House Calls: Appetizers and the Apocalypse

A new effort to understanding the apocalyptic tradition of the Bible and what it means to us, through a fresh look at the book of Revelation, will be offered:

Monday, April 11, 7 to 9 pm- Lincoln Center area
Sunday, April 17, 5 to 7 pm – Riverdale, Bronx
Saturday, April 23, 5 to 7 pm- Upper West Side
Sunday, May 1, 5 to 7 pm- Upper West Side
Monday, May 2, 7 to 9 pm- Greenwich Village

Led by K Karpen.

To sign up or for more information: lea@stpaulandstandrew.org or Contact Us

On the Road Again

On the road again, when Jesus comes he’s on the road again
Don’t you know he’s quoting scriptures to his friends
How I wish I was on the road with them

Listen the recording…the next best thing to being there!

I’m glad to see you today! I’m glad to see anybody today.  I feel bad for the couple of hundred folks who were here last Sunday but couldn’t make it today because, for me, this story, the story of the encounter on the Emmaus Road, is the story of Easter.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the story of the empty tomb.  But the empty tomb is – empty.  As the two shimmering men tell the women, “There’s nothing to see here.”

Easter for me doesn’t come from an empty tomb.  It comes from a risen Christ. And we don’t find the risen Christ in an empty tomb.  We find the risen Christ on the road. And we find the risen where we live. And we find the risen Christ in the breaking of bread.  Or maybe he finds us.

This Easter story starts Easter evening with a discouraging walk.  It’s getting late and this couple is ready to pack it in.  These two, possibly husband and wife, or two people who live together in any case, are heading for home.   And they’re not happy.  They are leaving Jerusalem. But they’ll be back.  Because sometimes you need to strike off in one direction to find in order to go where you need to go.

Of course they don’t see that at the time.

The other day the #1 train wasn’t stopping at 86th Street.  And of course it was rush hour.  And of course there were tons of frustrated people waiting on the platform for a train that wasn’t coming.

Fortunately a handy announcement came on, pointing out that the #1 was running fine uptown.  That didn’t make anyone happy, exactly, but at least folks could head up to 96th and catch the express downtown.

The Cleopas and his partner are having a similar kind of day, but worse.

I don’t know why they don’t just stay in Jerusalem.  Maybe they’re afraid, it’s not a good time to be a Jesus follower in Jerusalem.  Maybe they’re just weary and disappointed and discouraged.  But as the day wears on they head for Emmaus.

Nobody can agree on exactly where Emmaus was, most likely it was about 7 miles west of Jerusalem, and I can picture the two of them setting off with the sun in their eyes, casting long shadows behind them, the earth darkening around them.  They can’t see much of anything, including a future that makes any sense.  And the last thing they expect to find is a risen Jesus.

But they encounter the risen Jesus, and they find him in three places: first they encounter him on the road again, walking the dusty grimy roads they shared when he was teaching them, chiding them, prodding them.  The roads he walked to heal people and help people and feed people.  Second, they encounter him as they invite him into their homes and into their lives.  And third, they encounter him in the breaking of the bread.

I point these three ways out to you because, in my experience, those are the ways we also encounter Christ in our lives.  Or can.

First, he’s on the road.  Cleopas and his partner are walking  along and they are met by a stranger. And this stranger seems lost, and this stranger seems completely out of it.  They can’t believe how out of it he seems.

This strange, out of it stranger asks them what they’re talking about. And they start to tell him about Jesus, their hopes for him, the way he was mistreated and abused and killed.  They’re open to this stranger, even though they don’t know who he is.

There’s a strange thing about the word for stranger in Greek, xenos, like our word xenophobia, fear of strangers.  That’s a word we’re had to hear and to use too often in the past year, as our presidential campaign has heated up.  But xenos can also mean guest.  That makes sense if you understand the hospitality codes of the eastern Mediterranean and the ancient Near East.  A stranger can easily become your guest.  But the word xenos can also mean host.  And in this case, as we’ll see, this stranger they meet on the road will end up first as their guest, and finally as their host.

