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On the Road (Again)

23 Apr

The Road to Emmaus is an understated, but beloved, post-Resurrection account of the Risen Christ.

It beautifully interweaves distinctive characteristics of the Gospel of Luke, for example the Holy Spirit is the force that drives Jesus further down the road towards places of hospitality and shared table fellowship – or road trips, friendly faces, and yummy food!

The Road to Emmaus happens on the evening of the Resurrection.

There are two disciples on a seven-mile road trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus. These seven-miles might not sound adventurous, or be considered a legitimate road trip, but it was on foot alone and wearing sandals in a hot, sandy desert. We do not know the purpose for their road trip, but perhaps the disciples found it therapeutic; similar to how a Jeep, a dirt country road, and the radio turned up is for me.

These disciples, during these seven-miles, were not on the road to Emmaus alone but also grief recovery.

These disciples are processing the grief of witnessing the arrest, passion, crucifixion, and death of their beloved rabbi and friend.

These disciples are processing the grief of hope lost, for they had hoped Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.

These disciples are wrestling to process the witness of Mary Magdalene and the other women. These women returned from the tomb proclaiming:
Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
But, could it be true? It is too far beyond belief. It must be an idle tale, a fantasy.

  • As these disciples were walking and processing, Jesus accompanies them unrecognized as a stranger.
  • As these disciples unknowingly witness to the stranger, Jesus interprets and teaches the scriptures to them.
  • As these disciples arrive in Emmaus, per Jewish custom, they extend an invitation of hospitality and table fellowship to this stranger.

As these disciples prepare to host, this stranger strays from the social norm and expectation. This stranger reaches to grab the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and reveals himself as the Risen Christ.

This is Jesus, simply being Jesus.

  • Jesus strays from the expected.
  • Jesus is not revealed with a miracle.
  • Jesus is not revealed with his mere accompanying presence.
  • Jesus is not revealed with his teaching.

Jesus, instead, is revealed in the blessing, breaking, and sharing of bread while gathered in ordinary table fellowship among ordinary persons. And yet, this opening of the disciples’ eyes to his identity, does not ignore that the Risen Christ had accompanied them on the road this ENTIRE time. The Risen Christ had interpreted the scriptures to them along the road. But, the Risen Christ was not recognized until revealed in the ordinary. The Risen Christ is always revealed in the breaking of bread at HIS table (Holy Communion).

These disciples realized that Jesus has, is, and will always and forever accompany us on our road. The Road to Emmaus is a gentle, but essential, reassurance that whether the road is smooth or bumpy, straight or curvy switchbacks, Jesus is present. Due to Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and death, we can be assured that there is no depth, no valley, no road Jesus will not travel while accompanying us, for the Risen Christ has claimed and will draw all people into himself, the ordinary and the extra-ordinary.

For on occasion Jesus shared a table with the “important” persons in positions of authority, but these often criticized Jesus for his frequent sharing of a table with the ordinary, the tax collectors, the sinners, and the “least of these”. Jesus was accused of gluttony, drunkenness, and associating with the ‘wrong crowd’.

But the Risen Christ continues to claim and draw all people into himself, again the ordinary and the extra-ordinary, despite: race, ethnicity or nationality, socio-economics, gender identity or sexual orientation, political or religious affiliations, or any means used to divide us. The Risen Christ extends peace and forgiveness, mercy and grace, compassion and steadfast love.

Thus, the eyes of these disciples were not opened to the Risen Christ alone, but also a glimpse into the kingdom to come. The Gospel of Luke paints the kingdom to come as an abundant banquet table with room, food, and drink enough for all persons.

Thus, the disciples were perhaps being prepared for the Holy Spirit, who will be poured out upon ALL flesh to bring forth said kingdom in, among, through, and even despite us. It is the Holy Spirit, who drives the disciples of all time and place, on the road offering hospitality and sharing in table fellowship with ALL persons.

Therefore, we, the church – those persons who gather around Jesus’ table for fellowship – are called to be a church on the road, being driven by the Holy Spirit further and further into the kingdom to come. But, do not fear, for Jesus accompanies us with each step, each mile whether we recognize the Risen Christ in the moment or not.

And so in the words of Willie Nelson,

“on the road again.
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again,
And I can’t wait to get on the road again”.

May our hearts burn with Jesus’ teachings on the road.

May our eyes be ever open to recognizing Jesus’ presence on the road.

May we, as individuals and church together, accompany neighbor and
stranger on the road.

Amen.

 

Scripture was John 24: 13-35.
Originally preached 26 April 2020 (digitally) for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).
 
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Posted by on April 23, 2020 in Sermons

 

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