April 23, 2017

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My poor PKs (pastor kids) finally got to color Easter eggs the evening of Easter.  I shared it with the Facebook universe, and defended myself by saying there were still a couple hours of Easter left.  My favorite reply was from another pastor who reminded me that at that point, I had another 49 days.  In the church world, we prolong our important holidays.  We celebrate Christmas for 12 days, and we celebrate Easter for a full 7 weeks. 

Easter is an important thing for the church to celebrate.  While we can’t celebrate with an Easter breakfast every week, we do continue to celebrate all the ways Jesus shows up in the world. 

This Sunday we get another Easter story.  It takes place Easter evening, about the same time my family was coloring eggs. 

In our story this morning, we meet two disciples.  We don’t really know much about them since this is the only place they’re mentioned.  They could have been just about anyone. 

All we know is that they were people who followed Jesus, and that they were trying to make sense of things that didn’t make sense. 

And that’s all we need to know because it makes it easier for their story to be our story too.  We’ve all had those times of feeling lost and disappointed and unsure of what to do next. 

I invite you to imagine yourselves into their story this morning. 

The disciples’ journey begins long before that Easter evening.  Before that fateful Good Friday, they were traveling in a good direction.  Jesus talked to them about a Way, a way of life that seemed so hopeful and promising.  They followed Jesus in this way of compassion and healing.   They thought Jesus would protect them.  They thought Jesus would change the world.  They thought they knew what Jesus was all about

…But then everything came to a screeching halt.  Jesus died, and all their hopes and dreams seemed to die with him.  Who were they supposed to follow now that Jesus was gone?  What were they supposed to do?  Were they fools for believing? 

These disciples were in shock.  They were lost, confused, disoriented.  I imagine some of them grew quiet, too sad to say a word.  Some probably got angry and wanted to find people to blame for what had happened.  Some seemed to be in denial that any of it had happened.  Others kept going over and over the events trying to figure out where things went wrong, what they could have done differently.  “why”  kept echoing around the room. 

Maybe Cleopas and this other disciple just had to get away from it all.  Maybe they needed some fresh air and a good long walk to clear their heads.  Maybe there was someone in that little town of Emmaus that they needed to see. 

Whatever their reason for making that journey to Emmaus, I believe the Spirit was nudging them, helping them, guiding them—though they had no idea at the time. 

They didn’t talk much.  There really wasn’t much to say.  Sometimes a shared silence comforts more than words. 

But the silence could only last for so long.  These two had too much on their minds, too much pent up.  Finally, one of them just burst out, and suddenly everything came gushing out. They started to ponder things, and try to make sense of them—though their conversation just seemed to go in circles. 

And then a stranger happened upon them wondering what they were talking about. 

At first they were frightened.  They couldn’t quite place his accent or where he was from.  What if this was someone sent by the temple to look for Jesus’ followers and arrest them too? 

But this man seemed utterly clueless.  How could he have not heard about what happened?  Jesus’ crucifixion was big news around here.  Whether people liked him or hated him, everyone was talking about him.  Did they really have to go over all the details again?  They could hardly tell the story without breaking down. 

Yet this man also seemed genuinely interested, so they told him their story… 

How there was this amazing guy named Jesus who did all kinds of amazing things. 

How he healed people and taught people and changed people’s lives. 

How he stood up to people and challenged people. 

How he spoke about God and interpreted scripture in new ways. 

How they were convinced he was the Messiah, the one who was going to save Israel, the one who was going to finally free them from Rome and all other oppressive Empires. 

He was going to rule the world, or so they thought. 

 

…And then Jesus was executed, put to death as a threat to Rome. 

All their hopes were lost. 

Some of the women had the nerve to say that Jesus was alive, that his body wasn’t in the tomb.  But that couldn’t be true.  There must have been some other explanation. 

They told their story, and tried to sort it all out with this stranger. 

Then this stranger started to sort everything out with them.  He opened the scriptures, and started talking about them in ways they had never thought of before.  They started to see things they never realized were in there.  They had grown up with these stories all their lives.  They knew the rules, knew the prophets, knew everything about their religion—or so they thought. 

But this stranger got them thinking in a whole new way.  How could they have missed all of this before? 

All of a sudden their walk came to a surprising end, and they didn’t want this stranger to leave them.   He was the first one who took the time to listen and seemed to have just the right things to say.   He was the first person to make any sense at all.  It was the first time they felt alive since all this began. 

They invited this stranger to stay with them, and they ate together.  In the middle of their meal, the stranger paused to give thanks and bless some of their bread and break it and hand it to them. 

In that instant they knew.  They recognized Jesus.  They had seen him break bread like that when he feed thousands of people.  They had seen him break bread like that when he shared that meal with them the night he was arrested.  They knew it was Jesus.  …And as soon as they recognized him, …he was gone. 

They had no proof.  They couldn’t really explain what had happened.  And yet they knew they had just experienced Jesus’ presence with them.  As they looked back on their journey, they realized he was with them all along, helping them to make sense of things, helping them to see everything in a whole new way.  They just knew. 

Suddenly all their questions, all their grief, all their fear didn’t matter as much anymore. 

Even though it was now dark, even though they had just spent the entire afternoon walking to Emmaus, even though these two disciples had no way to prove what just happened to them, they immediately got up and started back toward Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.  They needed to tell someone about it, and the other disciples needed to hear this.  They needed to share these stories, these experiences with each other.  They needed to help each other believe the unbelievable, and see the Bible in a whole new way.  They needed to help each other make sense of life.  They needed each other. 

This is what following Jesus is all about.  This is what being church is all about.  It’s about supporting each other.  It’s about sharing stories of Christ’s presence in our lives.  It’s about helping each other believe the unbelievable.  It’s about coming together to break bread and expecting Jesus to show up. 

 

As we go down the road of this renewal process, we’re going to spend time breaking bread together.  We’ll strive to support one another.  We’ll tell our stories and share our experiences.  We’ll help each other believe the unbelievable and make sense of our life together.  We’ll sharpen the prescription of our Easter glasses so we can see Jesus more clearly when he shows up.  And while we’re at it, we’ll get some Easter hearing aids so we can hear the winds of the Holy Spirit and follow her lead.  This Easter season is a good time for us to be on the lookout for what God is up to in the world.