We are still on the road to Emmaus, seeking open eyes and open Scriptures, walking with Christ who opens both for us and accompanies us with life and hope.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Third Sunday of Easter, year A
Text: Luke 24:13-35
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
This couple from Emmaus was on the road and having a really hard time of it.
All their hopes for the redemption of their people were dashed, because Jesus, the one they thought was God’s Anointed to save Israel, had just been brutally killed. Everything they understood about what God was doing in Jesus was turned upside down. And their hearts were broken in grief over what had happened to their beloved friend and teacher.
But this long walk of seven miles transformed them. On that journey they met a stranger who both opened the Scriptures to them and opened their eyes. By the time they got home, they’d found new hope, new understanding, and even comfort and healing for their grief.
Two things are notable: first, they couldn’t return to where they were before. Not meaning Jerusalem, they went back there that very night. But they couldn’t return to how they understood Jesus, and what God was doing, before all this happened. They would need a new way of seeing and understanding.
The second thing is that for most of this story, they’re still on the road to Emmaus, they haven’t arrived at their destination. Maybe not even by the end.
Right now, we’re still on the road to Emmaus, too.
This pandemic, and all the accompanying anxiety and fear, the tragic deaths, the concern over whether our national government will coordinate any useful plan to mitigate this crisis, our worry over how long it will last and whether it’ll come back, all of this has permanently changed the world we know.
Just as this couple had their whole world upended and destroyed seeing Jesus crucified, our whole world as we thought we knew it has ended. Whatever we come to know as normal will be different. We can’t return to where we were.
So right now, as people of faith, we’re not where we’re going yet. We don’t yet understand what’s happened, we don’t fully understand what God is doing in this. We’re grieving the loss of friends and so many around this world, grieving the loss of our expected future.
We need to have the Scriptures opened to us, just like these two.
We long for the teaching Jesus gave this Emmaus couple, helping them understand what God was doing in this death and resurrection, and what it meant for the world. We need Christ to walk alongside us as a community of faith and open the Scriptures and the tradition to us. We need to listen together for when our hearts burn within us with Pentecost fire as God’s Word speaks to us.
So: we need to walk together on this shared road, read Scripture together, pray together. Listen for the Spirit of God – the gift of the risen Christ – to open God’s Word to us and lead us to understanding and hope. To help us understand what Jesus means saying “it was necessary” for God’s Messiah to suffer this. What it means that God willingly enters our suffering and takes it into God’s own life. What it means that Christ is risen in the midst of this suffering and death that is changing everything.
We need our eyes opened to see Christ, too, just as they did.
Like them, we have come to know Christ in the breaking of the bread. When we gather for Eucharist we know Christ is with us, and as we share it between each person we have learned to recognize Christ’s Body, see Christ’s face in each other. Though right now we can’t worship together and share this Meal, we still need to have the Spirit open our eyes to see Christ in our world and in each other.
To remember that Christ is incarnate in every child of God on this planet, and that to see a neighbor in need is to see our beloved, risen Christ. To be able to see those who are most affected by this pandemic and recognize the deep injustice upon injustice that those who earn the least, who struggle the most with poverty and other wants, are also those most deeply harmed. To see Christ’s face in their faces and hear the call to serve them as Christ.
So: we need to walk together on this shared road, and, with the Spirit’s guidance, help each other see Christ. Because if everything is going to be different going forward, we need to see that new reality with eyes that can see Christ in this world. So as we pray and vote and engage and serve we always know we’re in Christ’s presence, on holy ground, in our love of neighbor.
There’s an ancient Latin saying that is normative for my faith journey.
The phrase is “solvitur ambulando,” which means, “It is solved by walking.” It is in the journey that we find our answers. This road we walk together is where we will understand God’s solution, find God’s guidance, know God’s healing of all this grief and pain, be filled with God’s hope for our future as a community of faith and as a city, nation, and world.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, in The Fellowship of the Ring, “Not all who wander are lost.”1 Martin Luther said regarding the life of the baptized, “We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; this is not the end, but it is the right road.”2 Just because we’re living our lives on the road and not at our destination doesn’t mean we’re lost, or that we’re not in God’s hands.
It’s the opposite. The invitation of our Christian faith is to walk our roads to Emmaus together, and know that as we walk, we will learn, grow. Our eyes will be opened as God’s Word is opened to us.
Because remember: we don’t walk this road alone.
The Triune God in Christ is always walking alongside us, even if sometimes we can’t see it. Yes, we’re often foolish and slow of heart to trust God, as Jesus points out today. But Christ still makes the journey with us, opening Scripture to us, opening our eyes. Opening our hearts to know and trust God’s suffering in this world’s suffering, God’s Easter life in our lives.
And so we walk together. It’s a grace-filled road we share.
In the name of Jesus. Amen
1 J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, book 1, chapter 10; page 182 in the second edition, copyright ©1965, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
2 Martin Luther, “Defense and Explanation of All the Articles,” a response from March 1521 to Exsurge Domine, the papal bull of condemnation of his writings issued by Pope Leo X in July, 1520. Luther’s Works, vol. 32, The Career of the Reformer II, p. 24. Translation from Michael Podesta.