PRELUDE + MEDITATION
God of all glory,
on this first day you began creation,
bringing light out of darkness.
On this first day you began your new creation,
raising Jesus Christ out of the darkness of death.
On this Lord’s Day grant that we,
the people you create by water and the Spirit,
may be joined with all your works
in praising you for your great glory.
Through Jesus Christ,
in union with the Holy Spirit,
we praise you now and forever. Amen.
whose presence on our daily road
we often fail to see;
warm our hearts with fresh confidence in your Word,
so that, in making room for the stranger beside us,
we find your hospitality awaiting us,
and the reassurance of your presence
to inspire us to tread the road again
and to share the good news of your resurrection life.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Jesus our Guide,
you explained the scriptures
and revealed yourself to the disciples at Emmaus.
Now, by your Spirit,
enlighten our minds to understand their witness
and ignite our hearts to receive you at the table. Amen.
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?” 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They 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?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
If you could go anywhere, right now, where would you go?
I’ve been taking daily trips to one of my favorite places. Every day, I make a trip to the mail box, but not the one in my front yard. I head to the Kindred Spirit mailbox near Sunset Beach, NC. Ok, not actually – due to the stay at home order. I do use a picture of the mail box as a background during Zoom meetings. It reminds me of the many trips that I have made to that special patch of ground.
The Kindred Spirit is a community mailbox that holds and protects a handful of journals, a few pens, and the thoughts, fears, hopes, dreams, and grief of those who visit her. This mailbox was placed at the end of Bird Island in 1983 by a local family and all who spend the summer at Sunset Beach are invited to make the 1.5 mile journey to the mailbox and write in the journals left in the weathered box. People share stories of joy, heartbreak, fear and hope. It is a rite of passage to make the journey and experience that walk down the beach to this sacred place. Taking trips and wanderlusts are not uncommon for human beings. We also travel when life gets difficult and uncertain.
The two travelers in Luke 24 seem to think that by getting out of Dodge maybe they, too, could walk away from their grief, leave the bad memories of the previous Friday behind. Jerusalem had become like an empty house from which all the children had gone. It was haunted with memories. It was haunted by hope deferred. Jerusalem was the place where their dreams had died. It was more than high time to hit the road and see if they could leave their troubles behind.
As Frederick Buechner asked in his classic sermon on this text, where is your “Emmaus?” We all have one.
Maybe it’s the mall where the noise of commerce and the rush of people keep you from thinking about life. Maybe it’s a bar where the booze and the beer nuts help numb you to the more bitter truths that swirl outside the windows of that darkened, smoky room. Maybe it’s a matinee at the movies where you go to take in what Hollywood proudly touts as “escapist fare.” Maybe it’s the TV remote that takes you away from it all as you mindlessly channel surf every single evening. We try to escape our troubles. That’s when we head to Emmaus. Maybe we can escape our grief and troubles.
Of course, it doesn’t work now and it did not work very well then. Grief is like the sky . . .
The two followers of Jesus thought Emmaus maybe would be the place to go but as they trekked that way their conversation kept circling back and back and back again to the death of the One they had loved, the One in whom they had hoped. Had hoped. What a wretched pluperfect that is.
In fact they were talking about all that—failing singularly to forget their troubles, in other words—when the clueless stranger came up to them. “Shalom! What’s up, friends?” The question catches them up short. After all, doesn’t everybody know the latest?! “Where have you been, friend” they ask. “You must be the only one in the whole county who hasn’t heard about the recent disaster!”
It is probably a sign of the enormity of their grief that they reacted like that. In truth, there could have been lots of people who hadn’t heard this. Sure, to the disciples this was headline news, but to some people it may have been noted only in passing. Just another Roman crucifixion. Happens all the time. It was just a side story buried on page 3 of the “Jerusalem Gazette.” Big deal. Pass the Sports section.
