Every Sunday is our Emmaus journey with each other and with Christ, and the shape of our greater journey of faith with each other and the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Third Sunday of Easter, year A
Text: Luke 24:13-35
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Every Sunday we walk the road to Emmaus together.
That’s the mystery and joy of this beautiful story. Everything that happens at Eucharist happens here. In this familiar telling of a journey, a conversation, an invitation, a meal, and more journey, we discover the gift the Church has given us.
The worship life of the early Church grew out of their Jewish experience of worship, so it’s not likely the believers intentionally patterned their worship after this story. But the shape of Christian worship that we continue to this day, a shape we see already in the book of Acts, happens to be the exact shape of this late afternoon seven-mile walk and its aftermath.
This is a grace that transforms our lives. In the Eucharist, our weekly Emmaus journey, we find all we need for life and hope in our own daily journey of faith. Our eyes are opened, Christ is in our midst, our world is changed.
So each week we come together, we meet on the road.
These two disciples didn’t walk alone. They were probably married. But no one ever comes to faith by themselves. Faith is always a shared invitation to a communal life.
And so we gather each week. We need each other on our faith journey. Whatever our personal situations, when we come here we will always, always, be met by family, beloved sisters and brothers, even those who are here for the first time. For many of us, this might be a main reason we come.
This community that gathers each week is as important as a sacrament. It might be a sacrament. When Luther wrote of the sure and certain ways we receive God’s grace, he named Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, confession and absolution, the preaching of God’s Word. What we know and cherish as the means of God’s grace.
But then he added, “and – and! – the mutual conversation and consolation of the brothers and sisters.” This gathering. This meeting on our road in the midst of fear and doubt and confusion about the world, where we huddle together and greet each other in Christ. Where we walk, every Sunday, together, and share all our joys and sorrows, faith and doubt, fear and hope. This community that walks together is a means of God’s grace.
After we gather, we listen as God speaks.
As these two walked along, Jesus taught them, opened up the Scriptures, helped them see what God was doing. They began walking in doubt and fear. They had hoped Jesus brought healing from God for their people, and then he was killed. As they listened, they found life.
We might not face Good Friday every week, but when we gather, we bring the things we are struggling with. Things that frighten us, things that cause our hope to falter, things we don’t understand.
And together, we listen to God’s Word. Like them, we have Christ’s teachings. Like them, we seek to understand the word of the Hebrew scriptures for us. But we get a little more: we also hear the teachings of the apostles. And as we listen, we find life, too.
God’s Word always speaks God’s grace and life into our lives and into the world, and sets our hearts afire. All that we fear, all that confuses, all that brings doubt, all of that God speaks to.
On the road together here, we listen for this life and hope, and expect our hearts to be set ablaze. That’s what happens when Christ walks with us and teaches us.
After listening, then they prayed: “Stay with us.” So do we.
In Eucharist, after hearing God speak, we invite God into our lives and into the world. We pray. We pray that God come into our hearts and change us, keep the fire of the Spirit blazing. We pray that we can hear more of God’s Word, know more of God’s hope, as these two also did. We know that it often feels like evening, like the darkness is overpowering, and we invite God to stay with us in the dark and be our light.
And we lift others up in prayer every week, too, because Christ has opened our hearts. We can’t only think of our own needs anymore; Christ’s love has so changed us we feel a irresistible pull to ask the Triune God to stay with others, too. To bless and keep them. Heal them, strengthen them, hold them. To change our hearts and the world’s hearts, so light shines in the darkness that surrounds us all.
Our prayer to God to stay with us and the world is what makes sense of our journey. Walking together, hearing God’s Word leads inevitably to this plea: “Stay with us. Be with us and this world.”
And Christ stays, shares a meal, and opens their eyes. Opens our eyes.
The culmination of this whole story for this couple from Emmaus is that Christ does come into their home, and sit down with them. But he takes over as host. Christ lifts up the bread, blesses it, breaks it, gives it to them. And then they see him. Then they know him.
And this is the culmination of our weekly Emmaus journey, too, the center of our life. Having invited the Triune God to stay with us, in Christ God takes over. Christ welcomes us to this table, blesses bread, breaks it, and gives it to us.
And we see Christ in the breaking of the bread. We see all the love God has that led to the cross, and the astonishing resurrection life that comes from the Triune God’s self-emptying love. Here we find life. Here we are forgiven. Here we are healed. And our eyes are opened, and we see what God is doing in Christ for us and for the world.
Then we go out and tell others. That’s always the end of the Gospel story, isn’t it? It’s never for us alone.
Look at this couple. It’s evening, they’ve had supper, they’re home. Yet when they recognize Christ, they get up and in the dark of night head the seven miles back to Jerusalem. They find the other women and men gathered and tell their story, and hear more. They can’t experience Christ only for themselves. They need to share.
And so for us, the end of the story is never this meal with Christ. The meal only begins the rest of the story. There’s always “Go in peace, share the Good News!” Get up and run to Jerusalem so the others can know you’ve seen the risen Christ. Get out on the road again and start walking with others. There’s always someone we need to share this good news with, always someone who hasn’t heard.
This is the transforming grace for us: Everything we experience here is a gift for the journey of faith we make every day, the road to Emmaus that is our whole life.
Here we learn to walk together in our life, keep sisters and brothers close. Here we learn to listen to God’s Word in our daily journey, and pay attention when our hearts catch fire. Here we learn to ask God to stay with us and the world every day, to walk with us, come into our homes so we are not alone. Here we learn that God in Christ feeds us and is known to us in rich and abundant blessings every day.
And here we learn that there’s always the last part to do: tell others what has happened to us on the road, and how Christ has been made known to us. So Christ’s life spreads to the whole world. And all have companions on their journey, and the blessing of God’s life in Christ along their way.
In the name of Jesus. Amen