Please join us for our April 26th Worship Service! You can reach the service on YouTube by clicking the following link: https://youtu.be/RKp1iNXbCGo
April 26, 2020 [White or Gold]
Third Sunday of Easter
The divine presence through the means of grace
How to connect with God
When my mom returned to her country, I gave her a photo album because I knew she would really miss her life along with us something terrible. You know, photos help us to remember the story of our lives together. One day she told me on the phone that every night she looked at all the photos of our cat Mimi. (When she was here, we adopted her into our family; Mimi is her granddaughter) While looking at her photos, she feels like Mimi is there with her. Whenever she misses her, she looks at her photos and soothes her longing heart. It seems like the photos are a kind of instrument or means that helps her to connect with Mimi.
Have you ever missed God? This question means that you leave God or God leaves you. But this question doesn’t sound right, because the Bible says God is everywhere in our lives and in our world. But it is true that we sometimes feel God is nowhere in our lives or is far away from us. It is only because we can’t see God just like we see people face to face.
So when you want to see God or feel God’s presence in your lives, what do you do? Where do you find him? Just as my mom looks at all the photos of Mimi whenever she wants to see her, do you also look at a cross or portrait of Jesus? Do those icons or decorations really help you to feel God’s presence in your life? What are the instruments or means that help you to connect with the invisible God who is always present in your lives?
Today’s Gospel reading is a story of how the hidden God reveals himself. I am sure that you have heard sermons based on what happened on the road to Emmaus, although not from me! But it is a story worth repeating again and again because it gives us confidence of God’s presence in our lives. Let me give you a quick review of this passage.
The means of God’s grace
In the passage, we meet the two discouraged disciples walking sadly on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. They were heading home with crushed dreams and lost hopes. As they journeyed, surprisingly the risen Jesus came near and walked with them. But more surprisingly, they didn’t recognize it was their master Jesus whom they had loved and followed during his public ministry. He even conducted a kind of Bible study with them, and they felt their hearts were burning inside when he explained the Scriptures to them. But they were still deaf and blind to his presence and they didn’t recognize him.
When the day was almost over, they had to stay in a village for the night. Inside the inn, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. When they received it, their eyes were opened and they finally recognized him. But soon afterward he vanished from their sight again. Once they experienced his resurrection, they got up and returned to Jerusalem to proclaim to their friends, “The Lord has risen” (v. 34).
This story happened 2,000 years ago, but this is our own story of today. Sometimes we happen to walk along the road to our own Emmaus with a broken or anxious heart. We forget all the powers and grace of God and are left alone to ponder “why me?” or “why this?” But then God comes into our broken heart, and we experience his grace and then start over with hope and confidence.
But the question is, how can we recognize this invisible God’s presence in our lives, so that we may experience conversion or life-change? Over the past two weeks, we learned how and where people found the risen Christ. On Easter Sunday, we saw Mary Magdalene find the risen Christ at the empty tomb and last Sunday we saw the disciples find the risen Christ when they were crouching in their dark room. But today’s passage gives us another lesson on how to meet the risen Christ. Unlike their experiences the two disciples walking on the road found him when they participated in the Holy Communion.
What they experienced 2,000 years ago is our own experience in our faith’s journey. We believe the church is the body of Christ where we receive God’s grace. But when we come to the church and just sit in the sanctuary, we don’t feel God’s power and grace until we participate in worship and ministry.
Back to today’s Gospel lesson. The two discouraged disciples were with the risen Christ – they were sitting in the church in terms of our belief. But they still didn’t recognize him among them until they participated in the Communion he presided over for them. This story teaches us that when we attend the “means of grace,” we can meet God who is always present in our lives. In other words, the means of grace is the way we encounter God and God shows his revelation to us.
Sometimes I meet people who believe that God is everywhere. They usually consider themselves spiritual but not religious. These spiritual people say that they can see God’s glory in the sunset; they can hear God’s voice in bird’s singing; they can see God in a little baby’s face. Great, so do I because I also truly believe God is everywhere in our lives and in our world.
Yet I want to ask them this question, “Do you see God everywhere in nature and worship the Lord through all creatures? Very good. But how about in the face of cancer? Cancer is nature too. Why are you afraid of this coronavirus? It also comes from nature and God is there too. Why can’t you find hope, joy, and peace when you go through a dark valley? The dark valley is also nature and God is there too. Back to the Gospel story, “The road to Emmaus” the two disciples were walking on is part of nature and the risen Christ was indeed there among them. But why couldn’t they recognize him on the road?
It’s true that God is everywhere in this world, but this story teaches us that we still have to participate in the means of grace if we really want to experience God’s presence. Based on their experience, I want to encourage you to diligently join our worship service, Holy Communion, Bible class, and prayer chain ministry in which our Lord is present to meet all of us, touch us, heal us, and give us power and grace.
“We can’t get access to the means of grace because we can’t come to the church these days?” I can hear your argument. Surely, the church is the sign of the body of Christ and it is the means of grace. But God is not only in the church but everywhere in our lives and in our world. The two disciples met the risen Christ on the road, not in the temple, and they had a bible study on the road, they prayed to God on the road, they worshiped the Lord on the road, they experienced conversation in their hearts on the road, not in the temple.
God is everywhere, which means grace is also given everywhere we live. God is there in your homes among your families. God is there when you pray with your family and worship the Lord through this on-line service. Wherever you are, you worship the Lord, and you will be connected with God. And I can imagine that when we are able to come back to our church, you will be so delighted to witness to how God has blessed you, just like those two disciples who came back to Jerusalem after they experienced the risen Christ on their journey.
The unseen companion
After 2000 years, the God of Emmaus is still among us when our days are over and darkness approaches us. Jesus our Lord comes in our brokenness to walk with us, listen to us, and talk with us. But he comes as “the unseen companion” and we have to strive to find him.
How and where can we find him? The Lord of resurrection can be found when we participate in the means of grace that is present in our everyday life. As long as we pray, listen to the Scriptures and meditate on it, gather in Jesus’ name, and share our fellowship with one another, God will be delighted to show his power and grace and transform us to new creations. Amen.