3rd Sunday after Easter
May 4, 2014
Luke 24: 13-35
I love this story. No matter how many times I read it, it lifts me up, warms my heart, touches the deepest places of my trust that Jesus’ promises to his people are trustworthy. One of my favorite theologians, John Maas, suggested to me awhile ago that this story is Luke’s equivalent to John’s story of Thomas demanding to put his hands in Jesus wounds. In both stories, Jesus takes the opportunity to prove beyond doubt to his anxious and discouraged followers that the person who has come back from the grave is truly the one they loved and thought they’d lost. John tells one story, Luke tells another. These stories acknowledge that only God could possibly do that. Their belief in Jesus as God among them is not unfounded. A whole new world has opened up for them.
The movement in this story from weariness and discouragement to hearing the scriptures opened to them, to sitting at the table with Jesus, and then rushing off to tell their story to their friends parallels exactly the movements of our worship. Just think: we come from our week of coping, striving, arriving at this door weary for a word of hope. We hear God’s Word; we let it open our hearts to prepare us for the Word himself who comes on the wings of the Holy Spirit to lift us, to tell us that we are loved and known completely and that such love never ends. We sit down at Jesus’ table to share the meal that gives us strength for the journey. And then we scatter out into the world to live out our mission to be God’s hands and heart and bring the Word that has been shared with us into everything we do.
But even closer to home, this story parallels the movement from despair to hope we experience in our lives of faith. The disciples on the road tell Jesus, “we had hoped that he was the one….” How often has that happened to you? What seemed the answer, what seemed the hope, what seemed so perfect just crashes around you? A lost job, a lost love, lost health, lost innocence. How can you ever recover? You just keep walking, you head for home. But what this story tells us is that we are never walking alone; Jesus walks beside us, so often unrecognized, opening God’s word to us, showing us the truth we didn’t see. Even in the face of death, God reminds us, new life is always at work. And then suddenly, we find not only that we have been in God’s presence the whole time, but that in our remembered hospitality, we find that we are sitting with Jesus.
The world is captivated by conversion stories. A friend of mine wrote the story of coming to faith newly surrounded by a church community when her baby suddenly was found to have a brain tumor. Many of you have read Sara Miles story of walking into a church, tasting the bread and wine, and knowing that something had happened and that she wanted, needed to come back to find out what this was.
Some of you have come back to church after years away, or have chosen church because it was a thing you wanted for your family. Your conversion stories are inspiring and deeply moving, and I love to hear them, because I can see that God never quits inviting people into sacred community where the love of God is lived out in our life together and our life in the world when we go out the door.
Some of us were raised in church and have lived our conversions over and over again: from Sunday School faith to learning to make difficult choices because we want to live as God’s own people, to having our adult faith challenged by the circumstances of our lives. We have had our faith grow to become the deepest reality of the life we live, the only thing we really trust to never fail us.
I believe that we walk this walk we read about here this morning over and over as our lives of faith stretch and grow and lead us over and over from despair to hope. Jesus’ walk with these disciples who walk away from their dashed hopes in Jerusalem toward their quiet home to grieve is not the only walk we know. We know the walk we have walked on our own, finding Jesus was with us, leading us through word and presence to see that God never fails us. We know the walk that leads us to this community where we sit down with Jesus every week to be sent out in to the world to do God’s work and tell God’s story. We know the walk that assures us that our failures are swallowed up in God’s bountiful love and that the truth about us is that we are loved forever. Amen.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.