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”-Acts 17:32
There are two types of churches out there. There are churches that are just seeking to survive. Churches whose sole focus takes place inside their walls: budgets, numbers, and traditions. Churches whose focus is on sorting through power struggles and appeasing their own members. The second types of church are churches that are seeking to thrive. Churches that seek to reach the community, churches that seek out new relationships, and churches that seek out new ways of reaching people.
People of Sychar years of declining membership have beaten us down, old age has beaten us down, conflict has been us down, yet none of these things is our future. I have hope because I see joy on people’s face as kids go down the aisle to collect the well offering. I have hope because I see visitors welcomed as friends. I have hope because we understand that our existence is much bigger than ourselves, we define ourselves as a faith community by the forgiveness of sins.
I was having dinner with a friend a while back down in Duluth. This friend had grown up in a real religious home, yet over the years has drifted away from the church. The one thing though he couldn’t escape from Christianity is the beauty of forgiveness. Hearing that your sins have been declared clean from someone who believes it is a message that will not replicate through any other human community which people claim can replace the church.
For in the words of Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Too often we have the wrong idea about increasing church membership. We merely think we need to invite someone to church. We say “come to our church, I’ll maybe see you there.” “If I’m feeling particularly outgoing that day, I might even wave at you and send you well-wishes.” When what we need to do is not invite people to church, but rather bringing people to church. Bringing people to church goes beyond offering rides. Bringing people to church involves taking people into your lives no matter their personality quirks. Bringing people to church involves taking people in the midst of both their joys and sorrows. Bringing people to church involves a promise to be a support system for someone through thick and thin.
Paul went forth to Athens with great risk; Paul dared to proclaim salvation in a God whose name no one had ever heard. People had been put to death previously for doing what Paul was doing. We risk something different; we risk losing the church we know and the church that many of us love. Nothing stays the same forever. People come; people go, and people come to believe that their needs are best met elsewhere. These challenges are normal. What instead defines us is a message that is bigger than any one individual. So Blurt It Out! Sychar Lutheran is not museum for the saints; Sychar Lutheran is rather the hospital for sinners. Sychar Lutheran is the place which promises you that you do not go through life alone. Sychar Lutheran like Athens is the place that God will never give up on. Amen
 Acts 10
 Joshua 2
 Hebrews 11:31
 2 Kings 5:1-14
 Luke 23:43
 Acts 17:16-21
 Acts 17:17-18
 Acts 17:23
 Acts 17:31
First Lesson: Acts 2: 42-47
Responsive Reading: Psalm 23
Second Lesson: 1 Peter 2: 19-25
Gospel Lesson: John 10: 1-10
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this morning with a story from my childhood. When I was eight years old, my dad had put up a tree house about seven feet off the ground for my friends and I to use. My parents being quite cautious attached to this tree house a ladder that was meant to be used for every journey up and down from the tree. I had a group of friends from the neighborhood that would frequent the tree house. As a child, I was the most risk averse of the children in our group. My friends Tommy and Danny discovered that they could jump down from the tree house, rather than take a boring ladder. So Tommy and Danny began to jump down quite frequently from the tree house, while I would watch. Tommy and Danny in all their jumps never managed to get hurt, so I believed that I could jump down like them also. So one day, I decided I was going to make my first jump down from the tree house. Now when Tommy and Danny jumped they always managed to jump straight down. They maybe even hung with their legs dangling along the edge before jumping off. I had a different idea for my first jump though; I was going to jump as high into the air as I could, thinking that I would be able to fly like superman. Judging by the title of the sermon as you probably guessed; my first jump would end up being my last jump. Soon I would be an eight year old boy having to use a walker, and the next three months were going to be spent in a cast. What does this tale of my broken leg; have to do with our gospel lesson? I’ll get back to broken legs in a little bit.
