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 they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went along 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 us…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 his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
24 And 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 him.” 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 Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them the things about himself in all of 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 Jesus, and he 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 So that very same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 The disciples 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:
Show us yourself again this morning.
Walk alongside us in our hurt and worry
And feelings of lost hope
And show up.
Help us to see you.
Church, I want to try something a little bit different over the next couple of weeks with this sermon time. I’m going to preach, but I also want to try and engage you a bit in this process. it’s hard to preach to a blinking light. So I want to give you some questions for reflection. I’d really like for you to write these down and sit with them and pray about them, meditate on them. And if you feel like sharing, put a comment up on Facebook, or comment on youtube, or send me an email. I’m really just trying to offer you something more, something deeper for your personal devotions or spiritual reflections.
So I’m wondering, where have you seen Jesus over the past few weeks, church?
Where have your eyes been opened and you recognized the work and the presence of Christ?
I want to encourage you to reflect on those questions this week.
Write them, journal with them, meditate on them.
Where do you see Jesus?
Our first year in Chicago, my first year of seminary, Tiffany and I had the opportunity to visit a bunch of different churches. I say we had the opportunity…mostly I dragged Tiffany around to a bunch of different churches…and mostly she humored me, not every Sunday though, some Sundays I’d go by myself…because that’s what you do when you’re in your first year of seminary and you’re a church nerd…you go to a bunch of different churches to see how they do things…
So, one Sunday at the end of November we were visiting a church up on the north side, a community that I’d heard about from one of my professors…great service, great preaching, nice folks… They do the pretty customary walking out the doors, shaking the pastor’s hand, thing, like most of us do. And as we were walking out, the pastor recognized us as not having been there before. He introduced himself, asked our names, chit-chatted a bit, and then we went on our way. We stopped and grabbed brunch…gosh, I miss brunch…headed home, and that was that.
Fast forward about 2 or 3 months…it’s February, and I ask Tiffany if she’d want to go back to that same north side church. Reluctantly, I think, she agrees, and we go. Same deal…great service, great preaching, nice folks…filing out, shaking the pastor’s hand… “Tiffany! Chris! So great to see you again!”
It’s been like…a minute, since we were here…like, Christmas has happened and a pretty gnarly snowstorm…and I know you’re got a ton of other things on your plate…and…but you remember our names?
I made a couple of promises that day: 1) that I would work as hard as I could on my name and face recognition so that I could make other people feel like I felt that morning, and 2) I figured the best way to learn how to do that was to learn from that pastor myself. So I basically begged and pleaded with him for his church to be an internship site, and 18 months later, I walked through those doors again as a Pastoral Intern…committed to soaking up as much as I could during my Internship that year.
I did work hard on my name and face recognition…I do work hard at it…and a lot of folks are impressed that I’m pretty good with names. I miss a couple of times, I don’t always get it right, but I work at it.
Because of the way it makes you feel…when someone knows you…
Because of the way it makes you feel…to be recognized…
Because of the way it makes you feel…to be seen…
So imagine Jesus’ utter disappointment when he comes up alongside the 2 disciples, Cleopas and the other disciple, disciples with whom he would have spent a significant amount of time, and they don’t have a clue. Like, not even a “You look familiar…” or “I think I’ve seen you before…I feel like I know you…”
Just…nothing… Like Jesus is wearing a disguise or something…
We’ve been doing a lot of mask-wearing these days. The guidance from local health officials is to cover up your nose and mouth when you go out, go to the store, go to Starbucks, whatever. And the thing is, the rules and encouragement really aren’t for your sake. Bandanas and coffee filters don’t do hardly anything to keep whatever’s out from coming in. But they do a great job at keeping whatever’s in from going out. See, the thing I think we greatly misunderstand is that as much as you have a right to go out and not wear a face covering, others have just as much right to go out without being fearful of the unchecked spread of an incredibly deadly virus.
You’re being asked to wear a mask when you go out, not for your own safety…but for everyone else’s.
This is, like, the clearest example I can think of regulating completely selfless interest…of codifying of the prioritization of the well-being of others.
This is it, church. This is what we’ve been hearing and learning from Jesus our whole lives. That to live for the sake of others is the way to abundant and everlasting life for all.
What a revelation. It’s like having your own eyes opened, right?
Like a light bulb goes off, something clicks, and you realize you’ve been walking with and looking at Jesus the whole time.
Which is a tremendous relief for these weary travelers this morning. Because, just as much as they don’t recognize Jesus, do you also hear the despair in their voices? As they’re walking along, telling about all the things both marvelous and miraculous that Jesus did during his earthly ministry, “This Jesus of Nazareth…he was a mighty prophet who did all kinds of wonderful things…but our religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and be crucified… But we had hoped…that he would be the one to redeem us…to redeem the world…to restore our situation… But it’s been 3 days, and some women from our group went to the tomb and the body’s gone…and some others from our group went found the tomb just like the women had said, and they didn’t find the body either…”
We had hoped…
Do you hear the despair and longing?
How much have our own hopes and dreams and plans and desires been put on hold because of this pandemic? How much have you had to restructure and rethink the way things are to account for this current new normal of sheltering in place, limiting your exposure, and reducing the potential for contact with others?
I sent an email earlier this week to our young adults and young families just seeing who’d be up for maybe a digital gathering over Zoom or something like that sometime soon. A great many of them, maybe 50%, I’d guess, came back with “You know, it’d be great to see everyone…but I just don’t have the bandwidth for another disembodied video call…”
Church, our people are hurting. You…are hurting.
We long for connection, but we’re working twice as hard as before, trying to figure out how to homeschool our kids, trying to get out and get some air and work out while staying far away from other people, trying to cobble together some passable resemblance of a self-care routine when all of our previous ways aren’t available to us right now…
Church, I hear this lost hope. I hear this despair.
I recognize it.
And our gospel this morning tells us that Jesus hears that lost hope and despair, too.
Jesus recognizes it, and Jesus walks alongside us as we name that, and Jesus doesn’t try to solve it, but in the midst of the journey, Jesus sits at our table, over a simple meal, offers us something small yet sustaining, and says, “Here. I’m here. See that is me. I hear you. And I see you.”
Jesus walks alongside you in your times of despair.
Jesus walks alongside you in your moments of doubt, and worry, and anxiety, and your feelings of not being enough.
Jesus walks alongside you when hope feels lost and distant.
And we may not be able to recognize it right away, but as we go along, as we make our way through our feelings of fleeting hope and moments of doubt and anxiety, all of a sudden, something clicks, a light bulb goes off, our eyes are opened, and we recognize we’re walking with Jesus.
We recognize that Jesus has been walking with us the whole time.
Maybe in utterly unexpected ways…but we look at the road we’ve just trudged and we notice the moments that Jesus has been there.
And we find Jesus in simple meals with our loved ones, maybe shared in new ways over facetime.
And we find Jesus in words of scripture that restore our weary hearts, that are a balm for our worn-out souls.
And we find Jesus in acts of kindness, and moments of selfless love, and images of beauty in the midst of hurt and suffering.
We find Jesus because we feel like someone recognizes us…recognizes our joys and our hurts.
We find Jesus because we feel like someone sees us…sees us for all of who we are…good and bad.
We find Jesus because we feel like someone knows us…knows us better than we know ourselves.
Church, this is the good news of Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus shows up.
Along our journey.
In our moments of happiness and joy and our times of grief and doubt and feelings of lost hope.
Jesus is there.
Jesus is here.
Jesus has never left.