May 8, 2011: He Just Won’t Leave Us, Alone, Thank God!

The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Third Sunday of Easter

Emmaus is about two hours from Jerusalem by foot. If you can get a camel ride, it’s quicker, providing you survive the ride.  At some point, we’ll walk down our Emmaus road. We go to Emmaus, at least for a time – emotionally, spiritually, and maybe physically to get away from pain, disappointment, losses. Two followers of Jesus do just that on the first Sunday after Jesus’ death.

Burdened with grief, they get out of Jerusalem – too hard to stay there. Easter hasn’t happened for them. They don’t have a clue. I wonder how many people miss Easter. We know the story, so familiar it’s quit startling us. Easter is just another day. Monday comes and we go back into an unresurrected looking world. Does Easter impact our day-to-day existence? I hope so. We are an Easter people. Each Sunday we come here as witnesses of resurrection. Jesus is not just raised for the church, but for the whole world, where we spend most of our time.

“What are you discussing?” Overwhelmed with grief, they don’t see a stranger joins them. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has taken place?” Ironically he is the only one who knows. “What things,” he asks, egging them on. They tell him about Jesus’ fate. But their picture of Jesus is woefully weak – a mighty prophet of God, who dies as a powerless victim and criminal, a failed redeemer of Israel. “An angel visited some women who had gone to his tomb early today,” they tell him. “His body was gone. The angels say he’s alive. Some went back to see. They found no body – dead or alive.” Jesus sounds neither happy with them, nor does he tell them not to fear, or breathe peace on them. He says, “Foolish, slow of heart, failures – won’t believe the prophets – don’t know Messiah would suffer these things and then enter into glory.” He walks them through scripture, interpreting all God has been doing and is doing.

Arriving at their destination, they invite the stranger: “Stay with us. It’s evening.” And he does. At the table, he takes the bread; blesses the bread; breaks the bread, and he gives them bread. Their hearts catch fire. They remember Jesus saying, “This is my body given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” This stranger is Jesus. They know him in the breaking of the bread. Just as he did then, each time we come to this table, Jesus meets us in the breaking of bread. His presence is always and timeless. Jesus meets us here, but do come here to meet Jesus, or do we miss him?

No less than St. Augustine wrote: “Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eyes of the heart, whereby God may be seen.” In the breaking of bread our sight is healed and hearts reshaped. The two return to Jerusalem. Now the Lord is risen in them, and they have a story to tell.

Does Easter impact our day-to-day lives? Each week we bring a lot of emotions and life with us into this room, whether we talk about what we feel openly or not. Last Sunday evening we heard news of an enemy’s death. Some cheered. Some were relieved, but couldn’t cheer because there’s a hole in their hearts that will remain. Our feelings are complicated and diverse. In this world, violence begets more and greater violence. That’s not God’s ways. We can be slow of heart to learn. Does Easter impact these recent events? When God’s child dies violently God breaks the cycle of violence by coming after us with forgiveness, love, and mercy. That doesn’t mean the world pays attention, accepts or approves. Jesus teaches us to pray for our enemies, not do them harm. In such prayers God breaks open our lives for the sake of others. Again, the world doesn’t support such, and don’t wait for others to applaud our piety. But as the risen life rises into ours, we embody a different power, and empire. We embody God’s new reign in this world. Does Easter impact us daily? I have heard a few comments about our upcoming transition. Some fear: “People might stop coming. Visitors won’t return.” I want to reassure everyone – that’s not so. Jesus is here when we break bread in his name, whether at the High Altar, in the Great Hall, or on the parking lot. And I have that on good authority. Worship happens because of the person who is present in the breaking of the bread – not the place. So rejoice and give thanks!

Easter happens for each of us when our eyes are healed and Jesus’ life rises up in ours. Formerly slow hearts burn within us. Jesus reshapes us to go forth to show forth God’s unconditional love. Where ever we are, we are not alone. God is in our midst. We are witnesses of Easter. He is known to us in the breaking of the bread. Alleluia! Alleluia!


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