Scripture Reading: Luke 24:36-49
It has been a … weird week. I think that’s one way to put it. Two prominent public figures in their respective fields committed suicide. The Ontario election results are disappointment to many people as they fear current American style politics are moving north. Which they did temporarily during the G7 meetings in Quebec, which was another strange process of conversations with clashing personalities. We also had that terrible fire in Baddeck at the historic Inverary Inn. Don’t get me started on the weather either. Temperature swings much?
When someone famous dies, we mourn. Whether it’s movie stars, royalty, musicians, whatever their field of excellence they were in, we do mourn. And if that particular person is someone we really look up to, it hurts a whole lot more. Sometimes, the loss of a celebrity we adore can tap into our own grief of unresolved pain from our own lives.
We don’t do grief very well in Western society any more. We really don’t. We bottle it all up, he hold it inside, we hide it. It’s not healthy to grieve this way, I really believe it’s not. And even if we do try and release and share how we’re feeling, someone will make fun of us.
I remember when a favourite actor of mine passed away a few years ago. I shared online how emotional I got when I decided to watch one of my favourite movies this actor starred in. It wasn’t long and a family member made a comment to the effect that I was a sissy for feeling sad. I had to show huge restraint when one of their favourites passed away some time after.
This whole ongoing discussion around mental health issues like depression and anxiety is awesome. We need to remove the stigma around these issues and find help for people who suffer. But we clearly have a long way to go. People still commit suicide every day. Even people who, on the outside, appear to have it all together.
On Friday morning I tried to access the Canadian Suicide Prevention website to see what kind of data I could find, but the website was offline. It was too busy and overloaded.
What I was able to find out is that annually 12 out of every 100,000 Canadians die by suicide every year. If you look to Nunavut, that number climbs to over 80 per year.
These numbers are heartbreaking. When you look at the math, over 4000 Canadians every year take their own lives. That’s over 11 people per day. Roughly one person every two hours who have made an incredibly hard decision to end their life.
I don’t know the cause. I don’t know the thought process that led them down this path. I don’t know when they lost hope.
But then again, hope is hard to find in the world right now if you are watching the news. Like I said off the top, this has been a weird week for news. World leaders are taking shots at each other through social media, making threats around trade and security. Highly regarded people have taken their own lives. Election results which boggle the mind to many people.
We have to look hard for stories of hope these days.
One such story of hope comes out of a tragedy here in Cape Breton. With the fire at the Inverary Inn in Baddeck, we see a community rally together to provide for those tourists who have lost their possessions and have had their vacations disrupted. We see a community which is also rallying behind the resort. And we hear their determination to keep going, to rebuild, and to continue to host every event they have committed to this year. Even including a wedding this weekend.
We need hope in our lives. Without it, there is nothing to hold on to, especially when things are rough.
In our reading from Luke this morning, it follows immediately after our reading from last week, which was Jesus walking with two disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the first Easter day. And when the disciples finally recognize Jesus, they run back to Jerusalem to tell the others they have seen the risen Christ!
Our reading picks up where the two disciples are telling the others what happened. And it says as they were all talking about it, Jesus appeared in the room.
I imagine the afternoon, once they realized the tomb was empty, once they felt that Jesus was gone and their hearts are broken a second time (the first being when he died on the cross)… I imagine it was a very somber gathering, a hopeless gathering, in the house where they were gathered. In the gospel of Luke, no one saw Jesus at the empty tomb. The two disciples on the road home were the first, and in seeing Jesus, they found their hope once again. They go back to Jerusalem to share their hope with the other disciples. And as they are excitedly sharing, Jesus appears.
I bet, after running 11km back to Jerusalem, the two disciples had some serious questions for Jesus about why he didn’t just give them a lift since he pretty much teleported from one place to the next!
Think, just moments before, there was little hope in that house. Everything they had lived for the last 3 years was gone. All they had seen, all they had heard… gone. How could Jesus just leave them like that? Why didn’t he fight back? Why didn’t he say “good bye?”
They just wanted a little bit of hope!
What they didn’t realize is that Jesus wasn’t done yet! Death was not the end of the plan! There is so much more yet to do! So much more to teach! So many more who need to know of his hope, God’s hope!
