Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sermon: April 6 (3rd Easter)

Growing up, I was the only one in my family that didn’t have glasses. I was proud of that fact. I didn’t need them. My older brother and sister had them since they were kids. When I started seminary, Ellen noticed I squinted to see the chalkboard, or to read the road signs. One pleasant Saturday afternoon, when Ellen and I were dating, we went for a drive and she wouldn’t tell me where we were going.

We parked the car on a street lined with shops and she still wouldn’t tell me where we were going. She lead me to “Site for Sore Eyes” and had an appointment for my eye exam already set up. An hour after that exam I had my first pair of glasses. I still remember the difference it made. How sharp and clear everything seemed, how I didn’t need to squint to read things. It was a humbling experience but one I needed in order to see so much better, the world was made new.

In our journey of faith, there comes a time when we need to have our eyes opened to God’s work around us. When we walk our road to Emmaus… And there are many so roads we can call Emmaus:

“A mother and father rush their child to the hospital in the middle of their night. They have done everything they can, but the baby's fever will not subside. It has been a long night of waiting, of trying not imagine the worst, of second-guessing, of desperate prayers. From their child's room to the hospital, from the emergency room to the waiting room, this young mother and father walk the long road to Emmaus.

And another...

While not a complete surprise, it was still a blow. Her job was one of many that were eliminated in the merger. There would be a modest severance package, of course, and some outplacement help, but to find another job in her field at her salary would mean a move to another city -- or she would have to “retool” and begin a new career. So begins her journey to Emmaus.” [from Connections April 2008]

Like the disciples who had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel who walked away in sadness and disillusionment, or the examples that I just read remind us that in the disappointments in life, in the moments of sadness, despair, anger, that we walk the road to Emmaus but God promises in God’s Easter that God walks with us and will make God-self known to us, if we have eyes of faith to see God in our situations.

How do we get our eyes to see? Do we need some special pair of glasses to help?

Jesus shows us as he did to Cleopas and the other disciple on that road to Emmaus, he opened up the Scriptures to them, but it wasn’t until they broke bread together, that they realized what was happening and in the blink of an eye he was gone and everything changed! "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; they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread."

Our eyes of faith on our journey will be open if we realize that to understand Easter, to understand that new life of Jesus is to experience the Risen Christ around us, to find him in the scriptures and when we gather to break bread together. But sometimes that road to Emmaus, full of our disappointments, sadness, may seem so much easier to travel than to come here with hope and faith.

Frederick Buechner eloquently wrote about the experience of “Emmaus” in his book The Magnificent Defeat (New York: Seabury, 1966): “‘Emmaus’ is where we go when life gets to be too much for us: ...the place we go in order to escape—a bar, a movie, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say, ‘Let the whole damned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.’ Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred.”(p. 85 - 86)

Those two disciples leaving Jerusalem, going to Emmaus, maybe they were going home or maybe they were just getting out of Dodge, afraid of what might happen to them back there. Everything seemed to die on that cross and they wanted to leave. It was easy for me to keep saying my eyesight was fine, to deny what I really knew, that my eyes needed real help to see better. Sometimes in the midst of all this we need someone to help us on our road to Emmaus. Maybe its our spouse, our child, a friend maybe even Jesus who comes and breaks into our fear, our sadness and anxiety, who breaks bread with us and we feel again that we are not alone that indeed God is with us. And it is then that our eyes are open to the Lord.

It is as Frederick Buechner put it in another part of The Magnificent Defeat, he writes: “It is not the objective proof of God’s existence that we want, but… the experience of God’s presence. That is the miracle we are really after. And that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.” (p. 47)

The Easter miracle is to experience God’s presence, God’s reality in our daily lives. As the “Tuesday evening team at the soup kitchen gathers. It’s nonstop from three in the afternoon until well after seven, preparing, cooking and serving supper for as many as three hundred guests. When the last guest has left and the tables are all cleared, the Tuesday team sits down to eat. Their meal begins every week with a simple ritual: After everyone is served, the evening’s captain takes a big slice of bread and breaks off a piece; then the captain passes the bread to the volunteer next to him or her, who breaks off a piece and hands the bread to the next volunteer, and so on. No words are spoken; none are needed. There could be no better reminder of why they do what they do than a broken piece of bread.” [Connections – April 2008]

Others can help us with our glasses, to help us see that indeed Christ is at work in you and me and this terrible hurting world. So whether or not, you are travelling your own road to Emmaus this Easter, if you are wondering, if you have doubts, if you had hopes and you want to have that experience of God.

Then come to this table this morning, come to the altar, kneel or stand at the rail receive Christ in bread and wine and remember that Jesus invites you and I to come together and take again the bread that he blessed and broke and gave. And open your eyes and your hearts and be hopeful for God is with us. The women who went to the tomb were right, Thomas was right, Cleopas and the other disciple were right: Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

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