Thursday, April 3, 2008

Easter 3 sermon notes

This story from Luke’s Gospel is one of the narratives that strikes at the heart of the Gospel. It is about the presence of Jesus on the other side of the resurrection. It is about Jesus appearing to his scattered disciples to continue forming them.

This Gospel lesson contains material that has become the centerpiece of two collects.

-Lord Jesus stay with us for evening is at hand and the day is past. Be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in scripture and the breaking of bread, grant this for the sake of your love.-

The other is:

-Be present, be present Lord Jesus Christ, our great high priest. As you were known to your disciples, be made known to us in the breaking of bread.-

These words of Christ’s presence and the sacrament of breaking bread are the very foundations of the Church.

Now, hold that thought, and let’s get back to the story.

Think about the details of this narrative for a moment. Two disciples are on the road to Emmaus. They left Jerusalem and are walking and talking, when Jesus appears to them. As the crow flies, we are talking about walking roughly 18 miles. This journey is taking place on Sunday, the same day as the resurrection. These two, as the text tells us, are talking about the whole story.

So, my question is what are they doing leaving Jerusalem? They knew of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. These two knew what the first witnesses to the resurrection were saying. What is their response? They get the heck out of Dodge. These two are fleeing the scene. Maybe they fear for their safety in light of Jesus death. Maybe they are completely baffled by the events of the last three days and are retreating to get their bearings.

Emmaus itself might be of significance in the story. Around 165 years before Jesus, A very famous victory was won at Emmaus, by Judas Maccabaeus. Judas was a resisting pagan oppression. At Emmaus, Judas and a small force defeated a much larger army. Judas invokes Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea to rally the troops. So maybe, a trip to Emmaus is a trip to a place of salvation and victory, in the most unlikely of circumstances.

But our two, never make it to Emmaus because Jesus finds them on the way. As they flee, or perhaps seek reassurance and hope in the midst of hopelessness, Jesus comes to them. He is different somehow, but they recognize him because he does a familiar thing. Jesus offers a meal that means more than eating. Jesus offers them the bread that is his presence. In that moment, the two receive the hope they are seeking and they return to Jerusalem to offer that hope with the eleven.

Instead of going their separate ways, they are gathered together into a fellowship. This brings us back to the collects based on this Gospel text. They illustrate the nature of this Christian enterprise. We gather together to partake of the presence of Jesus. We come together because we know that the Jesus is to be found among us and in the sacramental life of the Church.

Part of it is this place. The larger part is us.

We need not seek Jesus, because we know where he is. Jesus is at the heart of this fellowship as we live and work in his name. Be present, Be present Lord Jesus Christ our great high priest. As you were known to your disciples, be made known to us in the breaking of bread.

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