Sunday, August 3, 2014


A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
August 3, 2014
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, Virginia
Luke 24: 28-35

Let us pray, for a welcome mind and a loving heart
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
            For your eyes show the way
            Your mind knows the truth
            Your being is the life.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. [1]

This week we focused on wonders. . . and to tell the truth the week itself was a wonder. We wondered how many volunteers we'd get. . . We wondered how many kids we would get. We wondered if the number of kids would be somewhere in the window that we could actually handle, and we really had no idea, instead we just wondered, we wondered if we could pull it off. . . we wondered how we would handle weather issues. . . we wondered if the kids would be engaged. . we wondered if we'd have enough food or way too much. . .we wondered if the science experiments would work. . . . we wondered if the curriculum games would be fun. . . we wondered about every detail because it had been so long since we, at this church, had taken on a venture like Vacation Bible School. . . we wondered, and at every level, at every step, at every possibility where something could go very wrong, or very right, our wonders turned into amazement because this week was more wonderful than we could have ever imagined. From our outpouring of Dedicated, Willing, Talented and wonderful volunteers, to our energetic, fun, positive, joyfilled, wonderful kids. . . . to the wonderful weather. . . all of it just worked out, well, wonderful, much much more than we could ever have imagined, and such it is for God is the God who works wonders. . . and that is what we were trying to teach the kids. . .
Here at the Workshop of Wonders the first step is to imagine. We were introduced to Queen Esther. That old story, where Esther, beyond even her wildest imaginations, is the right person, with the right gifts, at the right time, in the right position to save the Jewish people from that mean old Haman. We looked at her as an example of us. . . . what is it that God has in store for us. . . what are the gifts He has given us. . . what are the circumstances where He has put us. . . what can all of it mean. . . what can all of it be for. . . we can only imagine, but that imagining, thinking about the idea that it is all in the creating hands of God, fills us with faith and with hope, knowing that the path we are on is His and it is more than we could ever fully imagine. Just like Esther. . . it will make a difference in this world, every life does.
From imagining we moved on to building, because that is what God does in this world, He is constantly building and calling us to build. In the Bible he called Ezra to lead the reconstruction of the temple. . . out of the ashes, the rubble, the heap that had lain in destruction for so long, people wondered, will it ever regain the glory, has God left us, those kinds of doubts and fears come in when what we have seen God build lies in ruins. We may think for a bit, for a second, in our doubt and fear, that God is done with us, or that God can't do, but then just at the point where we think all hope just may be lost, he calls us to build. . . and we do. . . and with his direction what we build is a true wonder. . . kinda like building a VBS program at a church that hasn't done one for years, you build with God and the wonders continue because through the cycle of darkness and light we grow.
Out of the ashes of the old ,God is continuing to bring things and make them new, and when he does, each time he does, we grow. . . stronger, more faithful, more loving, tested, confident, we grow, as the vision verse stated, in the "grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ" realizing that God is in control of both  the darkness and the light, the trials and the victories, the joy and the sadness, the struggles and the days where everything just seems to fall into place, for he is the God of the Cross, but not only the Cross, but also the empty tomb. . . and it seems that we grow as we experience both. We grow because God never leaves us, never abandons us, never is gone, but always present, and constantly working.
Jesus said, "My father is still working, and I'm working, too," you see it isn't over. The imagining, the building, and the growing, it is all still at work today, not just in Queen Esther's time, or in Ezra's time, or just when Jesus walked the Earth. . . but now because Jesus lives and "IS" risen. . . and that God is the "I AM" ever present, then, now, and forever, the God who lives, because of that God is continually working with us, and walking with us.
But do we realize it. . . do we recognize that God is walking with us at every step. . . I chose that final, Friday Bible passage as the text to preach on today. . . but I want to take a minute before we look for ways to recognize that it is God walking with us. . . I want to take a minute and look at the lessons of this week, and how it matters to us. I know that I have a diverse audience today. . . I have you kids. . . and you all are just beginning your journeys. . . I hope that this week has helped you. I hope that it has helped you begin to see the world as a wonderful place, as a place full of wonders because it is all created by God. I hope that you see that you are a major piece of that wonderful creation, that you each have amazing talents. . . we thank you for sharing them with us today, but they go beyond singing, they go beyond anything that fits into a category, they go beyond anything we could put a label on, instead they are completely your own, and they manifest themselves in the totality of you. Imagine what God meant when he made you. . . that the creating of your unique self was done completely on purpose, and that your future will be built towards that heavenly purpose. . . such it is to be a child of God, such it is to be human, such it is to be created, redeemed, and sustained by the God who makes wonders. I hope all of that for you, and I also hope that you know that there are people here who care for you, who care about you, and who are invested in your life. . . we got to walk a week of life together, and our lives having intersected have been affected by each other. We have memories that will live, and I hope the intersection of our lives does not end here but goes on, but if we are to remain parallel, know that our prayers go with you always, for you are truly loved.
And that brings me to the congregation here, the folks of Gordonsville Presbyterian Church. You should be very proud, very full of faith and optimism, the king of optimism that comes with successfully walking a path that God has made for you. Let us also Imagine for a bit. Imagine what God has in store for this old church, this congregation that has been here for over 150 years. . . . imagine what new and amazing wonders God is preparing us for, building us to be a part of, shaping us to lead. Again at the workshop of Wonders nothing is impossible. We can build, we can grow, and we can work, because God is not done with us yet, and neither are we done with God. We are heading into a new chapter of life here, one filled with challenges and potential, one that mirrors our week, takes the shape of the patterns of this week. . . Imagine with God, Build with God, Grow with God, Work with God, and know that all the time we are walking with God. . . and in case we don't recognize that, Jesus has shaped for us a way that we can commune with him, that even though he is with us all the time, in our worry, our busyness, our stress, our doubt, our dreams, and our feelings of isolation, even though he is with us all the time, we often do not recognize him. On the road to Emmaus the disciples were sad, confused, after a three year whirlwind of walking with Jesus, they believed that it was now over, that everything they worked for was lost, that the world they thought they were building was now destroyed, and with it went all their hope, for Jesus was dead, and they now had to live their lives realizing that truth, for they had messed with Rome, and in the Roman world three things were true, and they now knew this all too well.
1st - Rome has all the power and is the only authority in the world based on strength, might, and ingenuity.
2nd - If you mess with Rome they will kill you. . . and
3rd, when they kill you, you stay dead.
This is the truth the disciples had come to know all too well as they left Jerusalem heading to Emmaus, heading away. . . and so when the stranger came upon them, they didn't recognize him, their hope, their friend, their very life, they didn't recognize, for they had their belief destroyed on the anvil of Roman Power. But Jesus was there walking with them, and it wasn't until Jesus broke bread. . . reliving a simple act that they had done so many times, that they recognized. . .and that's what it is all about, shared action, remembering old times. Years from now, when you kids are grown. . . I hope that you can remember VBS, and when you teach another generation, that you remember us, and remember that Jesus walked with us all here in the summer of 2014, and that it was truly wonderful.

[1]The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Lk 24:28-35). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.