 

Second, they encounter Jesus in their lives. The night is coming on, and so Cleopas and his partner invite this stranger to come home with them, they invite him into their lives.  Why do they do that?  Well, like I said, it’s what you did in that time and place.  Their new companion is not a stranger, not anymore.  And a companion is, literally, someone you share bread with.

Which brings us to the third way they encounter Jesus, in the breaking of the bread. And that’s the way they finally figure out that he’s who he is.

I wonder about that.  Is there something about the way he handles that loaf of bread that makes them see what they didn’t see before?  Had this couple been present at the Last Supper, playing guests to his host?

 

And their hearts start to burn and they start to say, “You were always on my mind, you were always on my mind.”  And he’s gone.  He’s gone.  But he stays with them.  They’re on fire!  No heart strangely warmed for them, their hearts are burning with passion for this one who means everything to them. This one who has been revealed to them in an apocalyptic burst of insight. And, reveling in this revelation, late as it is, dark as it is, dangerous as it undoubtedly is, they go rushing back to Jerusalem with news to share.  Good news to share.  And they find other people just as anxious to share their good news.

Okay, good for Cleopas and Ms. Cleopas or Mr. Cleopas.

What’s it mean for me? What’s it mean for you?  Why should we care?

Here’s the thing.  The Christ who was there for them is here for us.  You’ll see him on the street, looking lost, looking out of it.  You may not recognize him or her as Jesus, but guess what.

You’ll see him in your life, if you make space for him to be there with you. Not if you don’t, if there’s too much going on already for him to be invited to be part of it.

And you’ll see him here, in the breaking of this bread, as we remember him, as we put him back together and take him in.  That’s why we do this.

Do this, and remember me.

Where are you going to meet Christ?

What are you going to do to remember Jesus.

On the road again, when Jesus comes he’s on the road again

Don’t you know he’s quoting scriptures to his friends

How I wish I was on the road with them

Present Through the Promise Podcast

From the fig tree learn this lesson: as soon as its branches become tender and starts putting out leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see certain signs taking place, you know that the Son of Man is near, at the very gates…”  Mark 13: 28-29

Listen to the Sermon:

Download the sermon (mp3)
Preached November 30, 2014 by K Karpen

‘Twas the day after Thanksgiving, and it was time to drive my mom back home to Long Island.  So I got the car at the garage, in order to head back to my house and pick her up. Continue reading

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Faith Like That

By K Karpen  Church of St Paul and St Andrew
New York CityJune 2, 2013

Audio – mp3. Download or listen!

   Luke 7:1-10 After Jesus had finished all these sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.  A centurion there had a servant whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death.  When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some of the Jewish elders to Jesus, asking him to come and heal his servant.

 When they came to Jesus they appealed to him earnestly, saying, He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.

 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you.  But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For like you I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, Go, and he goes, and to another, Come, and he comes, and to my servant Do this, and the servant does it.”

 When Jesus heard him say this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like that.”

When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health.”     Luke 7:1-10

Not even in Israel have I found faith like that.”

The other day a fifteen year old person who lives in my house asked me, Do you believe in God?” I stopped for a few seconds before saying anything.

I hesitated for a lot of reasons, I think.  First, believing in God isn’t something I think about very much, it’s just something I do.  Second, I thought, this person who lives with me sees me every day; don’t I act like I believe in God?  Third, I’m a preacher.  I get paid to believe in God.  Fourth, given all of the above, I didn’t want to give an automatic or thoughtless answer to what I took to be a very serious question.

So after a moment I said, Yes.”  a one word answer that was better in my mind than a lot of extra words that might offer more explanation but less clarity.

And then she responded with a one word follow-up question: Why?”

A one word answer, was the first thing that came to my mind, Experience,” I said.  So far we’re having a very short conversation! But before she could hit me with another query, I added, I don’t know what I would think or believe, if I didn’t ever experience God.”

 

And that’s true.  I’ve read the Bible, I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve had a lot of conversations, but I without experiences, some strange, some probably typical, I doubt any of that would matter too much.