Our Gospel lesson for today comes to us from John the 10th chapter. This lesson takes place right after Jesus heals a Man who born blind, the discussion before this miracle between Jesus and his disciples centered on the following question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Our lesson for today occurs right after a long debate regarding the meaning of the Blind Man’s healing. The passage consists of two basic parts. The first part of the passage consists of Jesus describing the work of his ministry in comparison to herding sheep. The second part of this passage makes sense of the analogy.
So why does Jesus seek to interpret the Blind Man’s healing by comparing the people of Israel to sheep?
1. Sheep are vulnerable to attack.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”-John 10:10
Second story- when I was at Luther Seminary, I managed the Seminary Mailroom. One Saturday early afternoon a guy came in who appeared to be frantic. The Guy said he lived across the street from the school; this story seemed plausible with so many different people living either on or near campus. This guy claimed that he had locked himself out of his house, and he needed $20 bucks to pay a locksmith. This guy said he would come back in twenty minutes, and give me $40 bucks to go buy lunch. Being my normal self, I handed the guy twenty without giving it much thought. As you can guess, I never saw this guy again.
As I tell the story I realize how completely sketchy this guy’s story was, and to be totally honest I am somewhat embarrassed to admit it. This story reminds us all though how we often fail to see and recognize the forces both spiritual and earthly that are out to attack us before it is too late to respond.
The reason Jesus compared his followers to sheep is because of the nature of our enemies, how we are often defenseless against the wolves and coyotes of life in sin, death, and the power of the devil. Those who are seeking to destroy our faith along with crushing our spirit.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
We know these words from the 23rd Psalm.
We hear these words and we immediately know they are words of comfort directed at us. Perhaps the greatest image of the Lord being our Shepherd is the Sunday school painting with Jesus holding a lamb in his arms no differently than a mother would hold her child. We see this painting, and it quickly brings us peace. We do not want kids to be done with Sunday school without understanding the meaning of this painting.
For even though none of us probably know shepherds, there are a few things we know about shepherds. We know shepherds as being caring and loyal in every circumstance that comes before them. A shepherd cares for his sheep, no differently than a mother would care for a child that she carried in her womb.
The relation that Jesus speaks of between the sheep and the shepherd only makes sense if one realizes the nature of the very forces which seek to threaten us nearly every single day.
2. Sheep often stray
“All like sheep gone astray”- Isaiah 53:6
I want to tell you this morning the story of a Major League pitcher named Barry Zito. Barry Zito came up with the Oakland A’s and was a star. Two years into Zito’s career, he won the Cy Young award as the best pitcher in the American League. After six and a half seasons in Oakland, Zito signed a seven year contract with the San Francisco Giants for $126 million dollars. Zito’s contract was the richest given to a pitcher at the time that he signed it. Zito’s time though in San Francisco was a disaster. Zito ended up in such low regard that just four years into his contract; he was left off the San Francisco Giants roster as they won the World Series.
Zito had been brought up in a very religious albeit non-traditional religious home. Zito had been brought up in New Age Spirituality. New Age Spirituality tends to place emphases on flowery ideas such as humanity’s inner goodness. Christianity tends to stress humanity’s differences with God; whereas New Age Spirituality tends to emphasize humanity’s oneness with God. The New Age Movement tends to de-emphasize things such as sin, evil, and judgment. The New Age Movement teaches humanity’s problem is one of sheer ignorance, keeping them from reaching their full illumination as individuals.
New Age Philosophy has been brought to the mainstream by people like Oprah Winfrey, Shirley Maclaine, and plenty of 21st century churches. As Zito kept encountering disappointment after disappointment from the highest of highs, he began to reconsider some things about the nature of his faith.
Barry Zito heard that there was no sin, yet such a statement is the very opposite of comforting when all you see around you is darkness.
Barry Zito eventually gets injured.
A few months after Zito’s injury, he was talking to his best friend who told him the story of the shepherd. How a shepherd will be leading his sheep and one of the sheep will be walking astray from the pack. The shepherd will then take the radical step of breaking the sheep’s leg, so that the sheep will have to rely on the shepherd to get better. But once that leg is completely healed, that sheep never leaves the side of the shepherd ever again.
