How Often Does He Go On Down The Road

Last night the University of Memphis played in the finals of the NCAA Basketball finals losing to Kansas in overtime. Today the team arrives home and there will be some to meet them but not in the numbers that would have come to greet them had they won the game. Such is the success game! There is always a winner and a no-one remembers number two.

It strikes me that the Good News of God in Christ is that the whole game of being good enough and winning is over. God is the God of the losers the ones who cannot make it on their own. It is profoundly counter-intuitive.

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER

Cleopas, tradition says was the husband of Mary the sister of Our Lord’s mother. Their son, Simeon, succeeded James the brother of our Lord as Bishop of Jerusalem. This story, recorded only by Luke, must have come from the family of Jesus.

Uncle Cleopas is on his way to Emmaus with an unnamed companion. The risen Jesus joins these disappointed and depressed followers of Jesus, but they did not recognize him. When Jesus asks them why they are so downcast, they tell him the whole pitiful story.

He says, “You just don’t get it. Did you not know that the Messiah must first suffer all these things and enter into his glory?” And he began to show them how the scripture could accommodate their experience

And then he opened their minds to see how the Law of Moses and the Prophets must be fulfilled – or another way of putting it – filled full!

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer

and on the third day rise from the dead, and

that repentance and forgiveness of sins

should be preached in his name to all nations,

beginning from Jerusalem.”

When they arrive at Emmaus, it looks as if he will go on down the road. They ask him to stay for Supper. And there it happened: at table He took the bread, blessed the bread, broke the bread, and gave the bread to them. In that moment their eyes were opened and they saw Jesus as he is and he vanished from before their sight. They then rushed back to town to tell how they had encountered the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.

At the table we see the four ritual acts of Eucharist: taking, blessing, breaking, giving are present at that table as they have been present at Christian tables ever since.

In Easter we do several things differently than at other times of year. We stand instead of kneeling, we have no general confession until Pentecost, and the first reading at Eucharist is from the Acts of the Apostles.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of Luke’s writing, we have the story of what happened after the resurrection. In fact the Meal at Emmaus is the pivotal chapter in Luke’s two-volume set, detailing the process of death, resurrection and now proclamation of the Good News of the Christ, the risen Lord.

On Pentecost there were 120 in upper room + 3000 + who knows how many. Not only did this sort of growth happen in a short period of time, but also half the community spoke Hebrew and the other half spoke Greek. And we think we have challenges!

“And day by day”, Luke says, “The Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” The word saved is not just about fire insurance. The original word also means healed. Those who the Lord was making whole, a process, begun at baptism but not completed in this life, were being added day by day.

Luke records that the people devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And that has been going on ever since.

WHY? Because of the resurrection.

The trouble is that most of do not live as if the resurrection ever happened.

We live as if we believe that Jesus is still dead. Jesus is not dead!

There is a story going around that you may have heard from me a couple of Easters ago about a woman whose dog brought home the next door neighbor’s white rabbit in it’s mouth. The rabbit was dead. The woman was afraid to admit to her neighbor what her dog had done, so she took the bunny inside and washed him, blow-dried his fur and carefully tucked him back inside his hutch. Later in the afternoon she heard weeping and wailing from next door. She went to the fence and innocently asked, “What is the matter?” Her neighbor said, “We buried him yesterday and today’s he’s back!”

We live as if we buried Jesus yesterday and the body is back. We carefully tuck the body away until next year when we can do the whole thing over again. But the body is not back. He is risen!

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of the murder of a prophet in Memphis, Martin Luther King, Jr. – we have been dealing and avoiding the issues he raised as he called us to be a nation worthy of our creed. The lunch counters that were segregated in this country cannot reflect the meal at the village near Jerusalem on that fateful day exactly 1975 years ago this past Thursday. We as Christians and Americans needed to grow into our best possibilities.

Let me again quote to you what a woman deeply irritated over the state of the church once said, “If Jesus knew how his Church had turned out he would turn over in his grave!” That is how we live.

This Eucharist is not a memorial to a dead man.

This Eucharist is a not a “wake”.

This Eucharist is supper with a risen Lord and Savior.

Often we live like he’s dead, and we’re sorry, but he’s alive and it has been the expectation of the faithful ever since that Easter afternoon that whenever we gather and break the bread, Our Lord is present whether we see Him or not.

The upshot of this is that since the resurrection we live with the burden of abundance, and for many abundance is a burden. It is easier to live Therefore we must live with the burden of that life, the burden of abundance. And it is a burden. Most of us live in the scarcity model. And we go through life repeating the litany of scarcity: There is not enough. There is not enough. There is not enough.

And because we have repeated the litany of scarcity long enough and been taught to focus on pathology rather than strength. We have come to believe that there is not enough, and the payoff is that we do not have to deal with the consequences of abundance, the implications of resurrection. We are called to use the gifts God has given us.

For many it is easier to live timidly hoarding scarcity than to boldly live into the future in the power of the resurrection. And it’s a crying shame.

The writer, Parker Palmer was once asked in an interview to define grace. He said, “I think of grace as a constant availability of abundance with the question being am I open to it or not.” There you have it. Is there enough or not? The incident at Emmaus tells us as it told Cleopas and his companion that indeed there is. In Acts we see that the believers began to live into the burden of abundance and the world has never been the same since.

In the  nineteenth century there was a poor man who wanted desperately to immigrate to America.  He saved all his money and finally was able to buy passage on a great steam-ship from Europe to America.   It goes without saying that the ticket he could afford didn’t provide the best accommodations.   So he brought with him cheese and crackers to eat on the voyage.  When everyone would go into the dining halls for meals he would sit on the deck and eat his carefully allotted meal of hard cheese and cracker.   This went on for the entire trip.  

The night before the ship was to arrive in New York, the man was sitting on the deck eating his meager meal when a man spotted him and said, “I don’t believe that I have met you.  I thought that I had met everyone on this ship or at least seen them at meal time.  How come I don’t know you.” The poor man was a little embarrassed, but he admitted that the reason he hadn’t been seen at meals was because he didn’t have the money for the meals.  His new friend said to him, “Didn’t you know that when you bought the ticket that the meals were included!!!”

“Didn’t you know that when you bought the ticket that the meals were included?”

“Grace is the constant availability of abundance with the question being am I open to it or not.”

So long as we are not open to it we are afraid. The fear that got Martin Luther King, Jr. murdered is a fear, born of sin and alienation from God and each other that keeps us from seeing just what God has given us in Christ Jesus.

Our city, our nation, our households must be formed by this Eucharist where we encounter the Risen Christ. All that keeps us from freedom is us. Did you not realize when you bought the tickets that the meals were included?

Alleluia Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.

Amen.