If you remember last week, when Jesus encountered the two disciples walking home in the time of hopelessness, what did he do?
Jesus shared scripture with them. He talked about how scripture referred to what had been happening for the last few days. He told them about the Messiah. And what happened? Their hearts burned with desire to know of God’s plan.
What did we hear Jesus did today when he appeared suddenly in the room with them?
Well, first he reassured them it was him, who is alive! He had a bite of fish, he let them examine his wounds. There was no doubt in their minds this is Jesus standing with them.
Then Luke tells us in verse 45, “Then [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”
Again with those pesky scriptures!
Jesus shared scripture with them. He told them about what it said, he shared how it explained what happened those last few days. It’s all there!
Then he shared this, “… repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)
Then he says, “you are the witnesses!” Jesus is telling them they haven’t seen the last of it. In fact, Jesus just told them they are going to see something amazing, there will be preaching to all nations, starting in Jerusalem.
Where are they right now? In a house, in Jerusalem! Wow, talk about getting a healthy dose of hope when you most need it, am I right?
But first, they need to sit tight and wait just a little bit longer. Jesus is going to send them something God has promised. He tells them to stay right where they are until they get it.
I think we know what it is they’ll be getting. We celebrated it just a few weeks ago! He’s talking about the Holy Spirit coming on the day of Pentecost!
Talk about getting hope! Not only that, but Jesus tells them it’s going to begin right in the city where they are right now. And it’s going to spread to all the nations! This is going to be exciting! This is giving them a whole lot of hope right now!
The best part is, they don’t yet know they will have a huge role in this event. They don’t know that once they get this promised gift of God, they will actually be the epicentre, the eye of the storm which will be the preaching of hope, the repentance from sin, and the changing of lives in the name of Jesus. They will be the one’s doing this! But they didn’t quite know this yet.
I wonder if they did whether or not they might still be overflowing with hope? For some it might. But would everyone be comfortable knowing they would be preachers?
Would you be excited if you knew you were all going to be preachers? Some of you sure, but I know enough of you who would squirm uncomfortably in this news.
But just knowing it’s going to happen, just knowing there is a plan has to give them some hope! On top of everything else they have seen over the last few days, the death on the cross, the empty tomb, and now Jesus, alive and well right in front of them…
Well, “the best day ever!” could be a phrase that comes to mind.
We live in a world right now that is craving hope. Unfortunately, because of mental health illnesses, some people can’t seem to find hope. Even Anthony Bourdain, who seemed to spend his life finding hope in places all over this planet, and who shared it widely through his work in media and television, even he had dark, dark moments where he could not see hope.
We, the church; we, followers of Jesus Christ; we are the ones who cling to hope. We have this hope because in Jesus we know God is not done with this world yet. We know, through scripture, there is much more to come because our Saviour, our hope and our guide, is alive and is still working in this broken world.
We have hope, because we read things like we read this morning that says the name of Jesus is going to be preached in every nation, and people will find hope.
In other words, let’s stop looking for hope in places where hope is, at best, fleeting. Government cannot promise hope. Fame cannot promise hope. Money cannot promise hope. At least not eternal hope. Certainly not life everlasting.
Only one can promise those things. He is Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of God. The One who loves us and wants us to know him and the hope he brings.
I invite you to ask Jesus Christ to share this wonderful hope with you today, whether you think you need it or not. The hope Jesus gives is far greater than any hope you will find on this planet. His hope comes in the love of God for you, and the life-changing peace it will bring.
Let us pray,
You have given us so much. You gave your life on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin, yet you yourself had no sin. You also appeared to your friends so show them the victory was not death’s to hold, but God’s. You paid it all for us, and we thank you.
We also thank you Jesus for bringing us hope, for showing us this world is not the answer, it’s not our goal, but God is. Eternal life with our Father in heaven is.
Lord Jesus, may we know your hope in our lives. May we be a sign of hope for others who are struggling in this world. May we all know of your love for us, and may we turn our hearts to you.
This world needs hope. So may we all know the hope you offer to all who follow you.
We pray this in your most Holy Name. Amen and amen.