April 1, 2018 – Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday     April 1, 2018   Psalm 116,  Luke 23:44-56, Luke 24:1-12,

Luke 24:13-35

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Two travelers are talking with each other as they walk along from Jerusalem to Emmaus…When another traveler comes by… and asks what they’re talking about…

“Are you the only one around who doesn’t know… all the things that have been happening in Jerusalem?” they ask. “What things?” he asks. “Things about Jesus, of course,” they say – launching into the story of how Jesus of Nazareth – “a mighty prophet of God – the one we had hoped might be the Messiah of Israel – the one we had hoped would deliver us from captivity and oppression… The one in whom we had hoped all our highest of hopes…”

“But he was crucified and laid in the tomb. He had told us more than once that he would be executed… But… we didn’t really believe that…. He had said he would be raised from the dead on the third day…We had hoped… even though we didn’t believe, we had hoped…. But… now the third day’s almost over… And we had hoped… But now… all we have for all our hopes is just a strange report from some of the women of our group… who went to the tomb early this morning… And came back saying the tomb was empty – and they had seen a vision of angels who told them he was risen… And… We didn’t believe that…”

“How very foolish…” the stranger walking with them says. “How very slow you are to remember all the prophets have said about the Messiah and how he must suffer…  before coming into his glory…” And the stranger talks with them… all the rest of the seven miles to Emmaus – opening the scriptures to them – teaching them what is written about the Messiah…

And as they come near the village of Emmaus… the man walks on now a little faster straight ahead… As if he’s going to walk on to wherever he’s going by himself… But they insist – “stay with us, it’s getting dark, day is almost done…”And he does.

Now at table, it’s as if he, the stranger, not they, is host –

As he takes bread, blesses, and breaks the bread…

And they recognize him in the breaking of the bread….

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Try and imagine – walking with someone you consider your main teacher and guide in life – someone you have put your hope and trust in – and not recognizing him for the whole seven miles you’re walking together… (I’m a relatively fast walker…. and it takes me more than two hours to walk seven miles…)

But – we should cut these travelers some slack… Probably they were so deeply disappointed about Jesus being gone… And all their hopes not fulfilled… that even his presence up close and personal… doesn’t quite register – doesn’t quite penetrate their consciousness…

And… Probably Jesus had his hoodie pulled up over his hair – his ball cap pulled down over his eyes – his eyes covered with dark sunglasses… Perhaps he was also disguising his voice a little… Having a little fun, messing with his friends minds, and testing their memories.

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I expect these travelers were embarrassed when they finally recognized Jesus. But – it sure doesn’t sound like they allowed a little embarrassment to get in the way of their joy….

Once they recognize Jesus – they turn around and walk – in the dark – rapidly – all the way back seven miles, back to Jerusalem. Walking fast as they can to share the good news of Jesus alive! with the believers in Jerusalem.

And when they get back they find Jesus has been there too – and gone again. Been and gone… a pattern Jesus continues… As if to teach us – that yes, he’s here with us – but we can’t base our faith on seeing with our eyes.

Jesus is at work now in more places and dimensions than we can imagine – and with these first believers, we too, need to learn to believe faithful witnesses who have been there with Jesus before us.

Believe the women – the faithful disciples who so often have been doubted and disbelieved by us men… Faithful friends of Jesus who stayed with him even at the cross – and again first at the empty tomb… Believing…

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I can relate well to this walking to Emmaus story… because I, too, have been, and still can be, a very slow learner…

Like these first disciples, for a long time, I, too, was slow to believe other people’s testimonies about Jesus… Slow to believe reports of faithful witnesses… Slow to believe and understand… all the prophets have said about the Messiah’s need to suffer. (Believing in Jesus resurrected has been easier for me. It’s been the suffering and death on the cross parts of the gospel that I’ve often struggled with…) And…

I too have often been slow… to connect all the dots of the Jesus story… Life for me has seldom been about instant recognition… Seeing and believing at first sight has been a rare thing for me… Like these walkers to Emmaus, only more so –  it’s usually been only over the course of many long conversations with Jesus and his friends, many times breaking bread together… that I’ve come to really believe.

Like these first disciples walking the road to Emmaus… I too have often got stuck along the way, thinking circular thoughts, along the lines of “But we had hoped…”

But we had hoped…. things would have turned out better…

But we had hoped… Jesus would solve every problem…

But we had hoped… we would have all met Ms or Mr Wonderful and had two, three, four children and lived happily ever after… (Like on Leave it to Beaver in antiquity….)

But we had hoped…. so many, many things… There’s no end to all the things for which we have hoped…. (And sometimes there’s nothing wrong with the things we’ve hoped for… and are still hoping for… )

Though – as we get older our hopes are often more fragile…

Once upon a time I hoped for easier answers and quicker solutions….

Once upon a time I may have even hoped… to understand Jesus…in just a little while… a year or two, perhaps – but –

Slowly over time… I’ve come to understand… Jesus has his own way of telling his story…and… The way Jesus tells it, his story isn’t really about…

What I had hoped for…

The way Jesus tells it – the story is about what God has hoped…

And yet – the story is about – us – and what Jesus has hoped for us – and from us.

What Jesus hopes is about us… Especially about us walking with Jesus…

till we recognize him…better and better…

It’s about us…. listening to Jesus… till we know his voice… better and better…

It’s about opening the book with him… till we understand it better and better. Praying and listening with Jesus… till prayer and listening is second nature…

Singing the Lord’s song with Jesus…till we keep can’t keep from singing…

The story of Jesus – is about – Jesus – doing whatever it takes… to get us to notice –  He is alive.

The good news of Jesus is about us inviting Jesus to stay with us –

Share in all of life with us…

Breaking bread with Jesus.

Drinking the cup of life with Jesus.

Offering hospitality and welcome in the name of Jesus…

Coming to know…

the joy of Jesus in his beloved community of life…

Where we truly know –

Alleluia! Christ is risen! 

Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed!

Amen.