13 Now on that same day when Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And Jesus said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 Jesus asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
23 and when they did not find our Rabbi’s body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see our Teacher.” 25 Then Jesus said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and then enter into God’s glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So Jesus went in to stay with them. 30 When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and Jesus vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 These were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two disciples told what had happened to them on the road, and how Jesus had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Please pray with me this morning, church:
Risen and living God,
Make yourself known to us this morning.
Break through our clouds of doubt and disappointment.
Walk alongside us. Teach us.
Show us yourself.
And help us extend your love and care to our world.
Ah…the post-Easter let-down… Well, less of a let-down, and more of a post-Easter return to earth.
“They stood still…looking sad…’Are you the only one who doesn’t know the things that have taken place…? Yes, but we had hoped he would be the one to redeem Israel…’”
Looking sad… We had hoped…
What happened to everyone? Where’d they all go? Didn’t they see?
The week after Easter is always, always, always a return to earth. Sometimes it’s an overcorrection the complete opposite way. Especially after Easter is such a high point, the Second Sunday after Easter can leave a little bit to be desired. Like you’ve gone from the mountaintop to the valley in just 7 days.
But here’s what’s important, church, you didn’t do anything. The folks that were here last week aren’t all here this week because you did something wrong…this is just the way of things.
So, first of all, I need to say thank you to all of you who brought your families last week. We kind of exist on a 2-year rotation here at New Hope. On one year for Easter, it seems, you all invite your families and everyone comes here for Easter Sunday. And then the next year, y’all all go somewhere else. But this year, it was New Hope’s turn. And especially as we’re trying to emerge from a very long pandemic, it was really wonderful for this year to be our year. So thank you all who invited your families to worship with you. It was so lovely to see all of them. And please tell them that we’re greatly looking forward to seeing them again in a couple of years.
The second thing, though, is that some did come back this week. Hey y’all! Great to see you again. We didn’t bring the brass this time, but we’ve got a great morning of worship regardless.
One of our members caught my arm on my way up or down the aisle last week, I don’t remember which way I was going, and they leaned in and said, “Don’t they know that every Sunday is resurrection Sunday?!”
“I wish they did,” I replied. “I wish they did know.”
Because they’re right…every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. Every Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection…Christ’s victory over sin, death, and all that separates us from God. Every Sunday is a resurrection celebration.
But I think we, on this side of the Resurrection, can get caught up in the numbers game. And how many people came to Easter worship. And how many people were here to see how great and wonderful New Hope is. And how many of them come back the next week. And “My, isn’t it great to see so many people again. It feels a lot like it used to.”
And so this return to earth leaves us feeling a bit disappointed.
But didn’t they see? Didn’t they see and experience how wonderful it all is and how great it all could be with them here?
Yes, church. They did. They did see and experience. And some did come back to see again. And some didn’t. But the ones that did are here to see if you really are who you say you are. Are you the same congregation on the Second Sunday of Easter as you are on Easter Sunday?
How does it go…? Something like, “If you don’t like me at my Easter 2, you don’t deserve me at my Sunday of Easter.”?
Joking aside, the story of the walk to Emmaus is such a wonderful story to me because it reminds me that the post-resurrection experience has always been tinged with a bit of disappointment.
They stood still…looking sad… We had hoped…
And the road to Emmaus reminds me that in the midst of that disappointment, Jesus doesn’t peace out. Jesus doesn’t chastise these 2 disciples for being disappointed, and for being “wah-wah’s”, Jesus walks with them, talks with them. Jesus gives them space to name their hurt, to name their disappointment, to name their unmet expectations. And Jesus doesn’t disregard it. Jesus doesn’t tell them to smile more, or to just be happy, or tell them they’re being unreasonable. Jesus gives them space to feel what they feel.
But then Jesus teaches. He opens the Scriptures to them, telling them things about himself, beginning with Moses and all the prophets. And Jesus walks with them. Through this valley in which they find themselves.
Jesus comes alongside their hurt and disappointment and doesn’t excuse it or brush it away. Jesus walks with them and stays with them. And then Jesus eats with them.
“And immediately their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus and he disappeared from their sight.”
And then the veil falls away. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking with us on the way, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. Every Sunday we come together to hear and learn scripture together. Every Sunday we dialogue and converse with one another about our hopes and our dreams for the world, and how we can more fully live into God’s vision for our world. Every Sunday we bring our fears and disappointments and hurt and pain, and we hold them together, bearing one another’s burdens and lifting one another up. Walking with one another through life’s valleys. Because as much as we would love for all of life to be lived on those mountaintop experiences, you and I both know that valleys come. You and I both know the majority of life is lived somewhere in between those mountaintops and valleys. This is why we need the regular rhythm of worship. This is why we need the regular rhythm of the Eucharist. Every Sunday we come together and share a meal…a meal of grace and compassion and love…a meal that is nourishing and sustaining…a meal that is for you.
Every Sunday, I hope, if even for just a moment, I hope you encounter Jesus. Through Word. Through water. Through a meal. Through the body of Christ. Through one another. Through the hands and feet and heart of Christ, that as members of the one body, we are given to and for one another.
The post-Easter Gospel stories are all about seeing and encountering the risen Christ, and the places of our deep need where God meets us.
Where do you see Jesus, church?
Where has God met you?
Where are the places where your heart is burning?
And where can you come alongside others?
Where do you see hurt and doubt and disappointment?
Where do you see opportunities to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ to a world, a stranger, a neighbor in need?
The return to earth can be a little bit disappointing.
But it’s in coming back down to the ground that the work of ministry happens.
Walking alongside, talking, sharing, teaching, discussing, eating.
This is the work of ministry to which God is calling you.
And the risen Christ walks with you.