This story illustrated to Barry Zito something important about the nature of faith. Faith is not dependent on our own sense of inner-goodness or motivation, faith is rather dependent on the promises of forgiveness that come to us as strayed sheep in our Gospel.
What Barry Zito’s story reminds us of is something important, Barry Zito needed to truly stray from the path that he designed for his life, to be able to find answers. Zito had to walk along a path that he would have never chosen for himself, yet it was on this path that the Shepherd’s ultimate work was revealed to rescue lost sheep.
3. Sheep need to be guided.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”- Matthew 9:36
The thing about sheep is that they are not dumb animals. The thing that makes sheep, so unique is their inability to act apart from the rest of the sheep. If the head sheep won’t eat, none of the other sheep will eat. Sheep tend to follow the crowd. I saw friend after friend jump out of the tree house; I needed to do it next. When you are eight years old, you will follow your friends over the edge of a cliff. Herd instinct will be stronger than intelligence.
When I was in high school, I was playing in a golf meet talking to a kid that had recently moved to a new small school. This kid’s new school drove him crazy! If one kid had a particular pair of jeans, then within two weeks, everyone else would make it a priority to have the same time of jeans. One kid would smoke, soon everyone else would smoke. Studies about human decision making tend to portray humans as risk adverse in all walks of life, the main reason that humans are so risk-averse is they fear standing out for the crowd.
Sheep at the end of the day are ultimately fearful creatures that will not lie down unless they know that the shepherd is in sight.
“A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”-John 10:5
What our lesson in comparing humans to sheep reminds us of, is our need for a shepherd, a shepherd who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.
Our Good Shepherd leads us to the Cross. It is on the Cross, that the Shepherd stays beside those who have strayed from him there whole lives. The Good Shepherd goes before us into the valley of the shadow of death and seeks to call his own sheep by name, so that they may come out upon the other side. Our Good Shepherd reminds us that we shall not go through anything that he has not already endured. On the Cross, the Shepherd became the Sheep, the Lamb of God who takes way the sin of the world, who cleanses us from all sin.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”-John 10:3-4. Amen.
 John 9:2
 Lannon, Nick. “Barry Zito, a Broken Leg, and the Outer Christ.” MBIRD. 12.Dec.2012. Web.
 Keown, Tim. “A man in the game.” ESPN the Magazine. 1.Dec.2012. Web.
 The Asch conformity experiments of the 1950’s are one of many studies which highlight this general phenomena.
First Lesson: Acts 2: 14, 36-41
Responsive Reading: Psalm 116: 1-4, 12-19
Second Lesson: 1 Peter 1: 17-23
Gospel Lesson: Luke 24: 13-35
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to begin this morning with a story. There once was a man who was bald. This man was known for his patience, mercy, and kindness. One day this man was out taking a walk, when he encounters a large number of youth that begin to taunt him. They made fun made fun of his “baldness” and wished for his death. The bald man was both hurt by their insults, but frightened for his safety. The man then issues a curse against those who were taunting him. Right when it looked like the Bald Man’s life could be taken, out of the nearby woods come a couple of female bears, the bears then mauled to death forty-two youth.
With the exception of Gunnar and Nick along with the rest of the confirmation students, I’m not sure if anyone here really knows this story. It’s the story of Elisha and the she-bears that comes from the Book of 2 Kings 2.
This is a strange story that seems devoid of any real religious meaning. Yet it comes from the pages of our holiest of books. What should we think about the bald-man and the she bears? We’ll get back to that in a little bit.
Recently the American Bible Society and Barna Research released their 2014 State of the Bible survey which contained some interesting findings regarding people’s attitudes towards the scriptures.
Here are some of the more interesting findings from within this survey. For those of you who don’t care for numbers, I promise this breakdown will be brief.
-79% of Americans believe that the Bible is a sacred book. This number is somewhat noteworthy since it’s down from 86% in 2011. The Bible receives it’s most positive scores for being seen as encouraging forgiveness, patience, and generosity. 88% percent of American households report reading the Bible once a week or more.
