It Could Happen To You!
Luke 24:36b-49 April 19, 2015
Pastor: Kun Sam Cho
In their joy they were disbelieving, and still wondering . . . (Luke 24: 41)
Do you happen to see a movie, “It Could Happen To You” featured in 1994, about 20 years ago? I did not. But I happened to learn about this movie and read its synopsis last week.
A New York cop named Charley is having coffee in a little diner. Finished, he reaches into his pocket to pay and to leave his usual tip, but finds that he has just enough money to pay for the coffee. There’s not enough to tip the waitress. Embarrassed, he offers the waitress a choice. He promises to return the next day with double the usual tip. Or, taking a lottery ticket out of his billfold and holding it up, he promises to split the winnings, if any, of the lottery ticket he just purchased for that evening’s drawing. Now, Yvonne didn’t need to hear that. She has had a bad enough day without losing a tip. In fact, her life is chaotic and miserable. She hates her job as a waitress. Her runaway husband has run up her MasterCard balance so high that just that afternoon she had been in court to declare personal bankruptcy. Could things get worse?
Still, she is good natured about it. She smiles helplessly at her bad luck and jokingly takes Charlie up on his offer of half the lottery ticket’s potential winnings.Well, surprise, surprise! The ticket beats the incredible odds, and wins $4 million.
Charley comes to the diner the next morning to give Yvonne the good news. Her tip for serving a cup of coffee is not a mere two dollars, but two million dollars. Well, you can imagine Yvonne’s reaction to this good news. At first, utter disbelief covers Yvonne’s face. “NO. NO. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME? IS THIS SOME SORT OF CRUEL JOKE? NO. IT COULDN’T HAPPEN.”
Then, as Charley insists he is not joking, a tiny flicker of hope registers deep inside Yvonne. She dared just for a moment to believe Charley’s good news was true. “Yes? Yes?” she asks with her eyes widening. “CAN IT REALLY BE TRUE?” But disbelief wedges its way back into Yvonne’s mind. “No! No!’ she says, shaking herself back to reality. “This cannot be true.” Her emotions are a mix of belief and disbelief. But facts are facts. Charley’s gift was really, genuinely hers. So, ultimately, you can guess that her joy will demolish her doubts.
Yvonne’s glimmer of belief grew stronger as Charley’s smile and excitement gradually melted away her skepticism. Charley’s smile was saying, “It could happen. It has happened. It has happened TO YOU.” “Yes?” Yvonne asked again. “Yes!” Charley exclaimed. “YES!” Doubts cast away, her question now turns into cheerful exclamation. “YES!!!” We have no trouble in imagining her dancing, swirling through the tables of customers and crying over the unexpected good news. She is filled with joy over a new life, a life forever changed by Charley’s free gift. The little New York diner is the place of unexpected, overwhelming, hard-to-believe joy.
Now let me take you to another place of unexpected, overwhelming, hard-to-believe joy. This story comes, not from New York via Hollywood, but from the New Testament. It comes from the Book of Luke and it’s our lectionary text today on this Third Sunday of Easter.
The disciples of the slain Jesus have come together for a little refreshment at a table. They have been discouraged and depressed over their leader’s death on the cross. Their hope that their leader, Jesus would redeem Israel were shattered completely. “It is finished.” Like Yvonne, they had no choice but accepting their miserable fate.
Dared they think their rabbi could be risen again from the dead? No. What are the chances of that happening? Defeat death? No one ever had. The chances is zero, period. Yet there he was. Jesus in the midst. Listen to Luke’s description of the disciples’ reaction. “Startled and terrified, they thought they were seeing a ghost.” Could it be Jesus in the midst? No, No, No, it is impossible. Can’t have happened.
Jesus tries to assure his friends that what they are seeing is real. The impossible has happened. “Why are you frightened, why do you have doubts in your hearts?” Jesus is saying, “It Could Happen. Not only could it happen, but it HAS happened, and it has happened to you.”
