3rd Sunday of Easter
May 8, 2011
Luke 24: 13-35
As I’ve been visiting people who are homebound, I’ve been asking, do you have a favorite Psalm? A favorite Bible passage, something that sustains you or has special connections for you? A favorite Bible story or story about Jesus? Most of the time people can’t think of anything on the spot, and I tell them I’ll keep asking until something jogs their memory or comes to mind. This is my favorite.
I guess I’ve heard this story hundreds of time in my long life in church. Well, dozens at least. It started to mean something special to me when I was struggling to understand my own call to ministry, which seemed both the answer to a life-long prayer and an impossibility. At the bottom of my heart, I had always believed that God had a ministry for me, but I was over 50. I’d lost my marriage, lost my fabulous corporate job and was scraping together a living, desperately afraid I was failing miserably, when I knew that I was right. God was calling me to become a pastor, an idea that seemed impossible. It meant ditching everything I was trying so desperately to get back and heading in an unimagined direction. The only thing that kept me going through the 10 or so years on that path was my faith that this was the right path and that my job, no matter how impossible it seemed, as to walk it.
I sat every morning with Scripture, reading Psalms and reading Bible texts, trying to absorb the messages into my own dreams as a way to understand what God was dreaming for me. Day after day it felts as if Jesus was walking with me, opening up my own life and experience in the light of what I’d read that day. It felt as if he were schooling me in God’s promises so that I would not lose heart, telling me the stories I had always known in new ways that made them my stories, too.
I have come to think of this story we have before us today as our common story. It is the story of how Jesus walks with us. Our life of faith is a story of learning to see and understand how the stories of our Scripture and what we share with each other about our own faith at the hardest times of our lives is a way that Jesus walks with us, explaining, teaching, making the connections for us.
It’s the story of how a congregation grows and changes over the years as the original members teach their children, encourage new members, learn new songs and liturgies and grow into new understanding of mission as the world changes around them. It’s the story of young people coming to understand how the Sunday School stories they learn can become the foundation for a grown-up faith that is resilient and strong enough to carry them through new loves, new education, a life of work and wounds and sacrifice. It is the story of how we learn to find God walking with us through all the unexpected: a new baby, a move away from family for a job, the end of a marriage, a kid who drops out of school and into a life of addiction, losing a wife to ALS while your sons are still in high school, losing a mate after 60 years of marriage.
We are all called to find new life in our old lives, whether we are brought there by joy or by sorrow. And this story tells us that Jesus walks with us, the same way that he walked with those disciples on that day: opening the Scripture, teaching them to see beyond their expectations, teaching them to understand a truth that has been there all along, though they might never have realized it.
The other reason I love this story is that it is in the breaking of bread that they finally recognize who it is who walks with them. Jesus becomes the host at table, a table that they beg him to share with them. It is being gathered around a meal that they suddenly recognize who has been leading, teaching, encouraging them to hope, and to understand the real story. Martin Luther maintains that the reason we come to this table is to strengthen our faith. There is an objectivity in the invitation to come to eat this bread of Jesus’ presence. It tells you that even though you may not feel worthy God has no such prejudice. God wants you to come to share in the life that is promised for you. This bread and this wine tell us that the barriers of time, of our own unlikeliness as believers, the deadness of our faith or of our hope will not keep us from the life which Jesus has won for us for all eternity. We have our own experience of the taste of God’s presence, gathered around this chancel, facing each other, sharing our stories of hope, of expectation, and of where we have met Jesus on the road of our own lives, leading us, teaching us, walking with us to help us see the new life won and guaranteed for us through his resurrection.
Now may the peace which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.