Well, this stranger on the road must have been one such clueless tourist because he didn’t seem to know a blessed thing about any of it. So they explain things to the stranger, more or less admitting in the end that the One on whom they had pinned their hopes did not pan out. They had made, it appeared, a rather large mistake. We all make mistakes, of course, and when the mistake in question is no more significant than burning your breakfast toast or accidentally calling “George” “Harry,” you can pick yourself up and move on. But when the mistake you’ve made is more along the lines of trusting a neighbor who ended up molesting your child or trusting your husband only to find he’s been a serial adulterer for decades, well then you feel not just embarrassed or a bit upset over your mistake but shattered by it. “How could I have gotten things that wrong?” we want to ask ourselves.
But then, suddenly, the stranger, who had appeared so clueless a moment before, changes. He has the audacity first of all to call these disciples foolish, and before they can object to this, the stranger has launched into a quite serious and thorough Bible study. And after that, the rest of the trek to Emmaus just flew by! With breathtaking sweep and exegetical precision, this anonymous fellow traveler re-tells Scripture’s story. It is Israel’s story, all right, but the stranger tells it in a quite new way. The last time they’d heard anyone talk about the Bible in such an invigorating a fashion was . . . well, never mind.
Before they knew it they were standing at their destination. With a slight wave and a nod, the stranger says, “Nice talking with you” and then keeps walking. So, Cleopas pipes up, “Sir! Look, the sun is setting which means the thieves along the highway will be coming out soon. It’s not safe to travel alone–stay with us at least tonight.” The man agrees. After having washed the dust of the journey off faces, hands, and feet, the three find a place to eat. Before they knew what’s happening, the stranger reaches for the flat bread, lifting it up in a strikingly familiar way. He then gives thanks, breaks it just so, and hands it to Cleopas and his friend. They knew instantly who he was but just as they are ready to cry out, “Jesus!” he was gone.
“I knew it!” Cleopas exclaims. “Didn’t you wonder about this, too! The way he taught us, the way he applied Scripture, wasn’t it eerily familiar all along!” Then, stuffing the bread into their pockets, they sprint back to Jerusalem, covering those seven miles in record time.
The journey to Emmaus began as an escape the loss.
The journey to the disciples ends with a proclamation of good news.
During our journeys, both physical, emotional or spiritual, may we be reminded of Christ’s presence during our travels! May our eyes be opened and we see the risen Christ in our daily life!!
Commentary provided by Barbara Brown Taylor, Scott Hoezee, David Sellery, Mark Harper, John Buchanan, David J. Bailey, Anne LaMott and Frederick Buechner.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE & THE LORD’S PRAYER
like those disciples on the road to Emmaus,
we struggle to recognize you in the everyday journey of our lives.
We seek your wisdom in the midst of the questions we have
about the circumstances we ﬁnd ourselves in—
circumstances sometimes beyond our control,
but often of our own making.
Open our eyes, Light of the World,
to your work of transformation in and around us.
As we walk with you day by day,
may your new life be made manifest in what we say to others.
Help us to understand the power of our words to hurt or to heal;
give us the graciousness to make all our conversations holy.
Just as we desire that our speaking be holy,
may our seeing be holy as well.
We are bombarded with images everyday, O Christ,
that shape our attitudes and behaviors.
As you opened the scriptures to the disciples
and taught them everything,
open our eyes to behold you in your Word,
in the beauty of nature,
the beauty of another human being
and the beauty of sacred art.
And in our seeing,
help us to recognize and welcome the stranger in our midst.
May our welcome be a celebration of the gifts and graces
of persons who are different from us
and not merely some token tolerance of an outsider.
You were known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread.
May your resurrection presence guide us in the decisions we make
about what we take into our bodies—
especially what we eat and what we drink.
Help us to understand our eating and drinking as sacred events,
not to be abused or approached mindlessly.
So often we forget, Holy One,
that you invite us to abide with you;
to have our lives hidden in you.
We thank you that you travel with us in our joys and our concerns.
As we offer these prayers, we do so in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray saying…
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Go now as those who have met with Christ
in the morning of this day.
Go now as those who hearts have burned within them,
as the Scriptures were explained.
Go now as those
who have been touched by resurrection.
And may the blessing of God
be upon you, body, mind and spirit,
as you leave this place,