The Sermons of the author of "A Cathedral Soul"
What's Playing Today?

a sermon of sorts

Luke 24:
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

If one wants to go to the movies he asks, "What is playing today?" It would be the height of folly to just go to the theater and take your chances, especially in this day and age. No, it is always asked: "What's playing today?" The stage has its happy mask and its tragic mask: am I ready for comedy or for tragedy? The theater is a playing out of those great themes and archetypes that are present to some degree or other in every existence, that makes of our mortalities their immortalities. If it be a drama then the drama is not unknown to my life, if it be a tragedy one can surely cry for the victims with his own real tears from his own remembered tragedies. "The play's the thing", said the great bard. And again, "All the world is a stage and all they upon it merely actors!" Heaven alone knows how accurate were those observations. And yet such observations have more than their ring of truth don't they? So what's playing today? Will I have the luxury of just being in the audience watching or might I find myself of a sudden upon the stage itself?

This was the irony of today's text. Unless you and I forget it life is filled with its ironies. Always, or so it seems, at some point or other we are standing in the crowds cheering, jeering, or with an intolerable indifference. Then like Simon of Cyrene we are shoved under the same cross we were only watching pass by a moment or so ago. How suddenly the audience may become the actors and actresses of dramas or tragedies or, yes, even comedies that they never auditioned for -- how unexpectedly it all happens. And always there are those who are very like the ancient Greek thespians wearing their enormous masks that all might see their dramatus personae from a great distance. Who, we should ask, is in that hillside amphitheater? And dare we begin to realize that the masks people sometime wear are really and essentially one and the same with those people who wear them so well? Before the Heavens such masks become, in time, a most transparent sort of window upon the soul. From merely acting to going through the actions to an established pattern of habit and then to becoming a part of the drama itself. Life is that way more often than we may suspect and we are never really the audience: all of us are involved, the real audience is Heaven and Hell, it is invisible but filled with angels and saints as well as with devils and critics. And we are on stage though we never quite suspect that we are.

So two down-hearted disciples follow the same old path home, defeated and perplexed, not just a little bitterness is here along side their profound sorrow and disillusionment. They had been to a tragedy and never suspected that it was not ended yet, that there are ends to our tragedies that are writ large (even if invisibly for now) in Heaven and they might be good ends if we will only, as it is said, "Play the man or the woman!" As we now know, they were talking to the main Actor of that tragedy, that apparent disaster.

"What is this? Can you be the only one in this land who hasn't heard of this outrage?" They were incredulous ... I wonder if they weren't a bit hurt and insulted as well that their Rabbi could be so dealt with and yet so little taken note of? I wonder!

Then the drama was recounted anew, not by the supposed audience but by its Actor and, as we now know, its Director and Author. "Didn't you understand that these things had to happen?" And the further they walked the more troubled and perplexed they found themselves. Weren't they really being asked: "Where were you in all of this? Did you suppose that it all happened to Me and not to thee as well?"

At their humble home they urged him to take his rest and eat with them. Then, I wonder, was it His nail-pierced hands that informed them of the reality or the manner in which He called down Heaven's blessing upon the simple fare. Their hearts burned within their breasts: "So this is how it ends! No, so this is how it all begins!"

Now hadn't we best ask, "I wonder what's really being played out in my life? Are things really what I had supposed them to be? Who have I been walking with this day? Is it all as senseless, as meaningless as I've supposed? Tragedy, drama, comedy, whatever -- upon what stage am I walking, to what audience am I really playing, and is this drama the real thing?"

Who is the director and who is playing the leading role? I think those are the better questions. If a life is directionless then it needs the Director! If all that I seem to do is "play act" doing only what is expected of me then I am the mask but never the actor. Wouldn't it seem that I have need of the Savior -- I cannot act out the chief role, I cannot save myself nor you nor anybody. He can and He has done so and to ignore His part in this all is madness and worse, it is playing at the fool.

Strange isn't it, most people ask about the movies and not about their own lives --And again, most are "up" on the Soap operas but not at all "up" on their eternal destinies in the Lord. It all comes to an end you know and how tragic a thing if we have walked the Emmaus Road and never known the Man of the Cross all this meanwhile that is called our life.


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