Sermon, May 5: Going Home

We don’t often think of it this way, but without the light of resurrection morning, Jesus would be long forgotten. The two sad travelers on the road to Emmaus would have gotten it right. Once it had looked to them like Jesus was the one who had been spoken of by the prophets. Once Peter has said he was the Christ. But he had died and, as far as these two could see, it was time to move on.
So Cleopas and his friend got out of town. While they were walking, Luke says “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them but they were kept from recognizing him.” When it began to get dark, they asked him to stay and share their supper. When he was at the table with them, “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them.” And, in the doing, their past tragic history and hope of an unimaginable future were joined together.
We said last week that Easter is the single most sacred moment in the Christian story. That sacred is a way of thinking that points to hope when everything around us is shrouded in anxiety and incoherence. In the face of mortal realities, Easter says that there’s far more to life than existence, even if you can’t taste, touch or feel it.
And so the next question is how does Easter continue to say this. You know, of course, that this is not just a story about two people on a back road a couple of thousand years ago. Whatever it was that kept the travelers from recognizing Jesus, when they reached home –something made them say “Stay with us. Please – whoever you are – stay a little longer,”
Luke says it was like their eyes were opened and they wondered about their hearts burning within them, even before – out there on the road. Whatever it had been that kept them from recognizing Jesus: when he blessed and broke and shared the bread, it was gone.
Hiding out in Emmaus is never a solution for anything – it never was and it never will be. But Jesus had been prepared to go with them wherever it was that they were going so he could be with them when they got there. He shared their bread, but before that, he’d shared their journey.
And so they knew that they were not alone as they thought. And they knew with startling certainty that he would share their lives no matter how many more misunderstandings and failures there were along the way.
The brief encounter between Jesus and his friends on the road to Emmaus is a reminder that Easter isn’t so brief after all. It certainly doesn’t end at sundown on Easter Sunday. To encounter Christ on our journeys today and to see him in the breaking of the bread is to have the courage to live our own resurrected life.
Because to live resurrection means nothing less than to trust that God will renew life even in the most ordinary, difficult and painful moments of our living – even in the moment when Jesus disappears the very moment our conscious minds begin to recognize him.
Because that’s how spiritual life is, isn’t it? Breath and words and a feeling – no more, but surely no less. We need to be gentle with ourselves when we question our own experiences of Jesus in our midst. They are real and yet not quite real, they are touchable and not quite, they are something we understand, but only almost. No wonder Thomas doubted. Maybe it’s natural to doubt, but it’s also important to remember that – while the intense sense of presence goes so quickly, the fear from before goes with it too. In its place is peace – the peace that passes understanding.
And joy – the joy of knowing that through all the changes and chances of living and dying, there is a wholeness to reality – one that binds all of life together, and together with God.
And that’s what sent the disciples running back up that road to Jerusalem – to shout the news from the holy city to the ends of the earth – hope and trust in God, whose love is written not only in ancient promises, but also in our own hearts all these years later. Christ is risen. Alleluia. Amen.

Posted by Rev. Barbara Ewton

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