The Rev. Josephine Robertson
All Saints, Bellevue
April 26, 2020
Easter 3A, Luke 24: 13-35
I want to start by acknowledging that this is a poignant Gospel reading for a community that has not been able to meet physically or share the Eucharist in (by my count) eight weeks. And perhaps that experience, and this story might have something to illuminate.
The story of the road to Emmaus is often told as a “Eucharist” story. It takes places almost immediately following the resurrection, and is the first post resurrection echo of the last supper. But as I read it through this week and thought about all of you, sheltered in your homes, I saw something different.
The church it seems has reached a sort of “stir crazy” threshold. The number of articles about spiritual communion, virtual communion, or digital Eucharist have exploded in the last week. Suddenly everyone’s talking about it. They are now everywhere, and you can find just about any take. From the ultra orthodox, to the totally experimental and I think that’s a good thing. (Though it is mostly academic for Episcopalians as our prayer book and canons come down clearly on: not gonna happen.)
But it gets me thinking (dangerous I know) and today’s story was like a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit.
These two disciples of Jesus are walking down the road, talking about their bewildering and confusing lives the last few weeks; a lot like us.
In the midst of their conversation Jesus sort of slides into the conversation, but they don’t recognize him. He joins their walk and instead of just talking about what’s happening he gives it meaning, he connects their lives to scripture, to God’s story for the world. He takes their bafflement, their inability to believe the women who encountered him at the tomb and he breaks the whole thing open for them. They still don’t get it. (This is a common theme in Luke.)
But they invite him in for dinner and there, finally as he gives the traditional guest blessing over the meal and breaks the bread to share, they recognize him.
We are used to experiencing Jesus in the Eucharist, in the breaking of bread, the sharing of wine. Even though that has been our normal experience only for the last 40 to 50 years, we are comfortable worshiping with song, and careful liturgy, with well ordered traditions. And I am not saying those things are bad, or that we shouldn’t miss them.
But Jesus was with his friends on their whole journey.
He wasn’t just with them in that moment of broken and shared bread, he was always there. But they weren’t looking.
They were off kilter, exhausted, still reeling from how fast and how radically their lives had changed. And while Luke’s Jesus does call them foolish there he is, walking with them, listening to them and offering them hope and connection in the midst of their upheaval.
Perhaps this story can be for us a reminder that God is with us, even (or especially) when we are totally blind to God’s presence. That Jesus shows up in the most unexpected places, slides on into our lives in ways we never expected.
The Jesus in Luke’s Gospel today is found on the road, in the midst of our rapidly changing lives, in our everyday, in the stranger, in the confusion, in newness. We could read this story as a reminder to be mindful, to be like the faithful bridesmaids tending their lamps, always ready for the bridegroom to show up.
Always listening for our hearts to be burning, open for revelation in the most unexpected places.
Because there’s another important bit to tease out here.
The moment Jesus is revealed to the disciples in the breaking of the bread he vanishes. Clearly his presence in that moment is not something the author of Luke/Acts wants the church to cling to.
It is Jesus’ presence with us in the stranger that the disciples are being urged to find, to be open to the moments when Jesus shows up without fan fair and shows us something we hadn’t considered before.
The implication in the story is that those familiar and comfortable places where we’ve found Jesus aren’t places we can stay. Jesus shares the bread with them, they see him for who he is and just like that he’s gone.
And then the real story begins because they rush back to the place they had just fled; and there they find more good news. Simon (Peter we must assume) has seen Jesus too!
Friends these are strange days. We don’t get to gather together in our beloved space, or bring potluck to fill each other’s belly’s and hearts. We don’t get to break sacred bread together or share wine but that does not mean that Jesus is not feeding us; that God is not with us.
Today is a reminder that God slides into your life when you are least expecting it, keep your heart open. And when those unexpected moments happen do not be afraid to run all the way back to share the story with others. This is perhaps the most basic, the simplest form of discipleship there is.
To watch, to listen.
And when you find: to tell.