The sermon from Sunday, April 30, 2017 on Luke 24: 13-35
First of all, let’s back up a minute and look at where we are with this text. We’ve been working from Matthew and John – and then here we are at Luke. Last week’s story of Thomas came from the Gospel of John. The text given to us for this evening is from Luke. Let’s go back and here Luke’s account of the Resurrection –
The writer of Luke has told the story of the crucifixion and now we have this –
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
We have confusion. Once again we have the women bearing first witness and we have doubt. Then we come to the story we read tonight.
Okay, I want everybody to move. Stand up and walk around for a minute. Or wave your hands in the air. Change seats if you want to. Give somebody a handshake or a hug. I’m looking for a physical act here.
[we had a lovely interlude of movement and friendship]
We are on a journey. A journey of revelation.
We can’t go out right now and walk 7 miles, but one of the first things to pay attention to in this story is its physicality. Let us feel it in our bodies. Too often we consider spirituality to be a disembodied effort, separate from the skin we walk around in.
We cannot deny the physicality in this story, however. A seven mile journey is a substantial walk. For comparison, it’s only 3 miles from here to the airport or to city hall. It’s 5 miles to Ruffner Mountain, ACIPCO, or Tarrant. A seven mile walk will take you to downtown Vestavia or Ensley or the far side of Irondale.
Of course back then people did a lot of walking, but the point is that this is not just a journey of or in the head. Christianity is a physical act. We baptize with water and eat bread and wine. We celebrate a resurrected Jesus. We see the face of the Incarnate Jesus in those around us.
It takes some effort and it takes some time. We live it with our mortal bodies – our flesh and blood and bone.
People around us are on that journey too.
Some of them make that journey in wheelchairs.
Some of them are walking because they don’t have a car.
Some of them carry the stress and the dangers of walking while black.
Some are women who fear for their safety when the journey keeps them out after dark.
Some speak in loud and boastful tones – maybe because they are full of themselves or maybe because they are emptied of spirit.
We are all walking together, but do not believe for a moment that the journey is the same for all of us.
Society would tell us that our bodies, these precious gifts from God, are not enough. Not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not young enough or old enough, not white enough, not quick enough.
But let us treasure these bodies we have been given. Let us accept them as enough. Of course there’s wisdom in being good stewards of our body, in proper care of the self. But let us know our bodies – our black/white/brown, old/young/middle-aged, light/heavy/in-between, gay/trans/cis/queer disabled or not bodies – as our way of traveling through the world.
By God, let us also respect the bodies of all those around us, most especially those whom the world disrespects. For on this journey of revelation, we find ourselves in conversation with Jesus – and we don’t realize it.
Now that’s a sermon in itself, one that you’ve heard here before. We often fail to recognize Jesus around us. But let’s go a little further with this text. We are on a long journey, one that takes some effort, and here we are in conversation with an unrecognized Jesus.
Cleopas and his buddy? They don’t get it all at once. They are in conversation with Jesus for miles and some more miles. They’ve got sense enough to appreciate the discussion. But they still see dimly.
What do you not get? It’s one thing to know you don’t know something. Then there’s all the stuff that we don’t know that we don’t know.
The call of the Christian life is one of continual learning, of continual deepening of understanding and wisdom. It’s a call of preparation and a call of compassion – both for oneself and for the others around you.
I think this preparation part is pretty important. Let’s go back a minute. Verse 17 – They stood still, looking sad. Here we have these men who have had their hopes crushed. Their lives are in danger. They’re scared.
They’ve actually already had someone witness the good news of the resurrection to them, but they didn’t believe it. Probably because those people were women. Okay, that earns an eye roll. However, we both have been talking and will in the future talk at length about the role of women in the realm of God, so we’re not going there right now.
But hear what Jesus does with them – Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
So he has his moment of frustration – Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! That’s Jesus banging his head against the wall – if there were a wall handy. Yet his reaction is one of compassion – he enters into conversation with them and he teaches them.
Jesus is willing to let it go at that. At first we think Jesus is impatient here, but in truth he’s actually being mighty patient. He’s going to just keep on going, but something clicks for Cleopas and his buddy.
Maybe it’s a genuine sense of hospitality. Maybe it’s curiosity and a desire to learn more. Maybe they’re starting to get a glimpse of something transcendent.
They interrupt him as he plans to keep on walking and they invite him in,
Hear that? We have these sorrowful spirits, these weary bodies, these foggy minds – anybody know what that feels like? – but they get it right.
They act from some deep part of themselves, the very best parts of themselves – the heart of hospitality, the desire for knowledge, the openness to the transcendent – and they invite Jesus in.
They made a journey of the body as they walked the miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They made a journey of the mind as they talked with Jesus and heard his teachings and carried on a conversation. They made this invitation as their prepared hearts suddenly recognize a miracle.
All at once they grasp the reality of the resurrected Jesus and the proximity of the resurrected Jesus. He is right there among them. That’s how they recognized him – we know Jesus as the healer, the feeder, the teacher, and the speaker of truths.
Here we witness Jesus in the act of breaking bread, preparing the feast – he has taught them, fed them, and now in this moment he heals their spirits.
We witness the ultimate mystery. It’s absolutely exquisite. It’s a perfect moment.
Luke offers this one to us. It’s up to us to find them in our own daily lives. And they are there.
Have you experienced such a moment?
Have you had those perfect moments where you know in that moment that God is alive and at work in the world?
Summon up for yourself that kind of joy.
That joy gets covered up by the stuff of daily life – matters small and large, significant and trivial – but it is there.
You – and everyone of us in this room and in this world – have access to it. The joy of that mystery and the mystery of that joy are here for us all.
Then Jesus vanishes. He has done what he needed to do. His point is made. Having seen, there is no unseeing.
Cleopas and friend then prove that yes, they themselves are indeed still human. They’re like – Oh yeah, we knew it all along. I knew that was really Jesus.
‘Well, I knew it was really him. I figured it out, I don’t know, maybe around the second mile. Didn’t want to say anything and scare you or anything like that.’
Yeah, these are the dudes who didn’t believe Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and all the other women.
They are not perfect.
And neither are we.
But what do they do? They head back out in the dark and they walk all the way back to Jerusalem – 7 miles, remember – to share the good news with their friends.
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Body, mind, and spirit. This journey – this journey of living, this journey of being a Christian, this life of following and recognizing Christ takes the whole of who we are.
We are given the gift of our beautiful, diverse selves to experience this life, to work for justice and mercy and love, and to savor the promise of each day that we draw breath.
The journey is challenge and joy, pain and hope, incarnation and transcendence. It’s a long walk, but we don’t travel it alone. We in this together – and we travel in conversation with the resurrected Jesus.