By The Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
April 6, 2008
Read: Luke 24:13-35
The road to Emmaus. We’ve all been on that road…that road to Emmaus. That long walk after losing an important game, that long walk after losing your job, that long walk after the death of a loved one. It’s the long road back to the empty house, the piles of unopened mail, to life as usual, if life can ever be usual again after our hopes and dreams are shattered, broken.
It is the road of deep disappointment, and walking it is the definition of sad, just like the two disciples in today’s story. It takes about two hours to walk seven miles, and that is how long they have to talk about the roller coaster events of the past three days. The trial, the crucifixion, the silent procession to the tomb. And then the women’s vision of angels, the empty grave. Real death. Rumored resurrection.
They’re talking about all this when a stranger walks up beside them and asks them what they are talking about. They stop dead in their tracks and look at this stranger–not understanding how someone could really not know? It’s all everyone is talking about.
They tell him how things had looked so promising. They say “we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel”. We had hoped. Hope in the past tense. We believed things might really change, but we were wrong. We had hoped. It’s one of the saddest comments we can make. We had hoped. He died. It is over now. No more fairy tales, no more dreams, no more illusions. Back to business as usual.
“That is when their walking partner explodes at them. “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart!”. Or, in other words, you idiots! If you had read your bible, none of this would come as a surprise to you. It is right there: The Christ is not the one who wins the power struggle; he is the one who loses it. The Christ is not the undefeated champion; he is the suffering servant, the broken one, who comes in his glory with his wounds still visible. Those hurt places are the proof that he is who he says he is, because the way you recognize Christ—and his followers—is not by their muscles but by their scars.
Which means they are not to despise the painful parts of their lives anymore. Which means that they are not to interpret their defeats as failures anymore. Which means that they are not to fear their enemies anymore, not even death itself”.
The stranger on the road, Jesus, tells them all about Moses and all the prophets. And when they arrive, they don’t want this stranger to go. They want him to stay with him. They invite him in.
Jesus then becomes the host at the table…he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them. And their eyes were opened. They recognized the Christ. And in that instant, he vanished from their sight.
Jesus came to the travelers on the road to Emmaus. He came to wounded people on that long, lonely road to Emmaus. He came to them to give them hope again, to say, no, this is not defeat, this is a new beginning.
In our own brokenness, Jesus also comes. Jesus comes to us on our own road to Emmaus. Jesus works with broken people, with broken dreams, in a broken world. If someone hands him a whole loaf, he will take it, bless it, break it and give it, and he will do the same thing with his own flesh and blood. Because that is the way of life God has shown him to show the rest of us: to take what we have been given, whether we like it or not, and to bless it—to say thank you for it—whether it is the sweet satisfying bread of success or the tear-soaked bread of sorrow. To say thank you, and to break it.
The image of broken bread. When it is broken, there is more surface area to spread the butter or the jelly or jam. To break it is the only way it can be shared, and to hand it around, not to eat it all by ourselves, but to find someone to eat it with, so that the broken loaf may bring all of us broken ones together into one body, where we might recognize the risen Lord in our midst.
On that road to Emmaus, when hope seems to be gone, Christ is there whether we recognize him or not. Think about a time when the gates to your heart have opened and everything you have ever loved comes tumbling out to be missed and praised and mourned and loved some more. It is like being known all the way down. It is like being in the presence of God. One moment you see him, and the next you do not. One moment your eyes are opened and you recognize the risen Christ, and the next he vanishes from your sight.
Take heart. It is no ghost. Do not fear. You cannot lose him for good. “And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”*
Risen, Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.
*In The Garden, lyrics by Charles Austin Miles, 1913
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