Monday, May 1, 2017

Father Riley's sermon given at Christ Church, Bastrop, LA, April 30, 2017

EASTER III - A - 17               LUKE 24. 13-35

I dare say, there is not one of us here today that does not know the story Luke is sketching in such rich detail. At the level of drama, it has everything, but more than that, it is a model for a great deal of what being a Christian is all about.

The slow, sad dismay at the failure of human hope; the tying to someone who might or might not help; the discovery that in scripture, all unexpected, there lay keys that might unlock the central mysteries and enable us to find the truth; the sudden realization of Jesus himself in the breaking of the bread.

Moreover, if I were to stop with that said, we would have enough to contemplate. However, the familiar story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter afternoon demands our closer attention.

Think about the times when you have undergone a personal tragedy, or a crushing defeat and tried to make sense of it by talking it out with another person, a close friend or perhaps a relative. It helps, does it not, to talk about it, to get it off your chest? However, when you cannot quite make sense of all of it, when you cannot connect all of the dots, it leaves you sad and despondent.

These two disciples of Jesus, having left Jerusalem on Easter day, were making their way back home, some seven miles distance. On their way, they were commiserating with one another over the events of the past three days. They were sharing their pain over the loss of their beloved Jesus whom they had hoped would redeem Israel. But alas, he had been crucified, he was dead, and was buried.

That much they could accept with sadness of heart. However, the report of the women who had gone to the tomb just this morning troubled them. They had found the tomb to be empty and had told the disciples that an angel had said Jesus was risen.

Some of Jesus’ followers had gone to the tomb to see for themselves if what the women had said was true. Indeed, the tomb was empty. But him they did not see. What could it possibly mean?

That’s when a stranger approaches and joins the two in their walk. He asks what they are discussing. They are amazed that he is ignorant of the events of recent days in Jerusalem. And so they share their story and emphasize their dashed hope. The cross, they said, had seen to that.

The stranger listens, then, chides them for their lack of faith as he interprets the scriptures concerning the Christ and the fact that he had to suffer in order to fulfill God’s plan for the redemption, not just of Israel, but of the whole world.

Then it began to dawn on them that they had been seeing it through the wrong end of the telescope of how God would redeem Israel from suffering, but it was instead the story of how God would redeem Israel through suffering.

Why did they not recognize him? The fact that they could not recognize Jesus at first seems to have gone with the fact that they could not recognize the events that had just happened as being the story of God’s redemption.

It happens does it not? We get all wrapped up in the details, weighted down by grief, our hopes dashed, our faith teetering, and all the while the risen Lord is there waiting to be realized and to give us His peace.

“Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that he would have gone further…” However, they “invited” him to stay and have supper. Notice Jesus never forces himself on anyone, but waits for an invitation.

As their guest, they ask Jesus to say the table prayer.  He takes the bread and blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them, and their eyes are opened, and they recognize him. A special opening of the eyes is necessary for seeing the risen Christ.

They could not believe it. Their hope and their joy had returned. Resurrection bridged the gap between their lack of faith and their renewed hope. They could not wait to make the return trip to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that He had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread, only to discover He had appeared to Simon.

How do we know Him? How can we see him, touch him? Through Word and Sacrament. As New Testament Christians, if we are to recognize him in any sense, we must first learn to see him within the entirety of God’s story.

Scripture, once opaque is opened to us through the risen Christ. Only when we see the Old Testament as reaching its natural climax in Jesus will we have understood it. Equally, we will only understand Jesus himself when we see him as the one to whom scripture points, not only in isolated proof texts, but also in the entire flow of the story.

In the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, we are invited to know him in a very special way. The real presence of the risen Christ is made known to us in the consecrated bread and wine. For this reason, the Eucharist is the central act of Christian worship and has been from the very beginning of the Church’s life. Scripture and Sacrament, word and meal, is joined together at God’s altar.

Take scripture away, and the sacrament becomes a piece of magic. Take the sacrament away, and scripture becomes an intellectual or emotional exercise, detached from real life. Put them together, and you have the center of Christian living, as Luke understands it.

In this resurrection story, Luke invites us on a journey of faith, faith that will take us through anxiety and sorrow to meet the Jesus who has accomplished the Father’s work, and longs to share the secret of it, and the gift of his own presence, with us, his followers.

Hearing Jesus’ voice in scripture, knowing him in the breaking of the bread, is the way that God welcomes us into the fullness of his kingdom, not in some future time, but now, in the midst of our pain and sorrow, our hopes and joys, in the everyday market place of our lives. The risen Lord waits to be recognized and to give us His Peace. Amen+




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