April 24, 2011

He Opened Their Minds To The Scripture

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”" Luke 24:13-32

This is the passage my pastor preached on today for Easter. He had a good sermon. The focus point or take away is that we are journeying in life just as these two men were walking away from Jerusalem after Christ’s death. They are dejected because their plans that they had are shattered they did not get what they wanted. But Jesus enters the scene and explains to them what has happened and it changes their perspective. The very way they have viewed this episode of Jesus’ death and resurrection has been turned on its head. They have had a paradigm shift. They have not gotten what they wanted which was more than likely a conquering King that would overthrow Rome. Instead they have gotten what they needed. They got a salvational sacrifice in the form of the Lamb of God. Didn’t get what they wanted but when they had it explained to them and communicated in the correct manner they then see and hear what they needed. What God wanted them to have all along. All in all a good sermon. I of course have just encapsulated it in a paragraph. I have done so because there is something more that I walked out of that sanctuary with.

As a courtesy to new members there was something new in the church today. Today there was a signer in the front or a person who communicates to the deaf. Apparently we now have a person that is deaf or hearing impaired in our congregation. As I listen to my pastor I watch with fascination to see how many words I can pick out from the gestures. As a child my best friend had a sister who was hearing impaired and as is often the case, through exposure I picked things up.

I sit and watch the hands move to communicate to the man in the front row. I hear the voice of my pastor over the PA system. I think about the fact that I am in school and translate the Greek text into a language usable to those that read English so that I can better illustrate the “feel”and the “color” behind the Koine Greek of the 1st Century. I hear the pastor use colloquialisms and wonder..."what is the signer actually saying to the man as she communicates the pastor’s message?” I am not totally sure but I am pretty sure that there is no direct translation of “boondoggled” in sign language. So how was it translated? Is it true to the context of the message? Is it true to the intent of the pastor? Does it really matter? Does the joy and emphatic nature of my pastor translate through the signer like I am hearing it? How the pastor delivers often time puts the liveliness back into God’s word because, after all, he his translating and trying to explain a text over 2000 years old. He is trying to contemporize it in a manner that people in 2011 will understand it…exactly the same way that the men on the road to Emmaus would’ve understood it when Jesus told them. So that our hearts would burn within us also.

Then I think to the message itself. God had done something so mind-boggling for humanity that even those close to Christ couldn’t figure out on their own, they had to have it explained to them… by the very God man that had to endure it first hand to make it happen. It is only through the act of translating the idea in words by the very person that endured these travails that it makes sense to them. It is the power of the Word. It is the power of God’s Word, the power of God’s spoken word…or perhaps not spoken. Perhaps communicated and expounded upon until the moment of recognition sparks in another person. Isn’t that what the Gospels about? Communicating the message until another party “gets it”? To use any method necessary to get the point across? We do it for our children. We will bend over backwards to assure that our children are exposed and explained the Gospel as young as possible. Why? Because we want them brainwashed as early as possible? NO! It is because the message we are sending is that important! It is the Good News. The blessed hope. As for our behaviors, as Christians we do things within communities because we love our neighbors. But others see the things we do…and this too sends a message.

Soooo…. I hear the pastor explain the passage to the congregation. I sit watching the silent exchange between the “signer/speaker/translator” and the “listener”. It is then that all of this starts to click into place and I begin to “get it” more than I had anticipated or prepared for.

Jesus explains the Gospel, from Moses to the Prophets and at some point Cleopas and the other man walking with Jesus “get it”. At some point I hear my pastor and I “get in” too. Same message, same God. Different words, different vehicle for delivering the words. Although the words are delivered on different dates, to different people it communicates the same hope and same joy. It is the idea we communicate and we do it any way we can because the message is that important.

The pastor explains the Scripture to the entire congregation just as Jesus explains things to our ancient friends that are sixty stadia (7 mile) from Jerusalem. What do these men do as soon as they “get it” These men immediately turn and go back Jerusalem to tell others. The word of this is too important to keep to themselves.

“They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.” Luke 24:33-35

Back to modern day...
The signer having heard the pastor explains or translates this message and what the pastor meant to convey to the congregation...and to a man who cannot hear or understand the pastor directly since there is a seperation

The message of the Road to Emmaus has transcended death in Christ to be explained to two men walking on a dusty road leaving Jerusalem. The message or story of these men and Jesus has transcended the intervening centuries and millennia to reach the eyes and ears of my pastor and his listeners. The message has transcended all the intervening sin of both senders and receivers of the message to arrive at Northpointe Community Church on Easter April 24th, 2011. Once it arrives here it then transcends the barrier in place due to a man’s hearing impairment. It jumps from the verbal and audible to silence and gesticulation…yet it is still “heard”.

It is the belief of the men in the story that drive the story forward. The belief in Christ. It is the belief of my pastor and his conviction that creates a contemporized version of this story simplified enough that all in attendance could understand. It is the belief of the signer and the deaf man that have them seated in that service at that time. It is the belief of the signer that puts her hands into motion. It is the belief and desire of this man who cannot hear that makes him fixate on this woman’s gesticulations so that he can “hear” this message…and believe.

I wonder how far this deaf man will now travel to “speak” and "communicate” this message to others. I wonder what form of communication it will be. Will it be signed or will it be typed like I type to you now? You read these words and you hear them (in your head) yet I have“said” nothing aloud. These words speak for themselves. Even If I said nothing of the Lord…the stones would cry out. Perhaps this is kind of what Jesus meant when he speaks of keeping the disciples silent in Luke 19:40?

The Word will find a way, it always does. The Word will be heard one way or another. I saw the Word today and when I saw it I heard it too. It was my heart that did the listening. I saw the Word of God in that signers hands and I believed...

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