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Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
The Way of Emmaus 050811
This morning’s sermon is about the of the road to Emmaus. It is a familiar story to many, but it seems there is always a possibility for a fresh look at scripture. Have you noticed that? That the more scripture we read, and the more often we read it, the more scripture seems to grow ahead of us, by one or two steps.
This morning I’ve already changed the title of the sermon from the story title of ‘The Road to Emmaus’ to ‘The Way of Emmaus’. The reason is as follows.
Jesus said, and the phrase is often repeated, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We often explore, I think, what is meant by the truth’ and ‘the light’.
The truth is the truth we perceive about the spiritual nature of the universe, whether we choose to explore it through Christianity or through any of several avenues or paths available to us, but Christianity asserts that Jesus is that truth. This truth, stated differently, is that Jesus is the spiritual nature of the universe. The universe, according to this view, is primarily a spiritual universe, unseen and undetected by the physical world in which we live. (Please forgive my arrogance at failing to describe accurately the indescribable)
Jesus is also the light. The light illuminates the darkness and follows our footsteps wherever we go. Jesus illuminates each of our present circumstances and changes the manner in which we view everything. Jesus is the light. This means to me that whatever I do, wherever I go, I do so differently, perhaps more consciously, and hopefully more gently. I’m seeing where I’m going!
But in the triple definition of ‘the way, the truth, the light’, we have yet to explore the meaning of ‘the way’.
The phrase ‘the way’ has a special meaning for me, sort of. For years I read and thought about a book of Chinese sayings titled ‘The Way’. This book is the collected sayings of an old wise man named Lao-Tse, which mean ‘old man’, and is the source of the religion ‘Taoism’. The way is translated as ‘Tao’.
In the scripture from Luke this morning, I think we have Jesus’ own description of his being as the ‘way’.
On the road to Emmaus, what happens. Two disciples are walking home from Jerusalem, or running from Jerusalem, when a stranger meets them and walks with them. When the disciples explain their journey and the recent events in Jerusalem and explain their pain and frustration and despondency. They experienced a wonderful time in human evolution, and then it all ended is suffering on the cross right in front of them.
But Jesus meets them on their way. He doesn’t appear to them in a synagogue, or when they are at prayer. He doesn’t come to them in Jerusalem. Jesus is with us in the calmest, most quiet and most common of our everyday life.
Then, Jesus opens the scriptures. Jesus helps the two disciples make sense of the scriptures, and to make sense of life. The scriptures, when we look at them as a whole, contain a spiritual history of the Hebrew nation, but also a spiritual history of humankind’s spiritual evolution.
A friend complained to me once that God is made in humankind’s image. In a way, I agree with him, despite how it may sound. I do think that humankind’s idea of God has evolved, and continues to evolve—rather than assert that God is only created by humanity. The Bible is the record of that evolution, and in a way, the record of each person’s growth as a spiritual learner.
So, for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the stranger has taught a complete and systematic exposition of the Bible, through only the Old Testament at that point, and continues the story through the resurrection of Jesus.
But Jesus is still not recognized by the disciples. Instead, they continue their journey to Emmaus and since it is late, they ask the stranger to stay the night. To not extend hospitality violates the most serious of middle Eastern hospitality rules! But it is not until the disciples break bread with Jesus do they recognize him as Jesus Christ.
Why does it happen this way? Why don’t they recognize Jesus? Recall that Mary Magdelene thought Jesus was a gardner until Jesus spoke to her, on Easter morning. Why does Jesus not look like Jesus? One reason is that an apparition may appear to a stressed and grieving person, and it often does happen, but when Jesus doesn’t look like Jesus, it is not an apparition.
Have you ever met and talked with someone and then later realized it was an angel, or someone sent by God, or maybe Jesus? Sometimes it is moments or months or years later and you ask yourself—who was that that sat and spoke with me? And you realize the person was something other than a normal person.
For these two disciples, it was the blessing and the breaking of bread by Jesus that allowed them to see who they were sharing a meal with. It was communion, sharing the Holy Spirit with Jesus that opened their eyes. This is an important point to consider.
Essentially, this says that if we are in communion with Jesus, and sharing bread, and sharing the Holy Spirit with Jesus, then Jesus is right before us, if we will only recognize him.
The way of Emmaus teaches us therefore, that to see Jesus, we have to let him walk with us, and teach us the spiritual evolution of humanity and ourselves, primarily through the Scriptures, but also by means of the Holy Spirit, and then to invite Jesus into our homes.
We also ‘recognize Jesus right in front of us when we enter into communion with Jesus. This may mean the actual physical breaking of bread, but it also may mean when we spiritually are in communion with Jesus. The word communion is a combination of the ideas of ‘community’ and ‘union’. When we form a community, with each other and with Jesus, something spiritual happens. We are beginning then to be a spiritual community together with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
This story of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is also a metaphor, for the path home, walking with Jesus. It is ‘the way’ Jesus has taught us. It is also a description of a common event, when Jesus is with us, and as we should be with others. We should go to people where they are, where they live and work. People don’t have to come to church here to begin walking this road. We have to go where they are…this is one of the reasons I appreciate the internet. We can reach a large number of people—all of them potential disciples, without waking anyone up on Sunday morning! What we miss is the communion with other disciples and with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and as time progresses, we will learn, I believe, how to form community outside of the four walls of a Sunday morning service.
May Jesus Christ bless us as we seek to follow Jesus,
Let us pray.
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 36Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
1I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
2Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
3The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
4Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”
12What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
13I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
14I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.
15Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.
16O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.
17I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
18I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,
19in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
1 Peter 1:17-23
17If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. 22Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- A Broken Church, and the Return from Emmaus. (queeringthechurch.com)
- Sermon: Cleopas On The Emmaus Road (People At The Cross And The Tomb) (bigcircumstance.com)
- The road to Emmaus (life.nationalpost.com)
- Third Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday (prepareformass.wordpress.com)
- Third Sunday of Easter (prepareformass.wordpress.com)
- In defense of “Doubting Thomas.” (lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com)
- Hearts on Fire — A Lectionary Reflection (pastorbobcornwall.blogspot.com)
- May 8, 2011: Third Sunday of Easter, Year A (troyalivio.wordpress.com)
- He Lives! (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Walking With Jesus. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)