It was the presence of Jesus that the disciples missed on that first Easter. They were dealing with their grief.
“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, on griefSimply hold out and see it through is what those two disciples were doing, after Easter, on the road to Emmaus. The death of Jesus seemed to end their hope, that horrible crucifixion. But just that morning, women found an empty tomb, an angel proclaimed he’s alive! They must have been discussing it all and wondering about life without Jesus, when a stranger approached them. They didn’t recognize Jesus but they told him everything.
Oh how slow of heart to believe! Jesus then opened scripture to them – from Moses to the Prophets – the Messiah would suffer but then there would be glory. And then he broke bread with them, and there eyes were opened and they recognized him. And then he was gone.
Those two disciples understood now – how their hearts burned when Jesus taught them through scripture – how their eyes were opened when Jesus broke bread with them. They go back to tell the other disciples for they know how to live, because he is alive. They held out and saw it through and they were rewarded, for they know saw that Jesus is still with them.
The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus is also our story. We have come from different places; we have come through different faith experiences. But here in this place, out stories connect, each and every week. We do this because it is where we expect to feel the presence of God: We expect it in the Scripture we hear; to feel it in the prayers we offer and then in the broken bread and wine, to taste God’s presence in remembrance of him. And then in the fellowship we have, to feel God’s presence as we enjoy the company of one another.
Our stories, our journeys are united for we are the Body of Christ, present on Earth and we take in that Body of Christ each week at the altar. It is mystery and it is hope and we know it is our salvation too. We continue to celebrate Easter, new life springing up. Just look around, for Easter is here and God’s presence is too, springing up from the ground, from the trees, even in the hope that one’s baseball team might just go all the way and maybe in places of destruction too.
In the midst of the destruction of his town by tornado, the mayor of Phil Campbell, AL, spoke about the loss, the darkness of a struggling town with so much gone (on NPR), but he had hope. He talked about “a caravan of pickup trucks and machinery, chainsaws, coming from Oklahoma to help” and “from the Mobile area, they came in with backhoes, with tractors, with Bobcats. Said, we come to pay back when you all came and helped us during Katrina.”
And such generosity gave that mayor some hope, and Easter came through their Good Friday, and the risen Christ was present again, this time in the love shared by those who came to help. As one author put it…
The promise of Resurrection is now for Christ has been raised from the dead and so are we. May we hear in the salvation story, our story, and see our lives renewed by our Risen Christ. For our Risen Christ is present with us as we journey together. May we leave this Church today with a hopeful faith, that we will know our rising from the dead because in that breaking of the bread, Christ is known to us and his redeeming work is alive in this world. Amen & Alleluia!
“In taking one another's hand, we take the hand of Christ, who leads us to whatever Emmaus we need to go. Christ travels with us on our own road to Emmaus; Christ is present in the broken bread of compassion and healing we give and receive from our fellow travelers. Easter faith is to recognize the Risen One in our midst: in our wanting to understand, in our struggle to make things right, in our brokenness. May our Easter celebration open our hearts and spirits to recognize Christ among us in every moment of our lives, in both life's bright promising mornings and dark, terrifying nights.” (Jay Cormier)