Years ago, I found myself in Reno, Nevada. I don’t recall exactly why I was there but I do recall what I did one evening while I was there. I went to one of the clubs to see Don Rickles. He invited a couple in the audience to come forward. I think they were from New Jersey. Several of their grown children had gotten together and paid for their trip. Which led naturally enough to Rickles’ next question: How long have you been married? ‘Oh, we’re not married, we never got married.

With that Rickles had a field day. But through all Rickles’ jokes at their expense – and the audience’s gales of laughter – they just sat there with good-natured smiles on their faces. At the end Rickles thanked them for being such good sports and said the club would re-imburse them for some of their expenses.

Interacting with people in the crowds who came to see him was also a major part of Jesus’ ministry.

We have a good example from Mark’s Gospel. A scribe hearing Jesus talking with a group of Sadducees asked Jesus which commandment is the first of all. Jesus responds, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that, ‘he is one, and besides him there is not other’, and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and to love one’s neighbor as one self,’ – this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any questions.”You are not far from the kingdom of God, Jesus said to the man.

And if the truth be known that is why most people come to places like this on a Sunday morning. Or on the Sabbath or even on a Friday for that matter. They – we – want to know how do we find God? Where do we experience God?

Sometimes a person’s efforts to find God, to experience God, seemingly come to naught.

Luke – our own Luke – records such an occasion in the 24th chapter of his Gospel. Two men had been following an itinerant preacher when that preacher’s career came to a sudden and abrupt end. Discouraged, depressed, they are walking to a village, maybe their home, near Jerusalem.

They encounter a stranger. They fall into conversation with him, and end up with him at a local tavern. There they have an animated conversation with that stranger about that very itinerant preacher. The stranger seems to know a lot about him.

And then he says to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the anointed one have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.

This morning as is our custom we hear readings from various parts of the Bible.

One reading – our Epistle reading – is from Hebrews. It is a short book, one that we do not hear read that often.

We do not know who wrote it. Scholars who look into this sort of thing suggest that it is a very early writing of the New Testament probably before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70A.D. Such people suggest that it was written as a sermon, a sermon to be read in the early Christian churches. It is sort of a mystery although there never seemed to be any question that it be included in the “canon” of those writings we call the Bible.

Let’s read a little more from it– maybe for the purpose of understanding or just providing some context. The writer – let’s just call him the Preacher – if this was written to be delivered as a sermon that would be a good name for him. Given some hints in the text the scholars suggest that it was a man.

This is a paraphrase from the ninth chapter of Hebrews which precedes our reading. In it we hear a description of the tent used as the tabernacle. It is the picture used on the cover of our service bulletin today:

“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up in a tent. Within the tent were two areas, two rooms. In the first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread. This was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place. In this room – the Holy of Holies – was the golden altar of incense and the gold covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the Covenant. Above the ark were the Cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover.

“When everything had been arranged in this way, the priests entered into the outer room to carry out their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood – the blood of a sacrificed animal, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed ….

The book is titled “Hebrews” because it describes in great detail the history and rituals of the Hebrew faith that would have been known to the early listeners. Many of them would have come from the Hebrew faith. The preacher was describing the tent, the tabernacle, of the earlier days of the Hebrew faith. The rituals of the Temple were based on those earlier rituals. They would have been known to most of the hearers of this sermon when first delivered.


Now we come to the reading from Hebrews selected for today:

When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is not of this creation), he – Christ – entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption [for us]. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God.

How do we find God?

How do we experience God?

As they approached the village to which they were going, the stranger acted as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly saying, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him….


With your indulgence I would add a short postscript. I felt this message might be a little short. So, I asked a good friend to look at it. He said the length is probably ok. Then he added, you are asking others how do they find God – how do they experience God? You are asking them but how do you find God, how do you experience Him?

I told him that the re-telling of the story of the two on the road to Emmaus was sort of my answer. Then maybe you ought to talk a little more about that, he said.

Not all times but sometimes when I hear the words of the liturgy at the Eucharist, when I hear the words of Christ, truly, I hear the words of Christ, himself, I understand…

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…”

And then when I help Fr Carey distribute the bread and I look into the eyes of some of you I know, too, that you recognize – and understand…”                                   Amen.