In Deed and Word

Welcome to the Knox Talks blog. Here you can find recent and past sermons relating scripture to a wide variety of topics. I would like to thank Shelley Rose for transcribing my notes into text for the blog.

In Deed and Word

Scripture: Luke 24:13-35

The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is one I have enjoyed since childhood.

Part of me wondered deeply why they couldn’t recognize Jesus; were they stupid? I mean, even if they joined the disciples late in the game and never got to see Jesus up close, why didn’t they recognize his voice?

Had the resurrection changed Jesus? Could he morph his new form into other identities either physically or by the power of illusion? [I was a Star Trek fan; I had no trouble imagining this!]

Eventually, I came to realize that the question here is not what concealed Jesus, but what revealed him. The obvious answer is that Jesus was revealed in the breaking of the bread.

People have used this passage to underscore the value of the sacrament of communion as well as the value of gathering as a community to share a common meal.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but I think it’s too narrow an answer. I like language, and it niggled at me that the disciples as they were describing the ministry of Jesus to Jesus himself, described him as a prophet: “Mighty in deed and word”.

The usual expression is “in word and deed” and we can’t dismiss this as a translation anomaly because the familiar phrasing is older than English and it follows the normal logic of Western society: the idea comes first, and then the action. The word happens before the deed.

What the disciples were declaring is that the impact of Jesus came from what he did; His words came second.

As a preacher, someone who deals in words all the time, I might find that message a bit discouraging. But I can’t deny it: the message is underscored by the action of the story itself. Jesus talked to the disciples. They said their hearts burned as they listened but they didn’t recognize him as he spoke. Only when he acted – as soon as he broke the bread – they saw him for who he was.

This morning we at Knox are going to step into the second stage of our process to discover our future as a community of faith. We will be trying to answer the question: “Where is God calling us to go?”

I recommend that we keep in mind the message of today’s gospel lesson.

If part of our calling is to show Christ to others, then we cannot forget the message that Christ is seen in what we do, so much more than in what we say.

We will be choosing words, of course, and those words will try to express the shape of the future to which we are being called. But we must keep in mind that to have a real ministry as God’s people, what we do makes all the difference.

Do we believe that the teachings of Jesus matter? Then how can we live them out in practical ways? When we figure that out, then people will recognize Christ at work in us, then they will see Jesus still active in the world today


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