Third Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2020
Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19, I Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35
Broken Dreams, Broken Hearts, Broken Bread
I love the Lord, who has heard my voice, and listened to my supplication, for the Lord has given ear to me whenever I called. The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave came upon me; I came to grief and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray you, save my life.” Psalm 116:1-4
Now on that same day two [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Luke 24:13-16
The cords of death entangled me…Over 50,000 people in our country have now died from illnesses caused by or complicated by the coronavirus, and many more thousands have tested positive. How many must have cried out, each in their own way, “The cords of death entangled me…”? How many of their loved ones who could not be with them cried out in grief and sorrow? How many must have prayed, seemingly in vain, “O Lord, I pray you, save my life”?
They stood still, looking sad….In another kind of death, some 26 million Americans now have filed for unemployment, many, I suspect, who must wonder how long they will be unemployed or even if they will have a job to which they can return.
Two followers of Jesus headed home from the observance of the Passover in Jerusalem, a seven mile journey to the village of Emmaus. They were in shock and mourning over the crucifixion of Jesus, “a prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people, whom they “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” For many that meant deliverance from the oppression of the Roman Empire. They hoped Jesus was the one who would bring to God’s chosen people, freedom and prosperity and peace.
These two disciples were astounded by reports from some of the women who were part of the cadre of Jesus’ disciples. They said that the tomb where Jesus was buried was empty. They said they saw angels who declared that Jesus was alive. Some other disciples verified that the tomb was empty but that they did not see Jesus. All that these two men could comprehend while heading home to Emmaus was that this great prophet whom they had hoped would be their messiah, their savior, their redeemer, had been put to death.
Their hopes, their dreams, their faith that Jesus would be the great deliverer, were shattered. All they could really believe was that Jesus had been killed. That was beyond dispute. Jesus had died the most humiliating kind of death and he had been buried. Reports that he had risen seemed spurious, unbelievable.
We know, but they could not yet know that this stranger who came near them and walked with them was, in fact, their savior, their redeemer, though not in the way they envisioned. Jesus, incognito, said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?”
They stood still, looking sad.
But as always, for them and for us, Jesus whom we have come to know and love, came to them in their stillness, their sadness, their brokenness.
I think of all the people who’ve been in my life this past week, mostly by phone or Zoom or, except for Phylis, at a six-foot distance. I didn’t immediately recognize that they were angels or that they were manifestations of Jesus. But when I remember that Jesus rose from the dead and that he in his wounded but resurrected body can be everywhere and in everyone, I think with gratitude that he was in every straightforward, thoughtful word, every gesture of kindness, every insight shared with me this week…
Which is exactly how Jesus was with Cleopas and the other unnamed disciple on that seven-mile journey: curious, boldly honest and direct, thoughtful, kind, insightful, helping them to understand that their messiah would suffer and die and rise again. All of it was in God’s loving plan to save the world. Jesus explained that all of what had happened in the last three days, though veiled, was foretold centuries before by Moses and the prophets.
It was almost evening when the three of them drew near to Emmaus. Our text says that Jesus “walked ahead as if he were going on.” But a beautiful thing happened, then, to these two disciples and now, to us whenever we reciprocate the kindness and thoughtfulness we have received. They urged Jesus “strongly, saying ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’” And Jesus said “yes”…and the guest became the host…and “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”
Even when we do not know or remember that our Lord is in some way in every thoughtful encounter, whenever we extend hospitality and kindness to one another, perhaps especially to strangers who have been thoughtful and kind to us, our Lord, though still hidden in the guise of those whom we welcome, will say “yes” to our invitation to come into our homes, into our lives, and most importantly, into our hearts. When we invite this “stranger,” in a beautiful exchange of love and kindness, then, especially over a meal shared, over bread broken, our eyes are opened. We will see Jesus.
When someone comes to walk with you in times when your heart is broken, when someone makes a seven mile journey with you to help you deep in your heart begin to see things in a new light, then you will know that, though incognito, your risen Lord had come to ease your pain, to bear your sorrow, to renew your hope.
Perhaps most clearly you will know it was Jesus when bread is taken, blessed, broken and shared. We will know it was Jesus when we remember that his body was broken for us. Most clearly this is true in Holy Communion which we long to experience when it is safe to do so again. But even now, in our homes when at our tables we remember his thoughtfulness, his kindness, his giving of his life blood for us, even now our broken dreams, our broken hearts begin to mend.
We commend this day (and, I hope every day) into God’s care all who have died or will die from this virus. We need to pray this day and every day for all who are struggling to maintain faith and hope in God in the midst of so much uncertainty or sadness or loneliness or sometimes unbridled anger. We need to pray that Jesus would come near to them, would walk with them, exhort them, inspire them, and show himself to be their messiah, their savior. We dare to pray each day that Jesus would use us to be his presence at their side, to be his wise and caring presence to those whose dreams and hearts have been broken. Then through our love and kindness, may they with the psalmist say, I love the Lord, who has heard my voice, and listened to my supplication. May they say, “My broken heart is burning anew with faith and hope and yes, even joy.” Amen. JDS