3rd Sunday of Easter, year A, 2014 (preached May 4, 2014)
first reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
second reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23
gospel reading: Luke 24:13-35
This morning in our gospel reading we have a welcome departure from the lofty symbolic words of Jesus we heard throughout the season of Lent.
Today we are presented with common ordinary things, everyday words and actions, people going about their business. Two people walking along the road, talking about the events of the day. Walking and talking – ordinary stuff.
They were sad at the loss of their revered teacher-Rabbi, prophet and hoped for redeemer. They were grieving.
For whatever reason, they couldn’t bring themselves to believe the stories that the women told of the empty tomb, or those of their group who saw the tomb themselves.
Then, although they didn’t recognize him yet, we have another ordinary activity – eating. The three – the two travelers and Jesus, had dinner.
Walking, talking and eating – plain ordinary things we ALL do, except this time something EXTRAordinary happened. In this ordinary meal, in the breaking of the bread, Cleopas and his companion were able to discern that they were with the risen Lord himself.
It was in this ordinary, even MUNDANE action that they experienced the extraordinary presence of Jesus the Christ – but just as fast as THAT occurs, another extraordinary thing happens – Jesus disappears from sight. Poof. Gone.
The extraordinary happens in the midst of the ordinary. And it is all realized at the breaking of the bread.
We, along with the travelers in our story, experience the extraordinary presence of Christ every time we gather as a worshiping community around the breaking of the bread.
Not that Jesus isn’t with us at other times, for he promises to be wherever two or three are gathered together, and he is present through the reading of scripture and the preached word.
But there is no other time we come as close to the disciple Thomas, touching the wounds of Christ – as when we receive the body and blood of our Lord in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
In this extraordinary gift we receive in our hands the very presence of Christ.
Bread, when it is broken and consumed, feeds and nourishes. Jesus Christ, broken by death for our sins, feeds and nourishes us for this life and for life eternal.
May we open our eyes and see him here with us, beside us, behind us and always before us – or to use the Lutheran words – in, with and under the forms of bread and wine.
But may we also see Jesus the way Cleopas and his unnamed companion saw him at first, in the ordinary. Because Jesus come to us all the time in the ordinary, but many times we, like those followers on the road to Emmaus, don’t recognize him.
Perhaps we expect to find Jesus in the BIG events: birth, death, sickness, restoration to health – but we don’t always look for him or see him in the mundane.
That’s too bad, because he is there too, ESPECIALLY there, often in the face of others.
Oftentimes, when we DO take the time to notice, we see Jesus’ face in the face of those who have come to our aid. The mechanic who jump starts our dead car battery, the nurse who makes our medical procedure more bearable, the neighbor who comes over to our house with a snow blower after a nasty winter storm.
When we feel helpless or out of control and someone comes to our rescue, it’s easy for us to see Jesus in them, because Jesus rescues us too.
But Jesus is present in more than the noble hero-types we can easily think of. Jesus tells us he is also present in the needy or “unattractive.” This is not so common for us, not so easy to recognize.
We often don’t see Jesus in the hospital bed, or the homeless shelter, or in the drug rehab program, or in jail. It is certainly more difficult for us to see Jesus in the face of the con artist, the person whose lifestyle we disapprove of, or the person in our lives who constantly grates on our nerves.
But Jesus tells us he’s there too – what you have done or not done to the least of these, you have done or not done to ME. (ref. Matt. 25:31ff)
Jesus may be our hero, but he is also present in the ones who are desperate, sick, addicted, MEAN, unlawful – people the world might think are UNSAVABLE or UNWORTHY.
The point is to see Jesus in the face of precisely THESE FOLKS, because in the end WE are them too – unsavable and unworthy – but for the act of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
We see Jesus in the face of the needy (many times, in the face of those who don’t even KNOW they’re needy!) and they see Jesus in our faces when we reach out to them in love.
And even if, like those on the Emmaus road, they DON’T see Jesus in us, that’s ok too, because it’s not our call to be recognized – it’s our call to be Jesus to our neighbor, whether we get the recognition or not.
It’s an amazing, miraculous circle of care and love – being at the same time the one who NEEDS and the one who HELPS. Kind of like being saint and sinner all at once.
May we strive to always see Jesus in our midst, not just in the BIG things, but in the everyday ordinary things,
whether it be in the breaking of the bread, or in the walking and talking with others, or their walking and talking with us.