Each of us, in our lives, experience what you might call defining moments. Some of these moments are profound, and some may be quite profane. Some of them are so mundane that we only catch them in hindsight – like a smile on a bad day, or even the recognition that something you thought went well was deeply flawed. Defining moments are particular experiences that color your perception of the world. They may even change the way you think and feel about the person closest to you – the one you see in the mirror.
For something to truly be a defining moment, it needs to do one of two things. It will either transform what you think, feel, and believe, or it will confirm what you think, feel, and believe. And often times, when something truly affects our perception of the world around us, the first thing we want to do is to share it with someone else. Usually we want to share it with someone that we think will agree or at least appreciate what we have been through.
Of course nowadays people share just about anything and everything over the internet. Advertisers are taking advantage of this with what is becoming one of my new pet peeves – the unclear referent. The headline reads, “These people were on vacation, and then THIS happened…” The image shows a beach scene with two people in the water and a massive shark about 30 yards away. Well of course I’m gonna click on that! These people are about to have a defining moment, and no matter what happens it will confirm what I believe about sharks!
Unfortunately, I think that is the way many of us approach life. It is much harder to seek out an experience that is transformative than it is to seek out experiences that confirm what we already believe to be true.
Fortunately, for us, the Easter event brings both. I don’t mean today’s worship service – well, at least not exclusively. I mean the real event. I mean the Jesus event. I mean the self-revelation of God that we may experience through the person, work, and resurrection of Jesus!
The Jesus event and the experience of God’s presence through him is, was, and will continue to be something that transforms the created order of things! That’s why we celebrate and sing, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today!” This event is a touchstone to help us remember what God has done for us, and it gives us a foundation to stand on. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, salvation through Jesus Christ is “the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved.”
I love it that Paul says, “you are being saved.” It reminds me that I am moving toward something greater. More importantly, it reminds me that we are moving toward something greater, because he did not write this to an individual. He wrote it to a community of believers.
At the same time, I must admit that today’s readings make me a little envious. Paul talks about the eyewitnesses that can verify his words, and even includes himself in the crowd of those that have seen Jesus after the resurrection. The disciples were able to walk and talk with the risen Christ. They even fed him dinner! And he interpreted the scriptures for them. He opened their minds, and he did it at least twice – once on the road to Emmaus, and then again in Jerusalem.
I think that experience might still hold the key to our understanding of God’s activity in our midst. We don’t really know why the two disciples were heading to Emmaus, but it seems to me that these were probably two of the disciples that heard the story of the women at the tomb and “thought it was an idle tale.” Their hopes were dashed. They had hoped Jesus would be the Messiah, the one to redeem Israel.
And Jesus tells them – just as he tells the rest of the disciples – that he is the one anticipated by the prophets, but he is not just here to redeem Israel. After he broke the bread their eyes were open, and then he was gone. “Oh, weren’t our hearts burning?” they said. Notice that they don’t say, “Where’d he go?” They get up immediately to go share their story with the others. And in the sharing they find both confirmation and transformation.
And so do we – even here and even now. We come from a tradition that believes in constant reformation in accordance with the word of God. And the resurrection event itself calls us to expect two things. One is that the pain and suffering of this life is a part of a greater transformation, and the other is that whatever this world can throw at us is not the final word. Life is more than the events of our days. Resurrection life is filled with a deep and abiding experience of a pervasive force that calls us into community and sends us out to be with the lonely, the lost, and the vulnerable.
That sounds like a pretty tall order, and it is. But it might just be as simple as paying attention to the way in which your heart burns inside of you in the presence of Jesus. There’s a boy named Christian who gets this. He’s a First Grader, and you might have heard of him. His dad was expecting to be deployed to Germany, and they were looking at schools on line. He saw a bench on a playground that was designated for kids that had trouble finding someone to play with. When his dad ended up staying stateside, Christian began to notice that there were some kids at this school that seemed to have trouble making friends at recess. So, he went to his principle to ask if they could put in a “Buddy Bench” for kids that were feeling left out. Christian gave a presentation to the school board, too!
Maybe that seems like too small a thing in light of the resurrection of Jesus, but I think it is exactly the kind of thing that we do as the church of Jesus Christ. We make sure that people know that they are not alone. We can’t fix every problem, but we can be like Christian. We can make sure people know that they matter. And it starts right here, right now, with you and me gathered around the table of the risen Christ. Let our eyes be opened with the breaking of the bread, and let our lives be transformed again and again by the sharing of what we know to be true – that Jesus died so that we might know of God’s undying love and mercy. That is our defining moment, and to God be the glory. Amen!