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Easter 3A Sermon
Luke 24:13-35
April
26, 2020

 

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Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 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?’ He 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, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

I like to think that I have a pretty extensive vocabulary, but every once in a while I run across a word that I have never seen before. It happened this week while I was reading a commentary on today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, written by Princeton Theological Seminary professor Eric Barreto. It said, “For Luke, however Jesus is most Jesus at a quotidian table…” I couldn’t even read the rest of the sentence, that word, quotidian caught me so off-guard. I have never seen or heard it before. I had to look it up before I could read more of the commentary. I found that quotidian means, “something occurring every day; commonplace or ordinary.” It made sense when I went back and finished the sentence which continued, “For Luke, however, Jesus is most Jesus at a quotidian table, at an ordinary meal infused with significance because of the people gathered around the food.” In other words, we experience the presence of the risen Lord in those ordinary, everyday moments of our lives, like the times when we sit down with family and friends to share a meal.
Sometimes this particular passage is entitled, “The Road to Emmaus,” and rightly so. In much of literature, the road is symbolic of one’s life journey, and in scripture it is symbolic of one’s faith life journey. Mary and Joseph take the road from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, and then to Egypt when Jesus is born. The Good Samaritan is a parable that Jesus tells about a man travelling on the road who is set upon by robbers, and in the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father sees his son on the road approaching their farm, hikes up his robes and runs to him to share a warm embrace. Jesus’ final journey on the road to Jerusalem is an important one that will culminate his mission to share God’s perfect love with the world, and Saul’s experience on The Damascus Road which turned him from a persecutor of Christians into a disciple of Jesus, is an event with which many followers identify as God suddenly intruded into their own journeys and roads.

And then we have this story about two people travelling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus after Jesus is raised from the dead. They are rehashing the events of the day when Jesus himself meets them on the road. For some odd reason their eyes are kept from recognizing who this is, even as he makes their hearts burn while he opens up the scripture to them. It is when Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and shares it with them that they recognized him. Luke recounts Jesus attending a lot more meals and feasts than in the other gospels. Maybe this reminded them of what they had heard about him, or maybe they had been at one of the feasts that Jesus attended, and they heard him bless the bread there too, and that brought it all back. Regardless, immediately after they recognize him, he vanishes from their sight. Oh, the embarrassment they must have felt at that point, looking back at all of the signs that they had on the walk together. It is kind of humorous that they are so excited to tell their tale that they walked back the seven miles to Jerusalem to join the voices of the others who had seen Jesus that day. And their final witness is what stands out to me: “They told what had happened on the road, and how he had become known to them in the breaking of the bread.” It was, as the commentator said, Jesus being Jesus, meeting them in this quotidian event.
Many of us in the Lutheran church have a grand appreciation for Holy Communion, myself included. I have missed sharing Communion with many of you this last month and a half, and I am struggling to find a way to share it with you again whenever we can worship together in person. Some pastors have even taken to a clergy Facebook group to rather vehemently argue that it is possible to share Holy Communion virtually, with the pastor blessing the elements on a streaming video as congregants share them in their own homes. The biggest drawback for me is that my theological understanding of the significance of Holy Communion lies strongly in the community being together to share this meal, just as a family shares a meal at Thanksgiving or other times of celebration. Without us together breaking off the same loaf of bread or eating wafers from the same dish, our experience is very private and individual. The Eucharist is a public event, when the entire community is invited to form your hands into a throne and receive the very real presence of Jesus. It is a holy time for me because it is a time which is shared with my brothers and sisters who gather together in worship.

But we know that this sacrament is not the only place where Jesus is present. As a matter of fact, this very passage encourages us to consider that!! We experience Jesus’ presence while we travel on our “life-roads” as we pray or talk about the events of our journeys. We experience Jesus’ presence whenever we sit by ourselves or with a few others and give thanks to God for the food that we have and enjoy the gift of fellowship. In a letter to Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther said that God is as present in his cabbage soup as he is in the sacrament of communion. The difference is, he is hidden in the soup, but he is revealed in the sacrament.

So, our question is, how can we experience that hidden presence of God in the quotidian moments and elements of our lives? How do the everyday moments of our lives become sacramental times which hold the promise of mediating God’s grace and presence to us? I am not sure, just as I am not sure why so many people are not able to recognize the risen Christ until the right time. But I do know that it happens through the Holy Spirit.

Last Tuesday our family ordered dinner from one of our local, family owned businesses, Moretti’s Restaurant on Sawmill Road. I went to high school with Tom Moretti, who runs the Sawmill store. We are trying to occasionally give carry-out business to places like this while their customer base has shrunk. Moretti’s has a variety of dinners for four people ranging from $48 to $55 – and trust me, it is more than enough for four people! Included with the entrée is a soup or salad and bread and butter. And when I say bread, you get one of these entire loaves for EACH person in the family. Yes, we had four of these!! The four of us savored the wonderful home-cooked Italian feast and talked about how we are doing. Then we broke out the board games and played a couple of them for about three hours. It was not a time of baptism or eucharist. There was no organ playing or robed ministers chanting. It was a quotidian moment of family thanking God for the food and the fun that we had, and it was sacramental: The presence of the living Christ was known in our house that night.

I hope you have some bread with you now. I invite you to join with me in a prayer: Gracious heavenly father, we thank you that in the challenging times of our lives when we are not able to be with those that we love and we are not able to worship you as a community, you still make yourself known in our cabbage soup – in those everyday quotidian moments like this one. Bless the bread that all of us share together today – even though we are not physically together. You came into the lives of those two travelers on the Emmaus Road. Come into our lives on this somewhat rocky, uncertain road and open our eyes to your presence today as we break this bread, and in the days to come as we travel our own roads. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Christ is risen! He is Risen Indeed! Amen!!