Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
Now on that same day [when Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene,] two [disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
B: Hey, Munchie, what’s up?
M: We’re going out, and I get to wear my new mask!
B: Oh. I thought maybe a costume party I didn’t know about…
P: Were you afraid you were being left out?
B: I guess. I have a mask, too, but it’s bigger, because I have a bigger mouth.
M: Say that again!
B: I’ve got a bigger mouth…
M: You sure do!
P: Munchie got you there, Beaky!
B: Thanks a lot!
M: But you know, if it was a party, and you didn’t know about it, that would be a good thing!
M: Because then it would be a surprise!
B: How so?
M: Because we’d all hide, and then you’d come in, and we’d all shout, “Surprise!”
B: Oh! A party for me! Why? It’s not my birthday.
P: Even if it were, we couldn’t have that kind of party right now.
M: I forgot about that. I just got excited.
B: You know, I was listening to the story, and the disciples got a real surprise.
P: You’re right. Why don’t you tell Munchie about it?
B: Well, Jesus met a couple of disciples on the road, after he’d died and was alive again. But they didn’t know it was him.
M: How did they not know?
B: I’m not sure. He sure wasn’t wearing a mask. Maybe they were just so sure he was dead that their brains couldn’t quite believe he was alive.
P: That’s a good point. If I saw someone who looked like someone who’d already died, I be pretty sure it wasn’t the person who’d died.
M: But it was Jesus!
P: Yes, it was Jesus.
B: Anyway, Jesus explained everything to them, and they still didn’t get it.
M: They must have been clueless!
P: Maybe not clueless… more like really sad and disappointed that Jesus had died.
B: But then they got home, and they convinced Jesus to stay with them
P: They were adults, and they knew how to do that safely, even though they believed Jesus was a stranger.
B: But that didn’t matter, because he didn’t stay long.
B: They sat down for supper, and Jesus took the bread, and blessed it, and broke it, just like he’d done before, and they recognized him!
M: That should have been a real party!
B: But Jesus vanished as soon as they recognized him.
M: He vanished? As soon as they knew it was him?
M: Some party…
P: But they went back and told everyone else all about it.
M: So Jesus kept it a secret, like we keep surprise parties a secret?
P: Yes. Maybe Jesus needed to keep his identity a secret so he could get the whole story out before they ran back to tell everyone.
B: If I knew it was Jesus, I’d have listened to everything!
M: And it’s not a secret anymore!
P: Right! Now, we can tell everyone about Jesus and how God loves us.
B: Even at a costume party…
M: And at surprise parties!
P: And everywhere! Let’s pray…
P: God, thank you for taking the time to help us to understand your love, and for giving us ways to share it. Keep us always aware of your love for us, and keep us safe always, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Unprecedented… we’re hearing that a lot lately. Things have never happened quite like this before.
Jesus dying was not unprecedented. People had been dying forever. We even have the execution of Abel in our prehistoric lore (if one wishes to call it something other than murder). People had been crucified at least as long as Rome had been in power over Israel. I remember when I saw for the first time the crucifixion scene in “Spartacus” depicting a portion of the 6000 who were crucified 100 years before Jesus and lined up along the Appian way… Somehow my young mind had previously reserved that cruel act to the one that Jesus negated… It’s the resurrection that was unprecedented. No one had come back to life again after three days without Jesus there to call him out of the grave.
It’s really not surprising that those early disciples could not recognize Jesus, no matter how close they may have been to him during his pre-crucifixion ministry. It’s only surprising for those of us who have grown up with the resurrection as a matter of fact. Then, it was absolutely unprecedented.
Now, they say this virus is unprecedented, but that’s probably not quite the case. There have been viruses spreading around the world before. What’s different today is that we are much more mobile now than we were then. Because we move faster, the contagion can move faster, too. However, we also know more about how that contagion moves, and we’ve taken steps to mitigate its transmission.
The problem is that society has changed so much in the last 100 years that we are less able to maintain separateness. We have fewer meatpackers that are able to maintain safe physical distance from one another. So much of our economy is focused around entertainment in arenas, restaurants, and bars. As much as we are able physically to do things safely distanced from one another, with online ordering and payment for services, emotionally and economically we are scrambling to survive.
As much as I know in my brain and in my heart how important it is that we maintain safe practices as we come up from submersion in our response to this pandemic, I understand the fervor of protesters who want this all to be over already. I ache with grief as we determine how best to love the vulnerable among us, as we strive to alleviate the predicament of those without adequate income, as we navigate with care the quagmire of misinformation and political squabbling.
I watch with joy as people are able to sing online together with one another in separate spaces, but I miss the gathered voices blending with one another within a shared space.
The disciples from our story had an option that is denied us in some ways. They were able to get up, hurry back to the gathered group, and share the news of Jesus’ teaching, of Jesus’ resurrected life, of Jesus’ miraculous anonymity and subsequent vanishing. We have options they didn’t. We have phones, video screens, and delivery services that are quite reliable… but until we have reliable and accessible ways to know who may be carrying this virus, and who is not already immune, it would be irresponsible—possibly even murderous—to gather closely with one another…
And so now what? So, now, we gather behind doors and screens and share in ways that were not available 2000, 100, or even 20 years ago. We take advantage of what we have, and continue to cry out to God, wondering how long it will be until we experience some healing from what we suffer today.
Remember, though, that what we suffer is not the whole of our existence. We also celebrate the life that we have here today. We celebrate the life that is restored to Jesus and to us in the resurrection. We celebrate the promise that God is with us in the valleys, on the mountains, through the plains, and on the seas. So now, what? We live in the presence of God, and share that presence and that promise in whatever ways we can.
In Jesus’ name. Amen