You know what I love? I love that this is still the Easter Season. I love that our window to keep celebrating resurrection is so big. The cool thing is that it keeps us mindful not only of the resurrection of Jesus but the promise of our own resurrection as well! So, in the spirit of Easter I say to you…He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! It is now four weeks after Easter, the last two weeks we have moved away from the Easter story to celebrate some other things, and so today I am moving us back into the Easter story with Luke’s gospel story of the road to Emmaus. In today’s Scripture reading it is STILL that first day, sometime late in the afternoon when two disciples have their own encounter with the risen lord.
Luke 24: 13-35
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[f] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[g] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[h] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[i] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[j] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[k] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
May God bless to our understanding the words that we hear today.
Will you pray with me please? May the Words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts and mind be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Our Rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Before we moved to Greenbelt, our family lived in Florida for four years and we had season passes to Disney World, since it was just 45 minutes from our home we went about once a month. If you have ever been to the land of the Mouse you know that if you are in The Magic Kingdom for any period of time you are apt to get swept into the excitement of a Disney parade at some point in your day. There is a great deal of preparation that goes into getting a parade staged, the streets are cleared, people moved off to the sidewalks and even if you are not really interested in seeing it, if you are anywhere near the main street you will be overcome by the music and the people and the dancing and even if you don’t feel like being a part of it you will find your toe tapping along to the beat and pretty soon you are humming the tune and before you know it you are caught up in the fun and excitement that is a Disney parade.
Just as suddenly as it begins it ends…as the last princess and prince wave their way by you they are immediately followed by the cleaning crew who whisk the street free of all vestiges of the receding extravaganza and for a moment you are left on the curb, feeling slightly disoriented trying to clear your head of that overwhelming over load of Disney-ana, turning around in circles trying to get your bearings and figuring out where you need to go next.
I always feel a little like that this time of year. It seems like every year Easter puts us on a crazy schedule of information overload. We get all this spiritual and emotional information crammed into one week. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter…it sometimes feels like the whole ministry and meaning of Jesus is shoved into these four days and once Easter day is done we are left in some sort of sugar- induced, lily- infused, after-the-parade crash.
There is so much to feel and think about and it sometimes seems to me that AFTER Easter we are not quite sure what we are supposed to do next. It does not matter what we have been told or experienced prior to Easter Sunday, all we know is that afterwards, right now, we are left outside of an empty Tomb and much like the earliest disciples we may be wondering about the things we've heard, and the things that we’ve seen and we wrestle with the question, "What does all of this mean?" What could all of this mean in my life? Is this just a story from long ago, or does it mean something important to me? Could it profoundly change my life?" What do I to do now? There are a lot of questions there…and some of the answers can begin to be found in the simple act of a walk and a meal.
Our Scripture today pulls us back into Resurrection day. It is the afternoon of the first day and early in the morning Jesus’ tomb was found empty. We know a little of the events that followed and it makes sense that some of the disciples, those who had come into the city to celebrate Passover, who got swept up into the vortex of the emotional week have had enough and make the decision to head back home. Luke’s gospel introduces us to two of the disciples who were on the road again, the same road that brought them into Jerusalem a week ago. I have often wondered about those two men, Could they have known a week ago how much things would change? Did they say to each other “What a difference a week makes!” Last week they entered the city swept up in the excitement of the crowd shouting hosannas, and today they leave frightened and confused and sad and filled with questions.
Remember, these are two guys who had known and loved Jesus and suddenly, more rapidly than they anticipated, or wanted, their lives changed and they had to confront their own doubts and disbelief about what a now empty tomb meant to them. Their heads and their hearts both needed help in understanding all of the things that had just taken place.
Trudging down the road, talking about the events of the past week two utterly confused followers are joined by a third man and as they walk the seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus, they share their common grief, which brings them into a strange conversation with their unexpected companion, who teaches them from the scripture, from Moses to now, reminding them of God’s reconciling love.
As we watch this story unfold it feels strange to us, that they cannot recognize this companion as their beloved friend. There is no explanation about why that can’t recognize the very person they are longing for. Maybe it is their grief and confusion that keeps them from seeing him, Maybe, it is a bit of divine magic that allows them to gently adapt to a new way of seeing Jesus in their lives.
One of the things I love about this story is that even in the midst of their confusion and grief there is graceful hospitality as the two men reach out to the stranger. They invite him to eat supper with them, and as they sit at the table together, and the stranger offers a blessings on the food they know him, they know who he is in the breaking of the bread. Their hospitality leads to an encounter with the Risen Jesus, who is known in the simple act of communion… of praying and eating.
It feels so abrupt, that in that moment that they finally have their revelation and realize who Jesus is, he is gone, vanishing from their sight, but he leaves them with warmed hearts, lively spirits, and energetic bodies. They are so energized that they walk seven miles back to Jerusalem to share their good news that Jesus is risen and on the road…again.
After breaking the bread, Jesus vanished from their sight. He may have needed to be on the move as well. As abrupt as it feels it is a gentle reminder to us that God is not static, not imprisoned by yesterday’s revelations not bound within the church’s creeds and scriptures. God is alive and on the move, doing new things and sharing new insights with other pilgrims on the journey.
This story of the road to Emmaus always makes me remember that, even though we as a community of faith are called to Be the Church, acting in Christs name in the world, that we also need to walk our own faith journey, to study the scriptures for ourselves, to come to understand the remarkable overwhelming and consistent love of God, to come to know and experience our own relationship with Jesus, our own understanding of the empty tomb, that is really not so empty but full of promises. We ALL need to walk to Emmaus so that we can meet for ourselves, the risen Christ.
We do not know today where exactly Emmaus is located. Several possibilities have been surfaced, but I think in this case vagueness is a virtue. In not knowing exactly where Emmaus is, we can be open to the possibility that Emmaus is everywhere. The road that we walk to meet the risen Christ IS everywhere. It is in the middle of joy and in the darkness of heartbreak. It is in the everyday living. It is the road up this aisle today as you come forward to participate in communion, it is the well laid out path of Crop Walk, it is the road right outside our own front doors. Emmaus is anywhere we go where we open ourselves to meet the risen Christ. Whoever we are, and wherever we are on the road, at every mealtime, in the ordinary and the extraordinary, Jesus comes to us, filled with energy and possibility, and the joy of resurrection.
I thought that today was an incredible day to catch up with this story, a day when as a church, we gather together to be reminded of who Christ is to the world and to us through the breaking of the bread of communion…but also because today we are on the road again ourselves with crop walk our annual event that has us walking together in support of strangers, Gods Beloved near and far. Worship and serving and meeting Christ where we are…And knowing that is ahead of me, I just can’t wait to get on the road again. Hallelujah, amen