Monday, May 9, 2011

Cleopas and some other guy . . . and you and me

Sorry that it has been quite a while since I have posted anything.  It has been a very busy few weeks.  Anyway, over the next few days I will be posting my last few sermons, and some other blogs as the opportunity arrives.  First in the line is the message I shared yesterday.  It is a second in a series of two messages that asks the question, 'Whats next?' after we have been presented with the truth of Easter.  
I do hope to be more regular with the blogging again and I do hope, that some how, these words might find meaning for you.  
God Bless.

Luke 24:13-35 (NIV)

 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 recognizing 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 farther. 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 recognized 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 recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Today we again look back at Easter and ask the question, now what? 

Last week, we talked about Thomas, his need for ‘proof’ and then how he eventually responded to the truth of the resurrection.  This week we look at another well known story, Jesus appearance on the road to Emmaus.
One of the major – and important – differences in these two stories is the obvious difference in who it is that Jesus appears to.  In the first story Jesus appears to Thomas and the other disciples.  Pretty major characters in the story.  In our lesson today we have Cleopas – who is mentioned here and nowhere else - and his travelling companion, who doesn’t even get named.
They are not important people. They are "ordinary" people who have had the grand adventure of following Jesus and his disciples.  With Jesus’ death they have lost their faith and their hope. They are not looking for him; in fact, they don’t even recognize him when he joins them.
Yet he chooses this place of loss to meet them. When he asks about their sorrow, they are so absorbed in that grief that they cannot believe that this person doesn’t know about their experience. They tell Jesus the story of his own ministry and death, and add the dubious news of his resurrection.
Cleopas and his companion are nobodies who have no idea what God might be doing. They could be any one of us.  Their road to Emmaus is an ordinary road, the road each of us is on every day. This is what sets this story apart from other accounts of Jesus’ Easter appearances.
The story resonates with a sense of the church and its mission and of the tremendous power of the word and the sacraments to connect us with the presence of God.
But its image is of God and a church that walk alongside human confusion, human pain and a human loss of faith and hope.  Emmaus invites us to expect God to find us, and to allow our lives to be invitations for others to find God.
Emmaus challenges us to see that it isn’t our unshakable faith and deep spirituality that connect us with the risen Christ, but our smallest gestures of hospitality and friendship.   And it is in those small gestures and in living our ‘ordinary’ lives of faith that we share the love of Christ and spread that grace and peace in the world
There is no doubt that the story directs us to the church, where we may encounter Jesus in the word and the sacraments.  But not to "the church" that is equated only with this building and only with this time of worship.  We are directed instead to the church that includes those things but also goes out into and meets ordinary people and interacts with the ordinary world, people and a world marked by human loss and human hospitality. 
The Church is You and Me.  This story – at least in some way – is about living our ordinary lives in such a way that those around us are so intrigued by who we are, what we believe and how we live, that they are willing to twist our arms to share more about it with them.
We miss that part of the story in our translations – but the words used to describe the travelers actions in asking Jesus to stay and eat with them might best be understood as ‘twisting his arm’ or compelling him. 
For those travelers on the road to Emmaus, it was in Jesus' characteristic behavior of giving, of feeding, of caring for his sheep that they knew him.  Suddenly.  Fully.   So it is that in order to share the love, grace, peace and salvation of Jesus with others we must reach out with the Bread of Life – that is the Word of God written in Scripture & the bread of sustenance that feeds the very real physical needs of God’s children around us.
In feeding others physically and spiritually, as well as in receiving the bread broken for us with thanksgiving, we are given Jesus.
Cleopas and his companion are us.   They know a lot.  They care a lot.  They think about things and are saddened by their diminished hopes.  And they don't even know that their eyes have been closed until suddenly they are opened. 
From this story, though, we might find hope that Jesus walks with us.  We might find hope that in the breaking of the bread, we catch a glimpse of our Lord.  We might give and share hope by giving and breaking bread (physical and spiritual) for those around us and around the world.
St. Francis once said that ‘It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching’.  The meaning in that for us, is that having encountered the resurrected Jesus and the truth of Easter we respond by following the example of Christ
We share the truth and wonder of Easter with those we meet by sharing the Word of God and the giving and breaking of bread.  And most importantly, we don’t just do that here, in this place.
But we must share the truth of the risen Jesus as we go about the journey of our lives – headed wherever God might be calling us. 
We have to proclaim the truth and power of Easter by sharing our experience of Christ and sharing in the breaking and sharing of the bread
We need to be willing to have our destination changed so that we can live lives that are invitations for others to experience Easter and the wonder of the resurrected Jesus for themselves.
Ordinary lives, sometimes unnamed lives of service and kindess.  But lives that point to the extraordinary truth of Easter and the extraordinary love of God. 
Ordinary lives that invite those around us to share in the extraordinary life found in Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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