2nd Sunday of Easter
7 April 2013
Seeing Jesus is all about the unity of Word and Sacrament, the center piece of worship. He interprets the scriptures which makes their hearts burn. He breaks the bread which opens their eyes.
But all of that happens in the context of a journey. They are going somewhere. And without knowing it, they are walking with Jesus.
Jesus is teaching them, even though the conversation began with their thinking he needed to be updated on the news, the only stranger who did not know.
And the real moment of truth is the sharing of table fellowship. He breaks the bread and they see him. They know him, and then he’s gone again.
And the journey continues. They return to Jerusalem to share good news, and in the mutual sharing of good news, Jesus shows up again. He brings peace to them. He invites those who are doubting to touch and see that he is real.
While the disciples are still swimming in amazement and wonder, it is time again for table fellowship.
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles 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. 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, 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. 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 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 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.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. (NRSV)
Hearing and interpreting the scriptures makes Jesus real. Not just reading in solitude, but hearing and interpreting together. When are you hearing and interpreting scripture with others? If you are on a Ministry Team, you should be having brief moments of lectio divina, when we take time with Word/Share/and Prayer to remember that we belong to God first, and later discuss the tasks that God might be calling us to tackle. We hear the scripture and respond. Maybe you have participated in a Lively learning class, a Sunday school class or Bible study or small group? In worship reflection at Peace, we ask the question that Cleopas and the other disciple asked, “Were not our hearts burning while he was present with us? And when he broke the bread, for a brief moment, wasn’t that when we knew Christ? It is a kind of holy sharing – how was God speaking to you in worship today? When you take time to reflect on that with others, you learn to listen for the Spirit’s nudges. Interpreting scripture with others means being open to the fact that they may be hearing something different than you are hearing.
Hospitality makes Jesus real. Deep hospitality, the kind where people are seeking to know the stories of one another’s lives. Think for me with a moment about a time when deep hospitality helped you to know the love of God. Was it the warm welcome you felt when you first came to this church? The welcome to this table, when you had a deep sense of undeserving, or of confusion about what this table means? Was it the acceptance you felt when someone heard you – noticed your pain and responded in kindness? The power of having a Stephen minister care for you in one of those difficult seasons in the journey of life and death.
Table fellowship makes Jesus real. Think with me for a moment about table fellowship with Christian friends and how Jesus has been real to you. Was it the comfort food of a church dinner when you were little? Was it the table conversation of a dinner group where bonds were forged? Was it that Montreat meal in a cottage with friends, where you suddenly realized the church was your true family? Was it sharing wine with church friends – a Peace sisters night out? Or the coffee and conversation of the Men’s Group, where real men can bear their hearts? Table fellowship can be seen as ordinary, but it doesn’t have to be ordinary. It is a time for deepening relationships.
The Lord’s Supper is the meal extraordinaire, the Sacrament which makes Jesus real indeed. The meal is what gives every other meal sacramental possibility. Every time you come to the Lord’s table, having also heard his Word, Christ is making himself known to you. He is healing your blindness.
Sharing good news with others makes Jesus real. That’s what happens when the Emmaus pair went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples. Have you had one of those moments where you shared the good news of what God has done or is doing in your life with a friend at church, or perhaps even with a friend not part of the church. Sharing holy stories of our journey makes Jesus real. Swapping good stories of God’s work makes Christ appear in our midst. It brings Christ and his message of peace.
The Emmaus story is the story of our lives. We are on a journey together. We get discouraged, thinking life has come to an end. But because Jesus is with us, there is no end. What we think is the end is really the beginning. When we are in the pits of despair, we are really on our way to the peace of Christ’s presence.
He comes to us, in Word and Sacrament, along the journey when we open ourselves to him. And when we begin to share stories of our mystical encounters with him, He comes in a more profound way and fills us with his peace. Christ comes and gives us the reassurance of touching him and feeling him near. But it only lasts for a moment. As we learned last week in the story of Mary at the tomb, Christ will not allow us to cling to those amazing moments of nearness.
He comes and he goes. He appears and he disappears. And we are left walking along, or sitting at table, wondering if the One talking to us now might in fact be Christ Jesus himself. But when we invite him into our homes and our hearts, he always comes. And when he breaks the bread, we know he is present in a way we can never explain but we know to be true.
So keep listening for Jesus’ voice amidst all the voices of those who walk with you in this journey of life. Listen for the word of scripture burning in your hearts and come to the table to discover his nearness. Keep walking with Jesus and inviting Jesus into your life. Then you will see him. Then you will feel his presence and power and peace. That’s the mystery of this relationship. Christ is always there, but we need to invite him to draw nearer, to sit with us. He will not impose himself, but when welcomed, will open our eyes and embrace our souls.