April 18, 2021 “Well, I’ll Be!”
“Well, I’ll Be!”
1 John 3:1-7
“Live in such a way that those who know you, but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.” ~ unknown
“Let God be the judge. Your job today is to be a witness.” ~ Warren Wiersbe
I’m guessing that a lot of folks here today are familiar with the founder of the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas named Adam Hamilton. With a membership of over 25,000, The Church of the Resurrection is easily the largest United Methodist congregation in the world, but that wasn’t always the case. As a teenager whose parents divorced when he was 12, Adam Hamilton never gave a whole lot of thought to God or religion or the idea of going to a church. But when a local evangelist knocked on his door one day and invited Adam and his friends to come to his church, Hamilton thought he’d give it a whirl. He later stated that he didn’t know why he went, but hinted at the answer when he said, “I wasn’t interested in God. I was interested in girls.” Evidently there were enough girls in the congregation to hold his interest because he found himself going back again and again and surprisingly found himself drawn to God. It was in an interview with David Brooks that Hamilton confessed, “For the first time in my life, I started to read the Bible,” and it was the writings of the Gospel of Luke that caused him to become a Christian in every sense of the word. I might mention also, that it during those early Pentecostal church services as a rebellious teenager that Hamilton met the girl that would later become his wife, LaVon Bandy. Today, they have two adult daughters. So you see, God does not always work in mysterious ways.
Hamilton started his ministry, believe it or not, in a space rented from a local funeral parlor. It now has 5 campuses, a vibrant online ministry, and has published countless books and worship studies that are used around the world. And how did it all begin? It began with a knock on the door from a local child of God who, perhaps, had read the words of Christ in Luke 24 when he said to his disciples, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. You are witnesses of these things. It began with a member of the local Pentecostal church who was strong enough in his faith to endure the slamming doors and rolled eyes of many. It began with one person who had found something special and wonderful by inviting Christ into his life, and wanted to share it with anybody and everybody, no matter what. Reportedly, the Pentecostal door knocker that witnessed to Adam Hamilton and his teenage friends could only speak by using a voice box held to his throat. I’m guessing he had lost his larynx to esophageal cancer or something similar. Later, the boys laughed, saying that he sounded like Darth Vader. Yet there he was, witnessing to the word of God, and the rest is, as they say, history.
In our Gospel text today, we heard Luke’s version of Christ’s return visit after his resurrection. Now the lectionary suggested to only read the 2nd half of this passage when Jesus reveals himself to the disciples for the first time. I couldn’t help but include the story of his revealing on the road to Emmaus as well because there is similar theme in both these stories that I’ve missed in the past. It’s all about witness, but not the witness of mysterious happenings and unexplained miracles. No, it’s about the witness of scripture.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Gospel of Luke, they reacted just about the way we would expect. (vs 37) They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.
41-43 He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes. Luke then leads us to assume that this physical body eating physical food was all the proof the disciples needed. So what did he do next? Did he shake hands all around and laugh and hug? No, the risen Lord teaches, once again, of the prophetic wisdom of scripture. He tells them that all the weird and crazy things that have happened were predicted in scripture all along. He then opened their understanding of the Word of God and made it clear that they were witnesses to this understanding.
The encounter on the road to Emmaus was backwards from Christ’s revealing to the main disciples. To Cleopas and his sidekick, Jesus was just another guy walking down the road. But during the course of that 7 mile walk, this “guy” proceeded to open their minds to the wonder and wisdom of scripture in ways they had never known. Only when they had sat to share a meal did he reveal himself, and then he was gone. But it is what Luke tells us next that speaks volumes to today’s message. Luke writes (vs 32) Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” Didn’t we feel on fire?
A lot of times I pressure myself to come up with the title for a sermon before it is finished – sometimes before it is begun. It gives me something to focus on with the added benefit of being able to print the bulletins earlier than Saturday night. So I pictured in my head the two disciples on the Emmaus road. And I pictured the 12 disciples still in Jerusalem once Christ had revealed the truth of all that had happened. And as I pictured these two scenes all I could hear them saying was, “Well, I’ll be.” It’s an expression that we have used and overused for centuries: “Well, I’ll be dipped in buttermilk,” or “I’ll be danged,” come to mind. “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” and “I’ll be hornswoggled,” defy explanation, but I’m sure they came from somewhere. My favorite is, “Well, I’ll be a blue nosed gopher.” I’ve no idea where that came from and I’m not sure I want to find out, but my point is that it takes a big revelation to get us to say these words: something profound, something wonderful. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he opened up the scriptures for us?”
Here’s the thing, preachers come and preachers go. Denominations, mega-churches, tiny churches, and TV evangelists – they all have their time and place. But it all begins and ends with the word of God; the word that is eternal. It’ll cause us to scratch our heads from time to time. It’ll make us question and think and reevaluate what we thought we knew. But in the end – and this is my hope- we’ll be left like those disciples from long ago wide eyed and filled with joy saying simply, “Well, I’ll be.”
Amen & Shalom