Scripture: Luke 24:36-49
Sermon: The Savior of Zvenigorod by Pastor Todd Buurstra
I’ve had at least two significant experiences with differently-abled folks in my life. The first was when I was 5, and it was with my 30 year old cousin Paul. Paul and his family were over visiting. Paul would always have a belt through which he would look at the light. It was my bedtime, and I was trying to stall so I said, I’ll go to bed after I give everyone kiss. So I went around the circle in my living room, kissing, but I stopped short of Paul, and didn’t kiss him, because he was different. To this day, long after Paul’s died, I still feel badly about that.
Then last Saturday, I listened to the Midland School choir sing Miley Cyrus’ The Climb: There’s always gonna be another mountain. I’m always gonna want to make it move. After they were done I wanted to walk up and give them all a hug, or kiss, but I didn’t want to scare them.
What was different, beyond about 46 years? Same me. Same them. But at 5 I saw Paul as, I’m ashamed to say, ugly different, at 50, I saw Midland as a beautifully different. How we see effects what we do. See and do. So how do we see the Christ who sees what we do?
In Luke, it’s the first Easter evening. The last most of his followers had seen of Jesus was a whipped, battered, and crucified man. But now, on the third day they gathered, fearful and perplexed. Three women this morning, and now two men this evening panting just back from Emmaus, were gesturing wildly that he was alive! And suddenly, he appeared. A hushed terror passed over them. Am I seeing a ghost, one whispered. Jesus went around the circle letting all see his nail-scarred, spear-thrust body. They saw the Risen One, though perforated by nail holes.
Which brings us to today’s icon—the Savior of Zvenigorod. This is painted by the iconic master, Andrey Rublev, at the beginning of the 15th century, but it went missing until in 1918 it was discovered on the underside of steps into a barn! No wonder it looks so beat up:
Large part of the hair, part of the forehead missing; a streak from lower lip to tunic, many chips.
But the genius of this broken masterpiece is how human Jesus looks. Jesus is looking at us through the ruins of our troubled world. Which is how he always meets us—pierced by our nails
You’ve had bad days when you’d like to push the reset button, right? The other day a number of things went wrong. A fender-bender, actually two fenders bent on the same side! Anemic results from a project I was in charge of. A meeting with a disgruntled person leaving our church. Ugh! But then at the end of a frustrating day, a beautiful sunset. It’s like Christ met me through the sunset to raise my hopes for a better tomorrow. Jesus always meets us in pain.
If we see Christ, in our brokenness, it determines what we do. Reminds me of that true story making the rounds now about the Texas Baptist church praying against the expansion of Drummond’s Bar. Oh Lord, save our community from the evils of alcohol! Suddenly the week before the grand opening lightning struck the bar and burned it to the ground! The church people went around town bragging about the power of prayer, until the owner sued the church stating it was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building. In court the church suddenly went blind. It may have been an act of God, but we didn’t force his hand! The judge observed, It appears from the paperwork that we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and a church that now does not. If we see God act in our broken world it should affect how we act.
On Easter eve, once the disciples were convinced that they had seen the risen, crucified One, they acted differently. They became witnesses. The word, witnesses, sounds routine, but the Greek root is μαρτυρεs, from which we get the word martyr. Those scaredy-cats were so changed by what they saw that they spoke up for Jesus and loved the least at risk of their lives!
What we see effects what we do. And, when we look closely at the Savior of Zvenigo-rod, we notice those eyes looking directly at us. They are the heart of the icon. We realize that the Jesus who peers out at us from a broken world, actually sees what we do. His shoulders are turned ¾ but his head turned directly at us. Almost as if he was going around that circle kissing relatives, or letting the disciples see his wounds, and then he stops to give us, differently-abled as we are, hardly able to believe as we are, full, direct, undivided attention. Seeing and being seen like that, we behave differently. We love the less loved. We speak of Jesus. We hope again.
SEE and DO. I wish I had seen Jesus in cousin Paul, but that’s pretty hard at 5. I’m glad that I could see Jesus in those Miley imitators. This week you can see Jesus peer from the underboards of history, and that will change what you and I do. This week: see and do.
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