Video from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“All the Way Home”
Collect: O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
1 Peter 1:17-23
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
Now on that same day two of Jesus' disciples 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.
Friends, good morning. I will be short today, but I hope that we will give you something to chew on, at least in your spiritual cud.
The road to Emmaus is one of the profound stories of the Church, we share it often and readily because many of us have had that epiphany moment when we see Jesus made clear to us. It may have come from a worship service, a profound life event, a slow emerging over days and weeks with someone who modeled a Christ-like lifestyle in their own way. We identify readily with Cleopas and the other guy.
I so wish we knew the name of the other guy, and if we do some cross-Gospel investigation the other guy may be female. And if they are female, they are probably Cleopas’ wife who would be Mary who witnessed the crucifixion, and most likely the mother of St. James the Less. Pretty cool. I had never heard this possibility before, and being the Church of St. James the Less I would love to think that his parents were the disciples who had their eyes opened hours after the resurrection.
So all that being said, and one of the key things in my shifting into a more sacramental theology is the phrase: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
But we do not have that for us. We have been separated from the bread. This is a hard time for those of us for whom the Altar of Christ means so much. I ache for it.
One of the things that this Bishop has asked of the clergy is that we also forego the Eucharist. We already have limitations on having Eucharist alone, but surely we could celebrate with our families. We could. But we don’t. If the people are having to fast from the Eucharist, we are called to be one with them. So no cheating on our part. I look forward to the time when we can celebrate together, once we are all together again. And we all pray that that will be soon.
But today I want to emphasize the other part of the story. The bread is the easy part, the comfortable part. But we gloss over something just as significant when we jump straight to the breaking of the bread.
Jesus walked with them all the way home.
That is what I am holding onto today. It is a simple message, but one that has helped us for generations. A few weeks ago, we had some fun in response to one of our Facebook posts asking about favorite hymns. “In The Garden” was an obvious favorite. You may know the chorus:
And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and tells me that I am his own.And things we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
And just as important, and a bit less sentimental, is the end of the Gospel of Matthew, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus walks with us. We are not on these paths alone. We take these sad sojourns, but through it we can gain clarity. He can point out what was before, and what it means to us now. He can point to obvious things we missed.
I cannot say how much comfort I find in that. Friends, none of us knows when or how this will end. But this I can say, that even in this Jesus is walking with us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:38-39]When God called Moses one of the ironic things that God says in the conversation at the burning bush is something that is applicable to all our faith walks.
He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’ [Exodus 3:12]
Now the applicable part of that is not the details but rather the understanding. We cannot see the whole thing, the big picture. The God’s Eye Point of View is God’s job, not ours. God calls us to take the next step, and to have faith. Moses was asked to bring one of the mightiest nations on earth to its knees by way of its slaves. No small task. And the proof, when it is all done you will see that I was with you when you worship me back here.
Faith is a proposition. With each other, and with God. When the followers on the road to Emmaus walked with Jesus the invited him into relationship. Their preconceptions would not allow them to see him for who he was, but he stayed with them anyway. And at the end of the road, their faith came to fruition.
Friends, Jesus is walking with us. We may not see it till the end of the road. But even if you cannot see it, feel it, or believe today, I believe it. And I trust that you can one day to, if not today. As Peter says in today’s reading, “live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.” Not fear as in scared, but reverent fear like awe-filled respect. Even in our exiles, Jesus is with us, and will be ALL THE WAY HOME. Amen.