13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 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?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This is probably my favorite post-resurrection story. It was actually the gospel lesson for last week according to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), but it fits so well with communion today I sort of saved it for this week. Speaking of the RCL I have been so amazed at how much the presence of the Holy Spirit has been in our passages. Each week God’s word gives us a hope and inspires us to live for one another as Jesus did for us still today. My hope is that you too are finding some time to spend in prayer and scripture, silence and sabbath. It may seem like you are doing nothing but sabbath but trust me, your mind is busy and active and needs a break from all that is going on around us. We need to turn off the screens and wait on the Lord, to be patient and hear the still small voice that does speak to us.
The disciples that were on the road that day to Emmaus had not been able to stop seeing the images of pain and suffering that was all around them. Cleopas and possibly his wife, who was at the foot of the cross, were going home to Emmaus. There was nothing left for them in Jerusalem. The Savior, the Messiah, the King of Kings; had been crucified. Life was now precarious as they wondered about their own safety since they had been seen with Jesus. They were so focused on themselves that they had no idea who the stranger was that had caught up to them.
This is so us in these times. We want things to get back to normal. We do not care about the rules because jobs are being lost. Food and shelter are the number one priority. Evictions could have come down just this past Friday because there is no rent money. If the rent is paid then the utilities may be shut off. If the rent and utilities are paid then what’s for dinner? The old line by Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” does not apply because people don’t know when they will get their next check. This causes panic and fear. This causes us to look inward and not outward. These are real feelings and they cannot be dismissed. But there is Good News as well.
Jesus is the one who is walking beside them. He is probably wondering, “why don’t they know who I am?” Maybe even tongue in cheek Jesus says, “Hey, what are you guys talking about?” The couple is dumbfounded. Surely everyone they know is talking about Jesus and his crucifixion. Maybe someone didn’t also hear the rumors that morning that the tomb was empty, but no one could have missed the chaos. It is a blindness that the followers of Jesus are experiencing.
We need to ask ourselves, what are we blinded to? What do we ignore? What are we comfortable walking past and not giving a second thought and what pulls us in and makes us want to help? We all do it. We see things that we question and makes us think for a few seconds and then we go on our way doing what we need to do, blinded to someone else’s needs.
Verses 25-27 are the hinge point in this story, “25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Notice that Jesus was wanting to bring their minds back to the teaching they had learned all their life by going to synagogue. The role of being the Messiah had been fulfilled, he was standing next to them, and yet they could not see the forest for the trees. They were so consumed with their own fear, and panic that they could not hear the familiar stories and see the risen Christ standing with them.
As they came near the village the disciples encouraged the traveler to stay with them because the night was drawing close. They sat down for supper and Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it and then the disciple’s eyes were opened. It is in the breaking of bread that all of our eyes are opened. The veil is lifted and we are given the sight of Jesus in our midst. Celebrating the sacrament is very important in our life as Christians. It is probably the thing that’s the hardest for me when we can’t be together in the sanctuary of the church for worship.
In my heart and mind, it is without a doubt one of the “thin places” in my life. A thin place is where the heavenly and earthly realm are almost touching. When we touch a piece of bread and hear the words of body broken for us and then taste and chew and swallow they are special moments. The words “taste and see that the Lord is good” are literal at that moment. The wine or the juice, the sweet or the tart that slides down our throat and the words knowing it is the blood of Christ that cleanses me inside and out for the forgiveness of sins is a warm feeling all the way down.
The sacrament is a transformation. It opens our eyes; it warms our hearts it feeds the soul. I feel it is very important to continue to share the sacrament even if it is virtually. We can become so desensitized to brothers and sisters when we are scared for ourselves during these pandemic days. Even though we are not outwardly afraid, it is a part of our daily thought process. We ask who am I going to see, or where am I going that I need to protect myself, and hopefully we are wanting to protect our neighbors as well. When we allow ourselves to have our eyes opened by the presence of Christ, we can share the love of God.
One last thought, the disciples recognized that their hearts burned when they heard the scriptures that Jesus shared with them on the road as he told the prophetic story of the Messiah. I have found myself these past few weeks watching the news and seeing the caregiver’s stories that make me tear up. The love and compassion that they demonstrate for their patients. Or the neighbor who helps out the families that are struggling, by buying gift cards and leaving little toilet paper surprises on people’s steps. Even the displays of lights on at the ball fields and the howls for shift workers around hospitals. It warms or burns my heart. Maybe you have felt that also. Maybe you have been able to pass something along during these times? Maybe you are in need but are afraid to ask? Let us know if we can help, let us know of someone who can use a lift. We are all seeking that burning in our hearts. The fire that ignites us to be in communion with one another. Not only is the bread a symbol of Christ’s body, but the church, not the building but the people, we are called to be the body of Christ.
May our eyes be opened to Christ’s presence in these coming days. May we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and in one another. May our hearts burn with God’s grace, love and mercy. Amen.