I don’t think any words about God would make me care about God in the absence of a relationship, without the give and take of prayer, without random moments of inspiration (which literally means feeling ‘filled with spirit’).  I doubt I would want to spend much time in worship if the experience of worship didn’t so often take me deeper into a feeling of relatedness and connectedness with God and God’s people.

But I have those experiences, not always all the time, but ‘here and there, now and then’, as Frederick Buechner puts it. I get glimpses of who God is for me.  And you have had those experiences too, I think, sometimes realized, sometimes maybe not.

So all that, I suppose, is the Why of my belief in God, but I think a more interesting question is How do we believe in God.  And that gets to the matter of faith.

Belief may be part of faith, but it’s only a small part, and it’s not the most interesting part.  I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, which I do, but it doesn’t change my life very much.

Some of you believe in stranger things than that.  Like the Mets; which ok, got a little easier this past week.  But believing in the Mets may not change your life very much.

Belief involves more than simply assenting to a set of suppositions.  But faith is much more than that, much more than merely belief.  It’s a way of living, in relationship with God and God’s people.

A belief may be something you think.  Faith is something you do.

John Wesley puts it like this, Faith that does no work is an idle, barren, dead faith.  It is no faith at all.”  Faith is what you do.  Faith is how you live.  In trust and confidence in God, not just belief in some Godlike abstraction.  Faith is what you do in love.

Which brings us to today’s story.  Just before this, Jesus has come down from a high hill where he’s gone to pray, and in the level place below, he finds a big crowd waiting for him.  And he teaches them a lot of different things.

In today’s story, Jesus leaves that place and goes to the village of Capernaum, which is as much of a home base as he has.  And he is barely in the village when this centurion sends a group of Jewish elders to contact Jesus.

This is an unusual centurion.  A centurion in Roman military tradition is a commander of a group of 100 soldiers.  And, as symbols of the occupying Roman army, they were not well loved.  But this one was, and you can see it right away.

First, he has a servant, literally a slave, who he cares about a great deal.  Second, he cares about the people he’s living with, to the extent of building them a house of worship, though they worship a God he doesn’t.

You could maybe picture a Christian American marine captain in Afghanistan with enough sensitivity to agonize over the local person who cleans the barracks, or paying to build a mosque for the village the captain is stationed in.  But that might be a very unusual person.

But there are two more unusual things about this Roman centurion. The first is his humility, which combines with his sensitivity and leads him to send people to plead with Jesus to not come to him, saying I am not worthy to have you come to my house.”  Roman centurions had many interesting characteristics, but I can’t imagine that humility was a very common one.

But the amazing thing to Jesus about this centurion is his faith.  His message to Jesus is this, Like you, I am a person under authority, and I have people serving under me.  And I say Go and they go, and I say Come and they come.  And I tell a servant Do this, and it’s done.  Just say the word and my servant will be well.”

And when he hears that, Jesus is amazed.

Not that many things amaze Jesus.  But faith like that amazes Jesus.  To rely utterly.  To trust completely.  And to act accordingly.

This man, who was of some other religion or no religion, has more faith than anyone Jesus has ever met.  Somehow, some way, somewhere, he had learned to rely on God, and that reliance leads him to know he can rely on Jesus.

How it would be to have faith like that!

To rely utterly.  To trust completely.  And to act accordingly.

Our faith is a journey.  It more a verb than a noun.  It is not something we can possess; it is a way we can live.

Faith does not cause religious practice, although religious practice can lead to faith.  It is an openness to the reality of God.  Not believing in some fantasy but being open to something fantastic.  Faith is the willingness to experience the reality of God through our relationship with God and people who love God.  To trust that God completely, utterly, and unceasingly. And to act accordingly.

How it would be to have faith like that.

Pray with me.  Come, spirit come.  Fill our souls with a faithful yearning for you.  Let who you are stir our whole being and lead us to a life of love.  Give us a faith that has nothing to prove.  Bring us the confidence that can say to a mountain, move, and it will move.  Come, spirit, come. Amen.”

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