An Eye-Opening Moment

Eyes open and not being able to see...not that their vision was gone, but that they just didn't see things that were plainly before them. This was the case for those disciples who were on the road to Emmaus. And perhaps their vision was clouded because they indeed had just witnessed that Jesus had been crucified and buried. He was gone. That which was rational told them that he would not be back. They had no expectation. And their grief, in a sense, was an eye-opening experience that later blinded them to some of that which they knew and were taught but could not hold onto or at least recall in those moments when they met the risen Christ walking on that road to Emmaus.

Like the disciples, we too know eye-opening moments in life that are often paralyzing to us in unimaginable ways. This week with the sudden and tragic death of one of our members, our eyes have been made wide open unexpectedly. His departure has brought much grief to his family and to all of us as our hearts are saddened just a week and a half after the sudden loss of another of our members as well. And our eyes are opened by grief. But in the midst of our grief and our pain, as we walk through life on our Emmaus Road, perhaps we too have a hard time holding onto those things and tenets which Christ taught to us, that he will be present with us and that he will see us again. Those disciples walking with him, their eyes were never really fully opened even though Jesus himself was explaining the Scriptures about him to them quite literally. And so you can see how even we would have a difficult time, not having Jesus here to explain everything to us, how it is that we can get through some of these wide-eye-opening experiences that tend to knock us down and hold us back. So we can identify.

But in those moments, we too have those words rolling around in the back of our heads in the promises that he will be with us. And even though they don't see Jesus face to face, and even though he opens the Scriptures to them, the moment comes when their hearts and their eyes are open again. And that moment came when Jesus performed in front of them a ritual that they knew very well, a sacrament given from God, the breaking of the bread and the raising of the cup. In that moment of a divine gift given to us by our Savior, their eyes that had been blind to who it was that was standing before them were finally opened up. The power of that sacrament, the power of that ritual is something that was needed for them to be able to see, with all the hope and promises that they had been given, and their eyes were opened up.

So too it is for us in the church in the visual seeing and participating in the sacraments of the church, the power of celebrating Christ's supper opens our eyes and our hearts in a way that is different from the reality that we know all too well every day in life. As members in the body of Christ, when we gather and celebrate those sacraments of Communion and Baptism, our hearts are opened, our spirits are renewed, and it is the place where healing begins. It is the place where we understand that God is with us and that all these things that Christ has promised to us are trustworthy and true. It is the place where ministry begins to happen with us and in us.

These rituals of the church that we call our sacraments, divinely given to us, are a necessary and good thing. In baptism, whether we sprinkle or immerse, it is baptism, the awakening and conferring of the Spirit to be with those who wish to be part of God's family. And it is a celebration in the church, a very powerful moment. I have the benefit of seeing parents and family cry while a baptism is occurring. Most of you are looking up here, but I get to see grandparents and people in the pews and how they are touched by this and how their eyes are opened to God's ways, God's grace, God's glory, God's love, and the presence of the Spirit, and it's a humbling thing for me and a transforming thing for me to witness.

And so too in Communion, I sometimes see transference of the Spirit and the awakening and inspiration that God can give. It sometimes comes through the pew Communion that we do, but often too it comes from Communion at the rail when we come forward to receive from Christ. Transforming and powerful moments in ministry.

In seminary we debated the sacraments, the validity of them, what was their proper place. Was it something that had to be done exactly the way it's been done for a couple of thousand years or was it okay to write up our own types of services to something that was reflective of the community of faith? And we argued those out for quite some time, never coming to some real answer on that. But realizing in the power of these sacraments and ritual that God has given us, those events helped make faith real for us because there will be times in our life and in our journey of faith when our eyes are opened so widely by things that are difficult that it is hard for us to remember the things that we have been taught and the things that we have embraced in the promises of God and the promises of Christ. And so these sacraments help refocus us, not just as people, but as spiritual beings, people with a life and a spirit given by God for us to enjoy this life, but to share the joy of life with others as well.

So today we will celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion. And whether or not we all have the same stance on exactly what is happening in the moment of this divine mystery that is given to us, we can sense God's presence and our eyes will be opened again to God's glorious and divine ways, and to Christ's promises and willingness to do all that was necessary so that we too would know grace and God's love in our lives. In a way, having these sacraments are a miracle for us because we are a visual people who, through practice, have our lives changed. And so in the receiving of Holy Communion today, it is my hope and prayer that all of us will have another one of those transforming moments of the Spirit, with our eyes opened up to God's ways, with our eyes opened again to all of God's promises in Christ.

Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve