REV. JENNIFER ADAMS – May 8, 2011 – Sermon Easter 3A.11
I have often thought that if we had to pick one gospel lesson to hear on every week and to preach on every week, I would vote for this story, the disciples on the road to Emmaus. And it would get my vote for a couple of reasons: first, this is a story that’s got everything; there’s a summary of the death and resurrection, there’s Moses, the prophets, and the metaphor of “journey” which I love; this story’s got a stranger, confusion, hidden Jesus, revealed Jesus, surprise, sadness, burning hearts, understanding, eyes opening and a shared meal. And I’m sure that in all of those bits there would be at least 52 sermons. But I don’t only love it because it’s full, I also appreciate how it flows and it’s that flow that I want to hit on this morning. It flows how we flow every Sunday morning. In other words, this story is as an Episcopal a story as we’ll find. Here’s what I mean.
The disciples were walking the road to Emmaus and boy had they had a week. Remember this story takes place that first Easter morning so Jesus had just died, and he’d died at the hands of their chief priests and elders. So the disciples were afraid and curious; they were mourning, overwhelmed by it all and extremely disappointed – because they had thought Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel. And besides that they had heard rumors, testimony actually from the women who earlier that very day had encountered angels at Jesus’ tomb telling them that Jesus had risen. So at the point that we find these guys on the road they probably weren’t sure whether they should be mourning or rejoicing or perhaps they wondered if they should have stayed in bed that morning – they were reflective, confused, and trying to put pieces together that no matter how hard they tried didn’t quite seem to fit.
And if we’re honest most of our gatherings are like that too. Every Sunday we’re one big collection of pieces that don’t fit, inner curiosities, life-disappointments, heart-felt and hopeful possibilities, testimonies that we don’t quite know how to handle. And whenever we gather, especially on Sunday mornings it’s to allow all of those things to be present as we walk somewhere together, and as we walk we do a little sorting, ask some questions, we wonder, we remember and we pray. And when we walk in this place, as was the case with the discioples we are joined by people we don’t know, people with experiences and understandings different than our own. And in the end we are better for it.
Now at first on their walk, it seemed like the man who met them on the road was completely out of it. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s happened here over the last few days?” they asked him? Slight irony. So they filled the stranger in — told him the story, about Jesus death, talked about what the women had seen and about all of the experiences of the last week. The first thing they did was to bring the stranger in to their journey – a lovely welcoming act – a
They told the story of why they were there together, so they could all be on equal footing. Like us, the disciples came together, moved together and offered a truly beautiful act of hospitality.
Which proved to be a good move, not only because hospitality is a good faithful thing, but because it turned out, that the stranger knew a whole lot and had something to give to them. When it was his turn to contribute to the conversation, “the stranger” went back not only a few days but all the way back to Moses and then through the prophets and interpreted the meaning of all it for them. (The stranger gave them something they desperately needed, even though they didn’t think the stranger had it in him.) And that happens here all the time too right here in this place; other people are Christ for us – truth is we never know who will be Christ for us here – but someone will be- interpreting, reflecting, receiving, giving, opening the gospel up for us in ways that we desperately need. In our liturgy our faith gains new life through the presence of the other.
And so the disciples invited the stranger to stay with them. And pretty soon he was breaking bread and their eyes were opened. And then they knew for sure that this was not just a stranger, this was Jesus risen to feed them and in that feeding to be seen and that being seen to be sending them forth with proclamations of good and life-giving news.
And through all of that they knew more than they knew when they started on the road and the flow was familiar – which is why I want to hold up this story and say that’s why we do what we do and how we do what we do every Sunday.
There is the coming together to walk together for a little while, about seven miles worth of time if you want to get literal about it. And on this road we lay out our pieces, our experiences, our prayers, our hopes, our confusions. We welcome strangers. We hear all the way back to Moses and the prophets and hopefully some of that gets opened up in ways that make our hearts burn (in good ways), in ways that grow us. On this road we pass the peace, we invite one another to come and stay as we offer the holy hospitality that allows us to be welcome and in the presence of the other to become more whole. And then we break bread and we eat it and in all of those actions Christ is among us – and we are invited to see, to notice in ways we haven’t noticed before. And from here we are sent to go into the world with new and hope-filled good news that resurrection comes. Like the disciples, in these common actions and familiar yet holy rituals we are invited to believe and proclaim that against all odds, against all sense, among shattered pieces. Resurrection comes. Into disillusioned, disappointed hearts. To the hopeful, the faithful, the wandering, the lost and the found, resurrection comes.
And so we walk … together. And we welcome the stranger. And we peace each other. And we stay and we break bread and in all of that we celebrate and become the presence of the risen Christ.