April 2018

Walking, talking, breaking bread

(Please read Luke 24:1-35)

Two travelers are talking with each other as they walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus when another traveler comes along 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 telling the story of 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 hopes…”

“But he was crucified and laid in the tomb. He had told us more than once he would be executed… We didn’t really believe that…. He had said he’d be raised from the dead on the third day…We had hoped so… We didn’t really believe that, but…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 – saying they’d 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 mile journey to Emmaus, opening the scriptures to them and teaching them what is written about the Messiah…

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

And now at table, it’s as if he, the stranger, is suddenly their host – as he takes bread, blesses, and breaks the bread…

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

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Imagine – walking with your main teacher and guide in life – the one in whom you have put your hope and trust in – and as he’s talking about himself in the third person explaining all about himself – we’re not recognizing him for the whole seven miles we’re walking together… (I’m a relatively fast walker and it takes me more than two hours to walk seven miles.)

But let’s cut these travelers some slack. Probably they were so deeply disappointed about Jesus being gone, and all their hopes unfulfilled… that even his presence up close and personal… doesn’t quite register…

And perhaps Jesus had his hoodie-sweatshirt pulled over up his hair and his dark sunglasses on. Perhaps he was disguising his voice a little – having a little fun, messing with his friends minds – testing their memories and powers of recognition.

I expect these travelers were plenty embarrassed when they finally recognized Jesus. But – doesn’t sound like they allowed embarrassment to get in the way of their joy… As 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 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, 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 in more places, more dimensions now than we can imagine – and with these first believers, we too, need to believe the testimonies of faithful witnesses who have been there with Jesus before us. Believe the testimony of the faithful women who stayed with him even at the cross – and were first again at the empty tomb…

And yes, I can relate all-too-well with this walking to Emmaus story, because I, too can still can be a 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 understand all the prophets have said about the Messiah’s need to suffer. (Believing in the joy of 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. I’ve believed a little here, a little there, without getting the big picture. Life for me has seldom been about instant recognition. Seeing and believing at first sight’s been rare for me. Like these walkers to Emmaus, only more so –  it’s been only through 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 thinking in circular patterns, along the lines of “But we had hoped…”

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

But we had hoped… Jesus would have solved our every problem by now…

But we had hoped But we had hoped…. so many, many things. No end to all the things for which we’ve hoped. (And nothing wrong with some of the things we’ve hoped for…)

But… Slowly over time… I’ve come to understand – 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 for…

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

What Jesus hopes is 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 know in our hearts and in our bones –  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 deep joy of Jesus in his beloved community of life…

The one place where we truly can always know –

Alleluia! Christ is risen! 

Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed!

May the peace and joy of Christ’s resurrection life be ever with you,

Pastor Tim