1st Scripture Reading: Acts 2: 14a, 36-41 and Psalm 116
“So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.”
The tiny flock of Jesus’ followers was enormously increased in numbers on this day of Pentecost. Times of crisis, times of great, disturbing events, these times tend to grab our attention, don’t they?
Last week’s reading showed how Peter exhorted the crowd to take responsibility for what they had done in crucifying Jesus. Continuing the reading, we hear how the people ask what they can do to make things right – to reduce their level of discomfort – to take from them the guilt that they are feeling. And Peter wastes no time: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Three thousand people turned to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, on that day. Three thousand baptisms! Can you imagine what that must have looked like? We might do one baptism in a year – it’s hard for me to wrap my head around this huge number, and in a very short period of time...
Something special was going on here. Something extraordinary. Maybe even supernatural. As modern Christians many of us resist the mystical or supernatural aspects of our story – of our faith. But most of us will acknowledge that the Jesus event was a powerful moment in our history.
No other spiritual leader of any other faith has so clearly demonstrated the healing power of Love, and given us such powerful tools to replicate the work that he has done. “All these things you shall do and more” Jesus told his followers. And the path he set out is not so arduous that only the elite few can follow it. In fact his intention was not to set up an elite spiritual system that very few would or could master. His intention was to hold all things together in love – to show us all the way out of the dilemma of ignorance and cruelty. Jesus showed us that we can all be part of the solution – that we are indeed already part of the beautiful world that God so loves. That love runs thru all of us, like sap in a tree. We have only to believe.
Hymn #163 MV “River Running in You and Me”
2nd Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-35
A couple of things stick out for me in this reading, the first of which is that at the same time Jesus was appearing to Simon in the locked room, he was walking with two other disciples toward Emmaus, and then eating with them, and then vanishing into thin air!
How much proof do we need? How much proof did Jesus’ followers need – that he was indeed no ordinary man. They had over a period of some think about three years, watched him heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the multitudes and walk on water. He had cast out demons, challenged the religious authorities and predicted the destruction of the temple. I know that didn’t happen right away – but maybe that one was for our benefit!
His coming into the world, his incarnation as a human being, had been predicted thru the ancient scriptures of the Jewish people. They were expecting him – they just didn’t know what that would look like, and their expectations were contaminated and coloured by their cultural context, their oppressed condition under Roman rule, and their spiritual ignorance. We can’t see what we can’t imagine or have no model for. So Jesus “opening of the scriptures” for the disciples on the road to Emmaus opened their minds and hearts to the truth of his divine origin and mission to provide for humanity the model for a different Way – a way based on the Law of Love.
And then he sat down to dinner with them, blessed and broke the bread, gave it to them - and disappeared from their sight!
In wonder they discussed these things, and their hearts burned within them. Hearts so full they could not be alone, they returned to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples what had happened. There they discovered that Jesus had appeared to Simon as well!
The blessing, breaking and offering of the bread are the very elements of the sacrament we now call Holy Communion. Jesus asked them (and us) to remember him in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine. As faithful Christians it is something we do, at least at a Communion Service. But it wasn’t a special, separate event in the day of Jesus – it was at a meal. Could he have meant at every meal? I wonder...
Hymn #480 VU “Let Us Break Bread Together”