April 18, 2021

“An open mind!”

(From Luke 24:36-48)

 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.  Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah  is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

     I recently had a discussion with a man who, by his own admission, has held firmly to the scientific Darwinian/Evolution understanding of our world.  He actually described himself as a man of Science, reason and proof who had generally chosen these over a faith-based context for understanding our world and how it operates.  By profession, this man is a lawyer, for whom solid and tangible facts are the foundation of all truth.

     Joe, as we will call this gentleman, recently suffered some serious health problems.  One of these was a series of pulmonary embolisms, blood clots in the lungs, that required hospitalization and professional care.  Joe had always been healthy and had never suffered health issues of this nature.  As the course of his illness and recovery unfolded, Joe experienced events that his “pure science” understanding of the world was at a loss to explain.  For example, the right people in the right places with the right knowledge and skill set appeared at the right time they were needed and put their skills to work for him.  It was such a remarkable experience that it caused Joe to begin what he calls his “journey in search of faith.”  Again, remarkably, in Joe’s search he came across the writings of several scientists who are also people of faith. Their very study of science and the order of our world had brought them to faith in a supreme-being and design upon which our world was created.  Reading these writings, Joe also became convinced that Science and Religion were not mutually exclusive to one another.  He, too, began to have faith in the existence of a benevolent creator who designed all of the order that he has observed exists in this world.  Joe’s mind was opened to a new way of understanding our world, one where faith and Science can co-exist, and he now believes!

     When our mind is closed to new understandings, either out of a sense of fear or a belief that we already know the answers, we remove opportunities for personal learning and growth.  Let me rephrase this: we need to keep an open mind and a willing heart in order to learn and grow, especially in our spiritual lives.  In addition, we need people who are willing to share new information with us, and to help guide our understanding.  As you might suspect, the Apostle Paul believed in the importance to our growing faith of being open to new learnings and experiences.  He also understood that this placed an obligation upon him to witness to and share his faith and its foundations in Christ Jesus with others.  Paul shared the following words on faith and learning with the church at Rome, taken from Romans Chapter 10 of The Message translation of the Holy Scripture:

But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.

With these words, Paul shared his spiritual wisdom as only Paul can.  It reminds us even today that in order to grow our faith we must both keep an open mind and be willing to listen to information we receive from new sources that are sent to bring us the good news about Jesus Christ.  In the case of our Gospel lesson today, the one who shared a new message of good news was none-other than our Lord Jesus himself.

     And so, Church, we now arrive prepared to understand the relevance of the message found in our Gospel lesson for today.  Jesus, again, appeared to his Disciples.  Once he had convinced them that it was, in fact, him alive and standing before them, he shared with them the historic and prophetic message of truth the Holy Scriptures reveal about him.  The Luke 24 lesson tells us how Jesus opened their minds to understand the importance of the prophetic message about his life, ministry of healing and compassion, his suffering death, and his victorious resurrection from the tomb after three days.  The recent events they all witnessed were the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation through him.  The Disciples trusted Jesus, and they accepted these new learnings he shared with them about himself and his role in God’s plan.  The scripture tells us that the Disciples believed Jesus.  They now understood him to be their promised Messiah in a way that they had never before understood or believed in him.  This happened because Jesus helped the Disciples to open their minds, and in doing so, to believe.

    Chapter 20 of The Gospel According to John ends with words of truth that continuously echo in my thoughts and guide my faith journey.  The author wrote, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have new life in his name.”  The scriptures are the inspired word of God given to us so that we may come to believe them. They reveal to us the truth about God’s great love for us, God’s unfailing grace, and God’s plan for our salvation through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love, and by God’s grace, we now have an abundant and eternal new life in Christ Jesus.  All of this goodness is available to us when we enter into the Holy Scriptures with an open mind, and allow ourselves to receive the good news we find in them with open and joy-filled hearts.  Amen—and let it be so.

Hymn: “Open My Eyes”

(words and music-Clara H. Scott, 1895).  

 Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hand the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.  Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!   

Mission for Easter giving:

Bishop Tracy Malone is promoting a capital campaign called Teach, Reach, Bless to build a dormitory on the campus of Africa University for women students to give them an opportunity to focus on their studies and keep them safe from often dangerous commutes. 

More information can be found at www.EOCUMC.com/teachreachbless/.  Contributions can be made to PUMC with “Africa” in the memo line.