Straight From The Heart, Luke 24:13-35, 1 Peter 1:17-23
Plymouth First United Methodist Church, April 26, 2020
Pastor Toni Carmer
It had already been a long day. So much had happened. So much to think about. So much to process. So much to try to figure out and understand. The two men were headed back home. They had celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem, though “celebration” this year didn’t really seem to fit. They had been weighed down with worry; concerned about what was happening to Jesus.
They could see where it was all headed. The odds had been stacked against him. He was executed by the Romans with the consent, approval and affirmation of their own temple authorities. He hadn’t stood a chance. He hadn’t even tried to defend himself. He was no threat to them: overturning the government wasn’t what he’d been talking about. But his responses to their charges had been confusing to them…it was as though he was determined to hang on that cross. It was as though it had been a part of the plan.
It was now midday, on the third day, and they were walking back home to Emmaus. It was time to return to their fishing nets, to their tax offices, to their missed appointments, to their routine. Sometimes routine is exactly what a person needs. Jerusalem didn’t feel so inviting right now. They just needed to go—to be home—to breathe. Because the air felt a little too thin for them right now in Jerusalem.
While they were walking and talking, they were joined by a third man, someone who they didn’t recognize, obviously a man from far away, who didn’t seem to have a clue about what was happening. And so they told him about Jesus, a great prophet, who they had hoped would redeem Israel. They told him about their disappointment with their own leaders who had turned him over to be killed. They told him about the women, friends of theirs who had gone to the tomb—just that morning! His body was gone, but the women claimed to have seen angels. Some of their friends had gone to confirm the women’s report; they didn’t find anything. They didn’t find his body. They hadn’t seen any angels. It was all very confusing.
What more could they say? What more could they do? And so they were headed home.
That’s when the stranger began talking. “You’re so slow to understand,” he’d said. “Don’t you know that this had to happen in order for Jesus to enter into his glory? Why can’t you just believe the prophets?” And then this stranger began teaching them, unwrapping the story, beginning with the Books of Moses. He connected the dots as to what the prophets had said that pointed to Jesus—Jesus, who was more than a prophet—but the Messiah!
When the men arrived at the edge of their town, he bid them goodbye, but the men convinced him to stay. It’s late. Suppertime. It’s been a long day. You’ve traveled far enough. Come join us for supper and leave in the morning.
When they sat down at the table to eat, that’s when something unexpected happened. That’s when the stranger became the host of the meal. He took the bread and blessed it. He broke it and gave it to them. That’s when they recognized who he was—that it was Jesus…and then he was gone.
After this long and difficult day, the two men were suddenly filled with energy and joy. They quick switched out their dirty clothes for clean ones, threw them in their backpacks and went straight back to Jerusalem—a city that had suddenly been transformed from a place of sorrow, to a place of new life and new hope! When they found the remaining disciples and told them what had happened, they learned that Jesus had also appeared to Simon. He had seen Jesus, too!
He was alive!
They had spent time with Jesus and hadn’t even realized it!
Easter is real! It’s true! And because of that, everything changed—for them, for us. Through Easter we can see that God, in an amazing, mysterious, unexplainable act of divine vindication raised Jesus from the dead. God acted in the world, revealing that God had—God has the final word: God wins! Love prevails! It was true then, and it’s true today. And that makes all the difference in the way we live…in the way we love…in the way we hope.
I think Easter’s impact on our living is an especially important word for us to hear and remember in this particular chapter of our lives. The bottom line is this: Jesus is with us. Right here. Right now. Walking alongside us. In our homes, in our hospitals, in our nursing homes and rehab units and senior citizen housing. He’s here, in the ordinary moments of our lives—when we’re having a conversation, eating a meal, on a walk. We don’t always see him, we don’t always recognize him, but he’s here with us.
On the good days, Jesus is with us.
When life is tough, he’s walking alongside us.
When we’re not sure what’s ahead? He’s right here.
There are moments of clarity when we can see him, when we realize his presence: it might be when we break bread together, when we worship together, here in this place or when we come together online. Maybe when we’re out in the backyard checking out the spring flowers, or walking down an aisle at the grocery store, scanning faces for one that’s familiar. Jesus is with us. Because of Easter, we know it’s true.
A second thing from today’s scripture for us to hear is about loving one another. In the text from 1st Peter, the word of God is proclaimed to a struggling congregation in the early church. The people are told that the resurrection of Jesus is for our sake, for us, that we’ve been “ransomed” not with perishable things like silver or gold, but by the blood of Jesus. And so we’re offered a new way of living that gives birth to a new way of loving: from the heart—deeply and earnestly. Loving not only those we know and those who can love us back, but those we don’t know, who we may never meet, who need the love of Christ that we’ve come to know—and not only in heartfelt caring kinds of ways, but in tangible, physical ways. We need to keep our eyes open and to be especially generous now, because there are people around us who are trying to figure out how to take care of the basics: food on the table, rent/mortgage payments, bills that were easily paid with a regular paycheck that suddenly stopped. Stimulus checks, unemployment, and that extra $600/month doesn’t happen as easily or automatically as we might think. A grace period on rent or mortgage doesn’t mean a few months of payments added on at the end, but a balloon payment due in just a few months. It’s hard now, and it’s not going to get easier anytime soon.
We need to be ready to love one another in tangible ways.
Life can be difficult. Challenging. I imagine the sadness the disciples felt as they were walking back to their homes. We have felt that kind of heaviness. Perhaps we’ve known despair. But Easter is true. Christ is alive. And so, we can live, knowing God is walking alongside us. We can love, because we know that we’re loved and so we can demonstrate the kind of love we’ve come to know through our actions, as Jesus did for us. We can hope, because God is in charge. God wins. Love prevails.
Easter is true.
Christ is alive.
Thanks be to God. Amen.