At the Table, the disciples catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God, which invites them to hear again that death does not have the last word. That in the Kingdom of God, all are seen as Beloved Children of God, that at the Table, there are no seats of power or honor, there are only opportunities for all to be embraced as equals.
April 30, 2023
How Did We Not Know?
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him. He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast. The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?” He said to them, “What things?”
They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets. When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
How Did We Not Know? Luke 24:13-35
“Now on that same day”….this is how our Scripture starts, letting us know that we are still talking about Easter Sunday. The rest of the world has moved on but we as people of faith are still celebrating. We are now in the season of Easter and today we get an Easter story for the rest of us. By this I mean, the rest of us who were not there on that first Easter morning, the rest of us who have not physically touched the Risen Christ, You know the rest of us who are experiencing the story of the resurrection some two thousand years later.
As we may remember, on Easter morning the women went to the tomb, found it empty, and then returned to tell the disciples what they saw. Our text picks up the story from this point. As readers, we are told on that same day, two people are making their way to Emmaus. We are told they still can’t believe what happened. They still can’t believe the women’s “idle tale”.
Think about the significance of this for a moment. This moment at the Empty Tomb is a foundational piece of our faith as the people of God and yet…. the disciples at least at this point of the story are still thinking of the resurrection as an idle tale. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in. Is it any wonder why we get the same reaction some two thousand years later whenever we as disciples of Christ talk about serving a Risen Savior? For many, it really is simply an idle tale. And let’s be honest, for many of us connected with communities of faith, even for us, the very ones who have experienced the mystery and holiness of God in our own lives, even for us, too often we find ourselves wondering the same thing. Is it all just an idle tale?
I have to tell you that, oddly enough, I find it comforting to know that the authors of the Gospels included stories like this one for us post- first Easter people. To know that they purposely added stories like this one, to let us know that we are not alone in our doubt, to let us know that we are not alone in our uncertainty. It is comforting to realize that the Gospel writers are actually acknowledging our frustration. Because like them, we don’t have all the answers to our questions of faith. Like them, we have a need to actually experience the Risen Christ. We have a need for the resurrection to be something tangible. Thankfully, the Gospel writers understood that we, as people who were not there at the Empty tomb on that first Easter morning, we, meaning the rest of us, have a need for the resurrection to be something more than just an experience someone else had and later shared the story.
As a person of faith, living in a post-modern, post-Easter morning, and as much as we don’t like to admit it, a post-church world, I find it oddly comforting to know that the Gospel writers added stories like this one to help us realize that the resurrection is not an idle tale. It is not just something others experienced and we, the rest of us, are left wondering about its meaning for, meaning in our lives. Rather, stories like the one we hear today are reminders to the world, reminders to us, as ones who follow a Risen Savior, to hold on to the promises that death and darkness will not have the last word.
That’s why I want us to take a deeper look at this story because given everything that’s going on currently in our world, we as people of faith are having our own Walk to Emmaus moment. Everything has changed. Church is no longer connected to buildings and programs. As the Body of Christ, we are being challenged to look beyond what is right in front of our faces and see, not with our eyes but see with eyes of faith, the Christ who is in our midst. We are being challenged to put aside everything we thought we knew about what it meant to be the Church and discern what it means to be the living, breathing, transforming heart and hands of God here and now.
And it is hard. Like the disciples on the road that day, we are “too overwhelmed to think beyond our pain.” It is frightening. Everything we thought to be True has crumbled. Yet, when we step back, when we pause and take a deep breath, when we begin to see with the eyes of faith, we are also discovering it is also freeing. Because we don’t have to hold on to the guilt of letting things go that no longer work. Because we can unwrap our arms from holding on to what we thought we know, arms which were holding on so tightly, that it was choking out the possibilities of new life. Our current situation, which yes is frustrating, unnerving, and yes a little frightening is so similar to that moment on the Walk to Emmaus for the disciples. Just like them we are at a turning point for our community. In this moment, just like those two on the road to Emmaus, we are being invited us to know that in the end, love will remain, to know that death and change are not the last word, that to look not with our eyes, but to look with the eyes of faith and truly see the possibilities of new life which are all around us
Or let me say it this way…For the last few years we have had to think about Church differently. We have had to answer identity questions about who we are as people of faith in a world that doesn’t really value what we have to offer. And what we have learned through these last few years is that being the Body of Christ here on Earth is about connection. It is about community. It is about relationship. It is about knowing Christ the breaking of bread with our neighbors. Being the Body of Christ here on Earth is about recognizing the light and love of Christ residing in each person we met each and every day. Because that’s the power of the resurrection. Luke is reminding the disciples back then, Luke is reminding the disciples here and now that the resurrection was not a one and done event. It is an on-going process which happens every single day, which happens every moment. Luke wants us to always remember that the resurrection changes us. It transforms us. It reframes our narrative. It calls us to live not as ones who were told about an event which happened some two thousand years ago. Our faith calls us to live as ones who have seen the Risen Christ. It calls us to become the people God created us to be as we share God’s grace and love with others so that all will know that God is moving in and among us, bringing about the Kingdom of God here on Earth for all of God’s people.
As ones whose hearts are burning within us because the Scriptures have been open to us, we are called to live out the promises of the resurrection here and now. We are to open our eyes, to open our hearts. We are to be open to meeting the Kingdom of God at work in our world. We are to let the rest of the world know that the story of God’s love and grace is not an idle tale.
Rather it is a tale of hope. It is a tale of grace. It is a tale which has the power to transform lives. It has the power to connect people with each other and to build relationships among neighbors. Our tale as ones who have experience the Risen Savior in our lives has the power to bring about the Kingdom of God here on Earth for all of God’s people. Our tale has the power to open eyes, to open minds, to open hearts, our tale has the power to bring healing and wholeness for all of God’s creation. Our tale has the power to show God at work in our midst.
And all we have to do is have the courage, the strength, all we have to do is to speak, using words if we have to, and share our story of how the Risen Christ become known to us, how the Risen Christ changed us and transformed us into the people God created us to be, all we have to do is share our story of how we encountered the Risen Christ in our lives and began our own journey of faith. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, April 30, 2023 – How Did We Not Know? Luke 24:13-35.