This is a sermon I preached at Saint Mark’s UMC in Raleigh, NC on May 3, 2015.
Read: Luke 24: 13 – 23; 28 – 35 The Walk to Emmaus
These guys must not have been told by their Mamas: “Never
talk to strangers!” ‘cause that’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re reviewing
the events of the day, looking sad. The stranger asks: “What are you talking
about?” Now we could spend time talking
about the risks and potential danger of talking to strangers, but in this case,
let’s just be thankful they did.
They walked together engaged in conversation. Their eyes were
kept from recognizing him and they expressed their disappointment: We Had
Hoped…What was it they had hoped for and not received? They had gotten to
listen to Jesus. They had gotten to see the healing work and hear the lessons
of the kingdom of God. What was it they had hoped for and not gotten?
They had hoped for a thousand years that a Messiah would
come, the great military leader in the line of David who would restore the
fortunes of Zion. They had hoped for a king who would rally the troops to crush
the Roman Empire. They had hoped that
Jesus was this Messiah.
Perhaps they had hoped for a great reformer in the Temple,
one who would rid the temple of bad practices and corruption, false piety and
self-righteousness. Perhaps they had hoped for one who would set the temple
right in obedience to God. Perhaps they
had hoped for one who would fulfill the hopes and fears of all the years, as
had been spoken by the prophets.
Could they have hoped they themselves might increase in
influence and reputation by knowing a shining star in the field of prophecy and
teaching? And at the end had they hoped their friend would survive all the
pushback he was beginning to encounter?
Closed eyes and lost hope are not uncommon. We stumble
through life tunnel-visioned, with low
perceptibility, little clarity, our eyes close as discernment clouds. It’s pretty easy to turn a blind eye. And even
easier to lose hope as life and circumstances drag us down taking us away in
busyness and lowered expectations. We do not practice patient hope even when
the hope of the world is born among us.
The words “we had hoped” struck me as I heard Olu Brown read
this text at the preaching festival last week. Hope is a central component of
the story of God throughout the entire Scriptural text. We are not a people who
live without hope. For I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a
future and a hope. My hope is in you, Lord. Yet the disciples this morning are
speaking in a past perfect tense: we had hoped. They might as well have said,
“It’s over.” Our hope is ended.
But Jesus does not let that happen. Jesus meets them on this
well travelled road in an active presence walking alongside them and talking
about the scripture with them. Our Lord may be perfect, but our Lord is not a
past perfect God; Our Lord is an active present God; What ever the disciples
thought, all that has happened in the past few hours and days is not the end of
In a lot of ways it might so much easier to love the Jesus
who calls us from fishing and walks up the mountain to teach; the Jesus who
touches the leper and the blind man and the woman with a hemorrhage. That’s a
Jesus to follow, to count on for wisdom and healing. That’s a Jesus we can
pattern our lives after; hard to do but easier to get a hold on ‘cause there is
no mystery to it.
That kind of following reduces us to doing the do’s and
avoiding the don’ts, but Olu Brown, suggests that that kind of following keeps
us in chromos time… the way we mortals keep time in life and death, beginnings
and endings – a linear kind of living. Resurrection calls us to a different
time-keeping: kairos time, God’s time, the Eternal Now, Perfect Precious
Present kind of time. This is the fullness of time beyond measure; beyond our
empirical understanding. This Resurrection time is where Jesus meets the
disciples on the Road to Emmaus. And their eyes are closed to seeing him.
It’s in the breaking of bread that their eyes are opened and
they know who this stranger is. Bishop
William Morris tells a story about such a kind of knowing . Whey he was a
little boy his family lived in one of those shotgun kind of houses. Some days
he would rush into the house after school, He couldn’t see his mama, even
though he thought she was home. Then the smell of brownies in the oven met him
in the hallway. She was there…. In the kitchen. An ordinary smell assured him
that he was not alone in the house. She was with him. He knew she was there by
the smell of the brownies filling the house. The ways we are known to one
another vary; Sensory perception – heart knowledge – eyes of the heart – God
works to meet us through every cell of our being and very ordinary things open
our eyes to knowing Jesus.
The invitation to participate in a life with Jesus beyond the
bonds of time is offered on the Emmaus Road; they had seen Jesus do this a lot
at the table. Bread taken, blessed, broken and given that they might have life.
They could see clearly now. This was Jesus who was present with them. Their
eyes opened to the promise; Christ is with them-Grace upon grace; hope upon
hope – restored.
Here at the table of the Lord on Sunday morning, Jesus is
present with us: the invitation comes not from Saint Mark’s, not from the
United Methodist Church, but from Christ our Lord and we come… we know – we see
– we hope and grace falls down upon us, grace that has the power to change us
from the inside out. This is the grace that fuels our hope and calms our fears.
This is the thin place where we meet the living God, the Resurrected Christ who
is known to us in the breaking of bread. This is where we taste and see that
God is good. This is where we enter kairos time in the Mystery we speak every
week – Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
This is our hope, our active present hope going forward. Open
our eyes, Lord that we too may see you and know you and follow you with our
whole lives. Amen.