The Third Sunday after Easter The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
Year A + 30, April 2017
Acts 2:14a,36-41 Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
1 Peter 1:17-23 Luke 24:13-35
Perhaps you’ve had a moment of “enlightenment”–a moment of incredible clarity and understanding. In some circles it is called a “Damascus road experience” after the experience of St. Paul. One of my preaching mentors called it, “the shock of recognition.” I like to call it an “ah ha” moment. Today we have another profound experience we know as the Road to Emmaus, an Emmaus Road Experience. Jesus had a pattern of seeking to bring about just such moments of clarity and recognition. Each week, as we read the Words of God and look into the texts placed before us is it God we are looking for? Jesus in these written words: yes, but more are looking for God to be working in us.
The text begins that first Easter afternoon. We are told that these two unknown men are moving from Jerusalem to Emmaus. While they proceed a stranger joins them as they walk. It is Jesus, although like Mary Magdalene in the garden that morning, they do not recognize him.
They are discussing their brokenness and their disillusionment and this stranger innocently almost humorously asks: “What things are you talking about?” Jesus loves to ask questions, in fact, Jesus asks more questions than anyone in the Bible.
They are so grieved that their personal angst pours out to this stranger. I think the two on the road were kept from recognizing him so that he could explain it to them first..
Notice how he does it. He goes back to what they already know–what they already know and believe. What they have already experienced about God and of God is the foundation for what they are about to encounter in the risen Christ.
Jesus said: “Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Lk. 24)
He returns to the Bible and explored Messiah prophesied from Moses and all of the prophets. It was a moment of enlightenment. Familiar texts that they had seen and memorized in Sabbath School suddenly are understood in a completely new way!
Does not God do the same to us? When in a moment did something about God, Christ or the Bible itself give you an “ah ha” moment? The Bible is God’s Word to us–a love-letter yes but more–a message to be investigated. When someone writes a letter to us, we look for how it speaks about that which will affect us. Theologian Walter Brueggemann says that God’s word to us is “endlessly ‘strange and new’.” I have found it so. It is the living word of the living God inexhaustible in its message.
What Jesus was doing on this road is to show that the whole of the scriptures from Genesis through Malachi spoke of him, over and over again. Why would Jesus “keep them” from recognizing him? They were unprepared to recognize the person who was among them while He was alive.
Remember the interaction with the disciples, his words and theirs, when he calmed the raging sea? “He replied, “‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” (Mt. 8:26 & 27)
These disciples had already decided what God was like. What the Messiah would be like and do and of course the Messiah would never have a shameful death at the hands of the Roman dogs. Would they be ready to accept a Risen from the dead Messiah? Jesus had to show them!
Aren’t we also a bit that way? I know I am. If there is a problem I get so focused on the problem, that I can’t even begin to imagine that God has a solution in the works, or a purpose in allowing things to come out of us that need fixing.
If Jesus as God crucified had to go through what he went through to fix us, should we not also, even living under the forgiveness of his blood also find a way to greater God-likeness through the circumstances of our lives?
Hebrews chapter 5 says: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Don’t we do the same? When has God been behind the scenes, in a circumstance or another person, trying to teach us, to change, shape and mold us?
The climax of the chapter then comes as they press Jesus to stay with them and there is no Sheraton Inn nearby. They sit down at table and notice, it is Jesus who is orchestrating this scene not the home owner as was tradition.
We read: When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They 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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Why the breaking of the bread? Over and over it is in broken-ness that the shock of recognition comes to be. Broken expectations litter the landscape of the post-resurrection stories.
Brokeness litters the expectations of our lives! But in the broken-ness of the hopes, dreams, even the body of Jesus the insecurity of disappointment opened them to receive the good news and a new hope. It is in the broken-ness, the times of uncertainty and disillusionment in our lives that God can come in and make a difference in us.
Notice what they said “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” They were hearing with their ears, but not their hearts. It is in the experience of the breaking of the bread that the revelation comes. So IMAGINE... William Blake said “imagination is Evidence of the Divine” Peter Gomes of Harvard Divinity School said: “imagination is the way that liberates us from the tyranny of that journey , which is essentially a retrospective: looking at what happened, how sad it is and how woebegone we are. Eucharist is the meal that breaks the power of that paradigm. “ Imagine a new paradigm as Jesus gave those disciples and us by the new life the Resurrection provides. Don’t you know that God in Christ imagined what would be before it was? So my brothers and sisters may we free our minds so that God may work his imagination in our lives changing by the Resurrected Jesus. AMEN