How were the disciples to receive such incredibly unbelievable but glorious news? Like Yvonne, they sway back and forth between joy and the horrible possibility that someone is playing a cruel joke on them. “In their joy,” says Luke, “they were disbelieving, and still wondering.”
What comes to your mind when you hear the expression, “disbelief for joy”? Maybe many of you picturethe Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol to cruise through your neighborhood and knock on your door with an oversized check, cameras rolling to catch your wide-eyed enthusiasm as you open the door in your bathrobe. At such a moment I am sure we might “disbelieve for joy.”
Let me ask again a question. If I were to ask in what life situations we might expect to be gripped with enthusiasm and joy so unexpected that we “disbelieve for joy,” would church be one of your answers?
I suppose most would say the church is the last place to be found disbelieving for joy. Do I guess right? But in church? No, the happenings of church are too ordinary, too everyday, too common. No joy, no excitement. Same old, same old. Agree with me? Am I not right? Isn’t it what many of us say about church and its ministry? That is shameif this is what we picture of ourselves and our ministry?Still, the church is alive and we must show ourselves alive, for we are the church alive with the risen Christ. The Holy Spirit is alive in our midst and so are we by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of this spirit of God, we worship with joy and thanksgiving. We come together every Sunday to sing, “This is the day that the Lord has made” and celebrate all the things God has done through Jesus Christ for us and for the world.
The Walk to Emmaus. The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus was introduced right before our today’s lesson. It is the story about two disciples who met the risen Jesus on the road to their home, Emmaus This touching story was told, remembered and cherished by the Christian community because it wonderfully showed them how Easter could be an intimate and personal experience. The question was not “”How did God raise Jesus from the dead?” Rather“How does Easter get into us?” Easter in us. Easter with us. The divine presence and power among us. In this “the Walk to Emmaus” story, the resurrection becomes apersonal and intimate experience. In this story, the Easter Jesus comes as a friend to share a meal in the dining room.
The followers of Jesus continued to experience the risen Christ after his death over and over. They no longer experienced Jesus as a figure of flesh and blood, but as a spiritual reality. They no longer experienced him as limited by time and space, but as one who could be experienced anywhere, anytime. This experience has continued through the centuries. Some encountered the living Christ in a dramatic way and some in an ordinary fashion. Either way they met the living Christ and had a personal and intimate relationship with him. The living Christ came as the Friend to visit and take a time, as the Teacher to come and speak, and as the Guide to lead and show.This living Jesus they encountered is not a figure from the past, but a spiritual reality of the present. Thomas, one of his disciples confessed before the living Christ, “My God, my Lord.” And his friends followed his confession with joy and thanksgiving.This living Christ opened their eyes to see a new beginning and a new life-purpose. They lived a new and transformed life as men and women who experienced the forgiveness of sins through repentance and dedicated to share this good news with others.
Joy of encountering the risen Christ and living with him could be yours. A new life with the living Christ could be yours.Your eyes could be opened to see the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Your ears could be opened to hear God speaking even today. The risen Christ could talk with you. He could walk with you. Your life could be transformed anew. Your life could be no longer boring and aimless and lifeless.
It happened to Charles A. Miles and so he confidently and thankfully sings, “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.” Amen. It could happen to you. It could happen to me. It has happened to you. It has happened to me.
In the movie I’ve been referring to this morning, when Yvonne finally accepted Charley’s message, she said, “Why? You don’t have to give me this gift. Why are you doing this?”Charley’s reply is classic. “Because a promise is a promise.”When we accept God’s great gift, the living Christ, we might ask a question similar to Yvonne’s. “God, why are you doing this? I am so unworthy of such a gift.” I like to think God’s answer is something like, “Because I have promised, and a promise is a promise.”
It Could Happen. Surprise! Surprise! Yes! Yes! It could happen to you and me, if we will open to God and accept the free gift from God.