Sermon, Easter 3A, Sunday April 30, 2017
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognising him.
17 He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’
19 ‘What things?’ he asked.
‘About Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.’
25 He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. 29 But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
Some people want me to believe that they are not searching for God or any spiritual experience. I don’t believe them.
People are searching for something or someone to trust in, even if ‘God” is in the form of satisfactory and satisfying answers to life’s many questions.
We are all a lot like those people walking and talking on the road to Emmaus that afternoon. Like us, they had lots of questions, and they knew what it was to lose someone precious and promised.
Many people either forthrightly believe that Christianity is over and God is dead and live accordingly.
Others have some vague sense that there is some kind of Deity that controls the world but can’t ever seem to have any confidence in knowing this ‘God” as anything more than a spiritual force.
Others have known that this Deity is a person whom they have known in their past (maybe at Sunday School or school or home when a child), and still know to some degree now. But the goings on of life, their suffering, and many other concerns somehow make God seem distant and disconnected from being truly present in their life.
Still others have a living present relationship with God as a person, Father, Son and Spirit, and seek his presence in various places often. Some of these live on the treadmill of trying to live between spaced-out spiritual highs. Some have written off the ordinary things of God and his rather ordinary people in a local church as not being ‘spiritual’ or ‘powerful’ enough!.
Cleopas and his friend (or maybe his wife) walked along that road. They had been fully invested in searching for God’s presence in their lives as they saw and heard the Son of God speak and act. Now it seemed as though the search had been futile and the promise of new life and peace in God’s presence misguided.
They could not recognise God after what they thought was the death of God on that cross. He did look very ordinary for a Saviour! It was the everyday humanness of Jesus that they missed at first. The resurrected King of Kings was a bloke chatting and listening along their journey; God in the ordinary; an ordinary looking and sounding God – present but often undetectable to the heart searching for more, in more easily seen things much more spectacular, until something happened.
They were probably expecting God to appear as some glowing spirit riding a white stallion with a light sabre in his right hand marching into Satan’s city to smite all tyranny, fear and death – and a few Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders!
But something did happen. They heard his words. They heard him speaking. And they had their minds blown open and their hearts detonated into new life by this ordinary bloke speaking human words and divinely breaking bread. What a rush! God was still present and was speaking and doing. God was still hope. Life had hope. The future was in him as they once believed. Jesus spoke his Scriptures and carried them out in table eating and drinking friendship. The fog lifted. The shadow receded. God’s ordinary became life extra-ordinary!
Friends, if this scripture says anything to me it says that God is available, open and present in the ordinary things powered by his Spirit Word – things of his choosing, not mine.
With some relief I am hearing that our God makes himself fully known in ordinary physical things like human words being spoken and done in community; preached, sung, prayed word and done word – the washing of resurrection (Baptism) and the meal of resurrection (Holy Communion).
A Challenge? Yes this is a challenge to the common belief of many a Western Christian that the God of the universe could be so ‘unspiritual’. So many of us seem to believe that being “spiritual” has nothing to do with the ordinary stuff; really physical, human, everyday things. Maybe our wandering hearts are chasing that glowing spirit figure on a white stallion and a light sabre who will take us to the clouds!
But bread, wine, words, human beings? Surely God is more in the skies or more in events going my way or more in beautiful art on canvass or in the microphone. Surely God is more in MY emotions and understanding of things. Surely God is MOSTLY in these things MORE than bread wine and word and water?
Not here on the road to Emmaus. Yes, music and songs and beautiful art are his gifts for sure. Yes the trees and the sunset and the magnificence of a hive of bees, a red desert in the early morning – all God’s domain and works of his fingers – but not his FULLEST revealing of his loving personal presence to us.
So where will I connect with Jesus more than any other thing or place? Where Cleopas and his friend or maybe his wife did – in the hearing of him speak his Words of promise and the friendship of the eating at table.
What if the God of all creation actually with us the most closely in these very ordinary things as he was for these troubled searching and disappointed people in little house near Jerusalem?
I know it is true and I am relieved and joy-filled. I don’t need to look for the next spiritual high so much, although spiritual highs are part of the journey and the Lord grants them and we receive them with joy! But I don’t have to wait for them or plan for them to get me through. He will get me through everyday in ordinary but Spirit-charged gifts.
Also, I don’t have to be squeaky clean lest I miss his presence. He will make me clean by his holy presence in his holy gifts of grace.
I don’t have to search for the perfect Christian Pastor or friend or church! There are none anyway! And there does not need to be any because we have the Perfect One in our hands and on our lips, by his decision and gracious love.
I don’t have to keep searching for the magic pill or the silver bullet that will connect me to the God.
Why? Because as it was for these two it is for me and you. Jesus loves me before I love him. He shows his heart to me before I can find it in a place I can hold it and hear it and touch it. Jesus gives everything to me before I give my all for him and his mission. What he says is much more telling than what I say to him even though he wants me to talk with him a lot.
Cleopas and his friend discovered to their burning heart’s joy that the full presence of the crucified and risen Jesus is in his ongoing, living spoken and done word.
I have delighted in this too as I trust Jesus’ real presence in his gift of preaching and sharing the Word together, and in his holy gifts that are his grace for me now and everyday: Baptism, Absolution, Lord’s Supper – the whole shape of the worship life of his church. What a joy and what a relief and what rest this brings my heart.
For the questioning ones, the very, very good, the very, very bad; for those on the edge of faith, for those angry at God’s seeming inaction, for those longing for God’s touch, for those bordering on cynical, for those having trouble trusting that the Holy Spirit actually works through these unemotional ordinary physical things – water, beard, wine, a local church of sinners and saints together week in, week out….. feel your hearts burning as you hear and receive him where he chooses to be solidly and reliably found.
They felt their hearts burning inside them as he opened up the Bible and they recognised him as he gave thanks and broke the bread.
Searching, doubting, seeking, people of God, our faith all comes together in this word and this meal because it is where Jesus brings us all together so we can continue on with new joy, new usefulness to his mission, new calling to shape our work and home life and friendships.
Lord Jesus speak to us and give us your holy body and blood for the journey always.