-56% of Americans believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God with little in the way of errors. 37% of Americans read the Bible once a week or more.
-Perhaps the most interesting finding of this survey was that the number of people who are considered Bible skeptics defined as those who believe the Bible to be nothing more than mere words of men now sits at 19% of the U.S. population, this number is roughly equal to those who are Biblically engaged defined as those who read the Bible at least four times per week.
These surveys always find interesting things about American attitudes towards the Bible. It’s not uncommon for these surveys to discover that a majority of Americans believe that the Bible contains everything that one needs to live a meaningful life, where as a majority will also fail to open the Bible less than 5 times a year.
I think what these surveys reveal more than anything is that Americans have a fascination with the Bible. In 2014 alone, Son of God about the Life of Jesus and Noah has already been released.
In December a big budget production of the story of Moses and the Exodus is coming to the big screen. I think what all this shows is America wants to know the Biblical story, yet at times often can’t make sense of it.
I’ll always be surprised when I encounter people who never attend church, yet frequently partake in religious specials on TV. We deal with an interesting tension regarding the scriptures and these issues.
So this raises the questions of “How do we make sense of the Bible?” and “What role should this book play in our daily lives?”
This brings us to our lesson for this morning from Luke the 24th Chapter. The story begins with two men who were followers of Jesus (but not disciples), leaving Jerusalem on the third day after his death. These men then begin a seven mile walk to their home in the village of Emmaus. They then encounter a man on the Road to Emmaus who they are unable to recognize.
They describe what happened during the last week as an event that brought forth great disappointment “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
As someone that has gone to a lot of sporting events, I know the worst feeling in the world is watching the other team celebrate. Seeing other fans have enjoyment that you yourself wished you had. You hope more than anything that someday all your emotional investment pays off, and the thought that it might not payoff, makes you question why even care?
I have a friend who is a Pastor in Pennsylvania, she used to dread more than anything in her job having to perform wedding ceremonies, and this task was a constant reminder of all that she didn’t have in life.
This was the type of feeling that these men had as they mourned Jesus’ death. They knew Roman power, they had been crushed by Roman power, these men were returning home with what seemed like the crushing realization that nothing was going to be different from them the next time around.
Yet as these men were expressing their disappointment in the outcome of holy week, this man who they still didn’t recognize began to point out a few things to them.
How these men were just reinforcing something that had been difficult for centuries in how hard it is for us to believe. How the scriptures declared that the Messiah (the holy one of Israel), the one that they had been waiting had to suffer and die to reconcile God to humanity. This man then took these two disciples aside and began to explain the scriptures to them starting with the Law and the Prophets-Luke 24:27. Jesus began to tie the scriptures together for these two disciples.
So how does one tie the Bible altogether? Joe Burgess is the most brilliant mind that I have ever come across. Joe is considered the foremost Lutheran expert in the Office of the Pope in the world. A generation ago, Joe was part of the International Lutheran-Catholic Dialogues because of it. Joe’s got a PHD in New Testament, and keeps so many books in his house that even his oven is full of books.
Joe wrote an article on how the scriptures all tie together as Jesus explained to the men on the Road to Emmaus in this unrecorded conversation.
I share for you Joe’s thoughts on this day.
1. The New Testament interprets the Old Testament. Earlier I was telling the story about Elisha and the she bears. Many of you probably didn’t know what to make of this story, and that’s intentional. Perhaps a few more details will help bring about understanding. Elisha was being mocked for his religion, by a large number of youth during a great time of religious conflict within the nation of Israel’s history. The group that Elisha had encountered on that day was marching towards the spiritual center of the country the city of Bethel, perhaps to inflict even more damage upon the faith communities. Perhaps God’s action with the she bears was to prevent a far greater spiritual calamity. God’s involvement did not work. Elisha’s people were eventually brutally conquered. Yet God did not stop seeking to bring about reconciliation between him and his people. The thing about so many stories within the Bible is they often don’t make a lot of sense unto themselves; they only begin to make sense in the context of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament interprets the Old Testament because the New Testament is what brings forth cross and resurrection. Our faith is not based on a series of events a complicated puzzle that must be interpreted, our faith is based on one event.
