Luke 24: 36b-48
In 1991 the world held its breath. In response to the Iraqi war machine, led by Saddam Husain attacking their neighbor Kuwait, a flotilla of war ships of all the allied nations sailed towards the Middle East.
I remember walking down Rundle Mall, and on a giant TV screen was a countdown clock that showed that the allied forces would reach their destination in 23 hours and 49 minutes. A doomsday clock. This was the Cuban missile crisis of my time.
History shows that the allied forces led by General Norman Schwarzkopf were successful in repelling the Iraqi forces and restoring Kuwait’s sovereignty.
Returning to a hero’s welcome in his native homeland in the United States, the General was asked if there were times in the heat of the battle when he was unsure of what to do.
His answer was honest and forthright: “Yes, and in those instances I referred to article fourteen of the Pentagon leadership manual” and went on to explain one of those situations.
His declaration struck me, but the more I thought about the more it, the more it made sense as I remembered the term “The fog of War”.
A term that encaptures how in the ills of warfare things become confusing. Right from wrong, who’s doing what, indeed what the fight is about can become cloudy.
That he took this manual, this blue print with him into battle then made sense. It was a blue print that in his time of need, would give him clear vision, get him back to basics, and enable him to take that step back to re-access and check that he is still on the right path. A blue print put together from the knowledge of those that went before him, those involved in great victories at the cost of great sacrifice.
In our Gospel today, Jesus’ gives us our blueprint for life as a Christian.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the unblemished lamb. The sinless one who gave himself so that we may have life. Our greatest victory, coming at the cost of his great sacrifice. The divine Son of God, yet born of flesh and blood. Who felt pain and hunger, was tempted, ridiculed and beaten.
Jesus knows the periless journey we are on, because he was walked it.
In our Gospel Jesus is talking to his disciples, not supermen but normal people. People that Jesus knew in their Christian walk would be subjected to all the perils of the world, its trappings and seductiveness, and he gives them, gives us our blueprint for living life as a Christian.
A blueprint that seems foolishness to those without faith, but to those with the gift of faith, know it to be true. It is both reassuring and logical, and indeed Jesus backs up his statements with logic. Jesus appears to the disciples who are wondering in “their fog” of confusion, fear and doubts to confirm his resurrection saying “Peace be with you”.
But they are startled and unsure. So what just Jesus do, he proves it’s him. “See my hands and feet, that it is myself. Touch me and see” and to offer final evidence for their benefit of his risen body, eats food.
Yes it’s him. (and) yet again, Jesus confirms what he has been saying from the start, that now they may fully understand. “These are the words that I spoke with you while I was with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead and that repentance and forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations. You are the witness of these things”
There’s our blueprint. Christ has come and he has brought forgiveness. He has brought forgiveness to you. Believe it, live in that Grace-Joyously as a witness to it. Jesus came to the disciples when they were in fear, confused, still wondering in the fog. Jesus came to us-still comes to us and lifts the fog so that we can see.
We only need rely on and trust in God alone, in faith we know this. This is a basic tenet of our faith and if I was explaining Christianity to one of my enquiring friends, this would be in the mix early in the discussion.
Through the eyes of faith this seems straightforward. So straightforward that we may even wonder why Jesus needs to remind us this. But Jesus clearly puts this in our Christian life blueprint because he knows the perils we face.
He gives us this truth and assurance so that we can return to it when things start to blur, when right from wrong and the direction of our lives start to get foggy. He gives us these truths in love for those times when we don’t heed his opening words “Peace be with you”.
Jesus knows the dangers we face, whether it be the anxiousness of the poor, or in the possessions of the rich: The dangers that are placed before us that we take our eye off Christ-in his peace.
The trappings of today’s world, are our apple in the Garden of Eden or our golden calf threatening to keep us from the promised land.
