We Had Hoped

April 26, 2020


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 God’s story.

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.

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