"Opened Minds, Changed Hearts" - Easter 3B
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
April 15, 2018 at 10:45 AM
Central Passage
Luke 24:36b-48

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Easter 3B – April 15, 2018

Acts 3:12-19; Luke 24:36b-48


Opened Minds, Changed Hearts


            What are the most memorable meals you’ve ever had?


            All meals with loved ones are special, to be sure, but some meals stand out. For me, there are a series of holiday dinners at Grandma George and Grandma Rosezella’s home, sitting at the table with the tippy chairs. There are also the “ordinary” breakfasts we had every time we came to visit, where Grandpa would fry up eggs and sausage, served with toast, orange juice, and milk. There were prom dinners. A graduation dinner. A break-up dinner. An engagement dinner, cooked and served by me at the parsonage. And most recently, a dinner back home in which all five members of my family of origin were present (along with my nieces, my sister’s significant other, and my mom’s husband), an extraordinarily rare event. This just scratches the surface. For me, as I’m sure for you, there are a number of memorable meals which mark significant life events.


            Luke’s Gospel also tells of a number of important meals. That is one of its distinguishing characteristics as a Gospel. Jesus practically eats and drinks his way to the cross. Jesus tells Zacchaeus that he is coming to his house for dinner, and Zacchaeus experiences a change of heart and mind at the table. Jesus has dinner with a Pharisee, at which a woman of low reputation washes his feet. This presents a great teaching moment for Jesus, to address the not-so-hidden judgments of the Pharisee and to contrast his so-called holiness with the holiness of the woman in front of him. He enjoys hospitality at Mary and Martha’s home, where the ever-harried and anxious Martha asks Jesus to tell her sister to give her a hand. This is just three among a number of pre-Easter meals. And then, post-Easter, we have the breaking of bread at Emmaus, where Jesus is known to the two disciples in the breaking of bread. And this final meal, back in Jerusalem. The two disciples who see Jesus on the way to Emmaus rush back to Jerusalem with the news. While they are wondering about this story, Jesus suddenly appears and says, “Peace be with you!”


            Now that might give me a heart attack! Seeing someone I thought was dead suddenly appear would scare me nearly to death. The disciples have the same reaction. The text tells us they were “terrified and afraid”. Not exactly a subtle entrance, Jesus! But Jesus immediately moves to reassurance. It’s really him, he says. Flesh and bones. Not a ghost. Not a mere vision. Not a hallucination. The risen Christ is really there, really among them.


            Mouths hang open. They can’t believe what they are seeing. The brain has short-circuited, trying to process this. And then Jesus asks something that is so in character for him (at least in Luke’s Gospel), that it strikes us as funny. “Got any food?”


            The risen Christ is in a real body. A glorified, spiritual body, but still a body, made of matter, made of flesh, blood, and bone. This is what incarnation is all about. Even after his death and resurrection, Jesus does not abandon matter itself as something “bad” or “sinful”, but redeems it. Lifts back to the goodness it lost at the Fall, in Genesis.


            To further their acceptance of this reality, Luke tells us that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”. Seeing is not necessarily believing for these disciples. Jesus has to open their minds to understand how and why this happened. To see his life, death, and resurrection prefigured in the pages of what we call the Old Testament. To see how their greater purpose as disciples will play out. Jesus has to open their minds in order to change their hearts.


            And Jesus opens our minds as well. Jesus opens our minds to see him at work in the world around us, in real, physical bodies like ours. Just as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until he broke the bread at dinner, so we may not recognize him until “after the meal”, so to speak. Just as we can look back and realize that certain meals we had were special (though we didn’t realize how special they were at the time), so we can look back at our encounters with other human beings and realize that Jesus was really present in, with, and under the other person.


            We live in a Christ-soaked world. Christ is everywhere. Lutherans identify two special privileged places for Christ’s presence: in the Word and the Sacraments. But there are plenty of other privileged places where you may encounter the crucified and risen Christ. In the county council meeting. In the Goat Club. At the food pantry. At the hospital bed. Meeting the stranger. All of these places can be special, privileged places where we can encounter the embodied Christ. And in these encounters we can find that our hearts are changed.


            The term that the Common English Bible translates as “change of heart” you know better as the word “repent”. That’s all that the word means – a change of heart or mind. Jesus opens our minds in order to change our hearts. Jesus opens our minds so that we can understand what our purpose is in being Zion Lutheran Church in Hartford City, Indiana today. Jesus opens our minds so that we, too, can experience an ongoing change of heart. Ongoing repentance. This ongoing repentance is marked for Christians in baptism. As Luther reminds us in the Small Catechism, baptism signifies “that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”[1]


            Did you notice that word “daily”? That’s the whole key here. The Christian life is never a one-off, but it is a lifetime of encounters with Christ. It is a lifetime of having our minds opened and our hearts changed.


            Let us pray.


            Jesus, you are present in all places and times, but there are certain places and people that we may especially sense your presence. Open our minds to better encounter you in others, and continually change our hearts, that we can become the people you made us to be. Amen.


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.



[1] Luther’s Small Catchism, Augsburg Fortress, 2016.