The devil tempts:
That looks nice, you deserve it, because you have worked so hard, it is your right to have these things, because you mastered your own destiny. It will bring you happiness. He tempts with the hope that these things will compete with God for our allegiance.
That they may become our God and destroy our relationship with the Father. It is a cunning trick. Every day we are constantly bombarded by the culture of our day and its advertisements to rely on ourselves.
The world seduces our eyes to goals that will advance our lives, we are taught incessantly to give ourselves to the pursuit of mammon. To the pursuit of success so that we can live our lives happily and free of anxiety.
But the more things we have, the more we want, and the more we fear their loss, We don’t find peace but anxiousness and worry. If we get caught up in this, it is like boarding a train that get’s faster and faster until it’s a runaway heading towards a cliff where the bridge is out.
It is a periless road to nowhere that can be hard to get off. Things start to blur, right from wrong, the direction and meaning life become foggy.
We need to ask ourselves, are we only serving God the Father, or we unwittingly sharing him with other things. Things that creep up to become idols and threaten to displace God altogether.
This is why Jesus has given us this blue print, so we can return to it when the fog of our world and its consumerism blur our Christian lives.
When worldly things becomes part of our core fabric, become part of us to the point where we can understand James Blunt when he sings “How I wish I could surrender my soul and shed these cloths that have become my skin”
Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also”
Where are our hearts, yours and mine? Are our priorities out of whack? Do we serve God alone, the only God that gives life, or share him idols, money, addictions and ego’s that promise much but threaten spiritual destruction?
Where are we at?
This same question could be asked of the church. We hear people arguing “The church is not relevant to today’s society, it must change”
Not relevant, have a look at our society-I cannot think of a time where the church could be more relevant because I cannot think of a time were Christ’s undiluted promises and teachings could be more required. The fog is descending. In our world the lines are getting blurred. What is right and wrong? Is it what God says or society says?
Yes, Jesus knew our path would be periless and so he gave us this blue print to refer to. A blue print that is like looking into a mirror that shows us if we’ve been seduced and tricked into serving things other than God.
When the port Adelaide football Club joined the AFL, I remember watching the footy show, and having looked at their team, a team that on paper did not impress Sam Newman to the point that he remarked
“I honestly don’t think they will win a game”.
But six weeks later, Essendon great Tim Watson wrote that I don’t care who you barrack for, you cannot but admire these players.
What they lack in, they make up for with passion, commitment and bravery. Yet the next year, comparatively was a shocker and I said to my friend, I reckon someone’s told them how good they are
and I think they believed it. Because, they seemed to have stopped doing what had actually been behind their success, their passion, commitment and bravery and started relying on their skills. They got ahead of themselves.
Like Christians can get ahead of themselves, and become more reliant on themselves, and less on God.
So how does one get off this train to nowhere?
On our own we cannot. Just as the Holy Spirit brought us the gift of faith to our hearts and minds, so too does the Holy Spirit bring us the desire to live as a child of God, to turn our hearts and minds towards our Father and to rely on His promises and of the salvation given to us in Jesus.
The Lord does not offer grace like a salesman who says take this offer now or miss out because I won’t be offering it again this price. The Lord offers grace upon grace. Like to the fearing disciples, he meets us where we are at and brings us his love and gifts when we need them most yet deserve them least.
He turns our heart, gives us faith to understand that God can, and will supply not just our spiritual needs, but also our physical needs. We need not worry of these things. Gives us faith that knows God does and will provide us with food, clothing, shelter and life. With peace.
The same faith that is nurtured and brought spiritual food from the body and blood of our Saviour in Holy Communion.
Faith that accepts to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness.
Faith that gives us shelter in the Word of God, in Jesus and his Church.
Faith that knows we are given life in Baptism.
Faith that’s believes and clings to Christ’s words in Romans: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one”.
Jesus has appeared to us carrying the visible marks of his crucifixion. Marks that show his victory of life over death that the wounds of our hearts might be healed.
That we will be his witness. Amen.