2. The clear interprets the unclear. A while back the Jehovah Witnesses stopped by my house; I tend to engage Bob and Peggy whenever I see them. They start quoting scriptures at me. Yet what I noticed about every scripture verse that they quoted at me was that it was either from the Book of Revelation or the Book of Daniel. I was chuckling under my breath as I watched them seemingly play a game of ping pong between these two books. While these are useful books, they are ultimately not the books which shape our belief system. Due to the fact that oftentimes the world’s brightest Bible scholars can’t agree on their meaning. We must always let the clear promises of scripture; influence how we interpret stuff that is difficult to figure out. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We must never loss sight that the scriptures can only be seen through the lens of the human predicament of sin and how God acted in response.
3. Scripture interprets itself, we have no higher authority. What the scriptures ultimately do in our lives is it reminds us that we do not stand in judgment over them; rather the Bible stands in judgment over us. Scripture points to Christ and Christ gives the scriptures their authority. So how we understand the scriptures. Martin Luther describe the scriptures “the cradle which holds the baby Jesus.” The Bible itself is not our hope; the Bible is rather from where we draw our hope. The Bible is where we hear the great word of God’s love for sinners, where we encounter promise, forgiveness, and salvation.
4. We always need to ask when looking at the scriptures. What drives Christ? Or what promotes Christ? Let me quote a Bible verse for you. 1 Timothy 5:23- The Apostle Paul instructs the Apostle Timothy to “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) Is this wine-drinking advice useful? Perhaps, yet it’s really not that important to our Sunday mornings. Let me now quote another Bible verse Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Are these verses equally important? No. One verse offers debatable advice, where as the other verse issues the promises of heaven. Which of these two verses should have more authority for your life? The verse that speaks to the Bible’s mission and purpose.
5. Scripture can only be interpreted within the Church. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this story from our Gospel lesson is that these men receive the greatest Bible lesson they could ever hope to receive, yet they still don’t recognize Jesus. It is only when they share a meal together later that their eyes were opened. It was only then when they came to realize that there hearts were burning as Christ spoke to them on the Road to Emmaus. Scripture can only really be interpreted inside the Church, because interpreting scripture is not about the brains in your head, it’s rather about the faith that has been created within your heart. Since the scriptures are the vessel by which the Holy Spirit creates faith.
David Zahl who is a blogger for Mockingbird describes having a youth pastor friend who fears giving access to the Bible to his students. This youth pastor fears how too many people approach the Bible. How they see it as nothing more than a set of rules and requirements that they need to abide by, to get in on the right side of heaven.
The Bible breaks down our whole world view that our notions of success and reward aren’t quite right. The scriptures don’t feed us as payment for a hard day's work; rather the scriptures nourish us when we’re famished. The scriptures give us relief, when the world seems to be crashing around us no different then these men on the Road to Emmaus. What’s the scriptures remind us is that our salvation is not an accident.
Around the turn of the 19th Century, there was a German philosopher with perhaps the greatest German name ever in Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. I leave you with Von Goethe’s words this morning “The Bible grows more beautiful, as we grow in our understanding of it.”
The Bible, death, resurrection, forgiveness, and new life for this is the beauty of what Jesus gave these two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Amen
 2 Kings 2:23-24
 American Bible Society and Barna Research Group. “American Bible Society’s State of the Bible 2014”.www.americanbible.org. Web. Apr.29.2014
 Hagen, Kenneth. “The Bible in Churches: How Various Churches intrepret the Scriptures. “ Burgess’s article appears on pages 101-126. The five principals of Lutheran scriptural interpretation occur on pages 115-117. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press. 1994. Print
 John 11:25
 Zahl, David. “Bible Bible on the Wall, Who’s the Fairest of Them All?” Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church. Charlottesville, VA. 28.Apr.2011. Web. Apr.30.2014
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.