Easter 3 2014; Jesus is for real

Acts 2:14a, 22-32 Psalm 16 1 Peter 1:3-9 John 20:19-31
I include today a retelling of the “walk to Emmaus” story, by Michael E. Williams, with thanksgiving for his words of faith.
The followers of Jesus are bone-weary. Grief-stricken and still in shock from this morning’s discovery of an empty tomb, we are walking to Emmaus. We might as well go home. It is over now.

Our footsteps sounded like a death toll
As we walked the dusty road
From Jerusalem to Emmaus.
Both words and silences spoke for us
As our feet trudged toward home
In search of whatever comfort
A familiar place might offer.

Along that same road,
Our faces set for Emmaus,
We spoke of one dear to us
Who was no more. The journey home
Might help, but could not comfort,
Our broken hearts despite the offer
Of rest after grief’s expensive toll.

Maybe after our 7 mile walk, our loss would be lessened. We would not be reeling from everything that has just happened. Can we believe that Jesus’ tomb is empty? That he really did appear again?
While the place, Emmaus,
Still lay some distance from us
We met a stranger, going home
Like us. In need of comfort
Like us, perhaps. We hope the offer
Of company to reduce our toll
Of mourning along that sad road.

The stranger began to question us.
The words that accompanied us home
So far, held pain and sorrow, not comfort.
“Are you the only one that does not know? We’ll offer
A story that will wring from your heart a toll,
A price, no tax collector along this road
Could match from here to Emmaus.”

We cannot believe that someone – anyone—does not know what has been going on in Jerusalem. We (today, now) know the comfort of telling stories about a loved one we have just lost. Through our tears, we laugh, we reminisce; we share everything that we can remember. Our stranger once again turns our world upside down, as we unknowingly tell his own life and story.
We told the stranger of Jesus, the comfort
Of God extended to the world, God’s offer
Of grace to cancel the excruciating toll
Of death. But following Jesus’ road
Had led us nowhere but back here to Emmaus.

Jesus, that “comfort of God extended to the world,” has let us down. Mingled with our grief is our deep disappointment in a Saviour who did not live up to our expectations; does not, in fact, live at all anymore. Our doubt is deep. Unless you count that story from the women and from Peter…. We stop for the night. We extend hospitality to our new-found friend and fellow traveler.
Arriving home
At dark in Emmaus
We offer
Small comfort,
Food to ease the toll
Of the long, bleak road.

All has been lost. It seems that nothing will lessen our grief on this unbelievable day. We sit down to eat and perhaps find a glimmer of brightness in a bit of bread, a little wine.

The bread is broken
Between familiar
Spike-torn palms. (leave some silence here)
Now we recognize the face,
The voice, the hands, the gait.
We start to speak.
Our voices reach toward
An emptiness across the table
Where our guest/our host had sat.
The question returns
To us and turns on us—
Are we the only ones who did not know?
Somewhere in our stammering, in our disbelief, our crisis, our unbelief … God unveils our eyes and we see Jesus, just briefly. Our faith is true! Jesus shows up at our most unexpected times, and whether we know it or not, fills us once again. This Jesus is not to be the Saviour of OUR thinking, of our world, but is indeed God precious son who walked with us then and walks with us still.

The love of God is so much more grand that anything that we can imagine. That love and that presence bury our unbelief. We see God in a brief glimmer and we know that the story is real. It is not a story, but faith told in terms that we in our humanity still struggle to understand. The death, the resurrection, Jesus’ life before that, and his teaching – really did happen. Jesus really did die and was raised again! God loves us! Jesus walks with us, and was with us – yeah, on that road, and oh – just a moment ago. We need simply to offer hospitality, to open the door of our heart and invite Jesus to join the journey.

Do you know? We share Jesus today in that same way: we are informed through the opening of Scripture. We read the stories, hear them, tell them, study them, and God is opened up to us in God’s gift: “the comfort of God spread to all the world.”

We hear the Word, walk with Jesus a little while, try to conquer our unbelief. Then we share a Eucharistic meal. In this meal that we share, we offer ourselves, say “yes” in a new way. Luke’s gift to us is letting us know that we do not have to have seen Jesus die on the cross to share in His redemption. The empty tomb of our forefathers is given to us in the gift of this story from Luke. No matter how many centuries pass, we are there, in Word … in bread and wine. Take, eat.

Scripture and a meal: word and table; the liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table. It is familiar to us in our Eucharistic meal.

We are not the only ones who did not know, who sometimes still do not recognize Jesus. Jesus continues to surprise us with His presence, not living up to our expectations, but in the process offering us more than we can ever imagine. We forget to see Jesus along whatever road that we travel. We carry our doubt along with our remembrances, our stories. It is in sharing and telling and walking together that we offer deep Christian hospitality. Come on in. We must offer the hospitality and invite Jesus into our lives. It will become impossible for our lives not to be transformed by Jesus’ walk with us. With deep joy and obedience we, too, will go and tell.
We will recall the day or days and hours – or maybe just the tiniest moment – when the story became faith and the breaking of bread really did bring new life.
Then we return
Along a moon-lit ribbon
Of road, saying,
“Were not our hearts on fire?
Were not our hearts ablaze?”

It is not finished. Jesus’ walk with us is ever-present, ever new. We realize over and over, in those tiny moments and in big one, that our faith is true. Jesus lived, died, and is risen. He warms our hearts, will set them on FIRE and never let those embers die out. Jesus lives. Where do we see him?

That, my friends, is our Easter prayer: that God can turn our lives into a walk with the living Christ, who alone can comfort us, center our faith in Him, and who sets our hearts on fire.

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