May 1, 2017
“On the Road to Emmaus” April 30 sermon
Today’s reading takes us to Luke’s account of Easter.
The preceding passage describes the women’s visit to the empty tomb.
Our reading begins with two disciples – on that same day – walking to the village of Emmaus.
Along their seven mile journey from Jerusalem they encounter the risen Christ.
As with Mary Magadalene in John’s gospel, the disciples do not recognize Jesus.
This particular story, in detail, is limited to Luke’s writing.
Mark mentions in just two lines that “Jesus appeared in another form to two of them as they were walking in the country.”
Neither Matthew nor John include this wonderful story in their gospel accounts.
Hear now these words from the gospel of Luke 24:13-35.
Here ends the reading of God’s holy word. May He add to our hearing and understanding his blessing. Amen.
Please pray with me.
Elusive God, companion on the way, you walk behind, beside, beyond; you catch us unawares.
Break through the disillusionment and despair clouding our vision, that, with wide-eyed wonder, we may find our way and journey on as messengers of your good news.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
As I read this passage earlier in the week I couldn’t help thinking how easy it would be for me to miss an opportunity to meet Christ on the road.
I don’t particularly like to talk to strangers – I wear earphones on the airplane so the person next to me won’t chat;
I avert my eyes in a restaurant when the tables are too close to avoid having to talk with the strangers next to me;
I rarely respond to people’s attempt in check out lines to converse.
Joe on the other hand, my outgoing, friendly husband would be highly likely to meet Christ on the road and invite him for dinner and to stay over at our house.
He would ask him where he was from and how he knew so much about what had happened in Jerusalem.
It is unlikely that Jesus would slip away unnoticed.
How about you?
Welcoming the stranger is an ongoing theme in scripture.
Starting with Abraham and Sarah entertaining angels unaware and moving through the story of the good Samaritan coming to the aid of the stranger on the street there are countless examples of the good that comes when we open our hearts to strangers.
Actually, most of the stories in the New Testament about Jesus chronicle his interactions with strangers.
Our lives are made up of these encounters.
I’m sure you have had the experience of meeting someone new and feeling your heart come alive as you realize that you share the same passions, or simply that something resonates in you and you want to know the person better.
You may invite them to share a meal with you.
As Jesus accompanies these two disciples on their long walk he shares his interpretation of the events of holy week and Easter.
He explains the mystery of resurrection in such a way that it makes perfect sense to these grieving men.
Then, as they sit at the table, he becomes known to them in the breaking of the bread.
It is at the table that we reveal ourselves to our companions.
We share our stories.
We relax a bit and let our guard down.
Jesus knew this about people.
The reason he chose simple bread and common wine as the elements for remembrance is because he knew that people would encounter them every day.
We have sacramentalized our Eucharist celebration so that we forget that Jesus instructed us to remember him every time we eat or drink which translates into several times a day.
Remembering Jesus once a week, or once a month, is not enough.
To truly embrace the beauty of faith, we must listen to Jesus with hearts on fire as a way of life.
We must look for Jesus all the time. In the face of a stranger, in the pictures in the news, in our own community.
Jesus does not reside in the church and remembering him only once a month when we break out the silver and have communion misses the whole lesson.
Frederick Buechneer, preaching on this text said: “I believe that although the two disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus recognized them, that he saw them as if they were the only two people in the world.
And I believe that the reason why the resurrection is more than just an extraordinary event that took place some two thousand years ago and then was over and done with is that, even as I speak these words and you listen to them, he also sees each of us like that.
In this dark world where you and I see so little because of our unrecognizing eyes, he, whose eye is on the sparrow, sees each one of us as the child in red.
And I believe that because he sees us, not even in the darkness of death are we lost to him or lost to each other.
I believe that whether we recognize him or not, or believe in him or not, or even know his name, again and again he comes and walks a little way with us along whatever road we’re following.
And I believe that through something that happens to us, or something we see, or somebody we know – who can ever guess how or when or where? – he offers us, the way he did at Emmaus, the bread of life, offers us a new hope, a new vision of light that not even the dark world can overcome.”
Our goal is to open our eyes and hearts to see the people around us as valued, beloved children of God.
We must look for ways to widen our welcome, broadening our sense of community.
One scholar noted that the exact location of Emmaus has never been ascertained.
Several possibilities have surfaced, but perhaps vagueness is a virtue.
In not localizing Emmaus, we can open to the possibility that Emmaus is everywhere.
Wherever we are on the road and at every mealtime, Jesus comes to us, filled with energy and possibility, and the joy of resurrection.
As we walk through our own lives, let us walk with Jesus by our side.
Let us rejoice at each new encounter.
As many of you know, I defended my doctoral dissertation on Monday.
The academic team was excited about our Peace Through Understanding initiative.
One of the most important questions they asked was ‘so what’s next?’
How will you keep this ministry going?
I, for one ,will try to surrender my barrier building behavior and open myself to hearing what my neighbor might have to say.
I will ask people to tell me their story and I will listen with Jesus-type attentiveness to their words.
I will try to examine the intersections of my truths and the reality of other people’s lives.
What about you?
Where is your Emmaus?
Where might you encounter the risen Christ?
How will it change you?
Let us pray.
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for the gift of faith in our lives.
We accept the responsibility to live as active disciples of Jesus Christ.
Help us, we pray, to open our hearts to those we label as strangers.
Grant us the grace to call them friends.
Help us to build bridges where others might divide.
Let us listen with Christ-like attentiveness to our neighbors and friends.
On this day, when we welcome our Jewish friends to our community help us to understand that there is much we do not know.
Hear our prayers this morning for those whom we love.
For those who are sick, we pray for healing.
For those who mourn, we pray for comfort.
For the blessings of newly baptized children, Sofy and Jack, we give you thanks.
We pray, O God, for a world that seems angry and afraid. Help us counter with love. Let us be leaders and peacemakers.
We turn to you now in the sacred silence of this Meetinghouse with the prayers of our hearts.