The Third Sunday of Easter
The Reverend Casey Rohleder, Priest Associate

Luke 24:13-35

We may have celebrated Easter two weeks ago, but today’s Gospel story, we return to Easter Sunday. In today’s passage from the evangelist Luke, we encounter Cleopas and his friend on their way back home to Emmaus from Jerusalem, where they had spent Passover. It is a seven-mile walk, Luke tells us, and given the events of the last week, there is a lot for these friends to talk about.

I am sure you can imagine that they, like the women on Easter morning, and the disciples locked away in the upper room…they were distraught. Grieving. Disappointed. Afraid. Wondering what was going to happen now.

The hopes and dreams they had placed in the person of Jesus seemed to be destroyed.

As Jesus, apparently a stranger to these two friends, comes alongside them and joins the conversation, he asks a simple, but rather intrusive question.

“What are you two talking about?”

Luke tells us the travelers stood still, looking sad. They ask him,

“Are you the only one in town who has no clue what happened in Jerusalem? Are you kidding us?”

“We had hoped this mighty prophet was the one to redeem Israel.”

On the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion explain how they had expected political power from this Messiah, and instead they got crucifixion. They do not, cannot see the crucifixion for what it was, despite Jesus’ promise of overcoming death on the third day. They write off the women’s testimony as an idle wives’ tale.

“We had hoped…”

Can you feel the weight of these three words?

Maybe it’s a little hard to relate to these dejected travelers, knowing what we know, believing what we believe with 2000 years of perspective and, for many of us, a lifetime of faith.
However, we all have had hopes and dreams, often carefully built with our own ideas about the way life should go. We all know that few things are more painful than dashed hopes and shattered dreams.

We have stood in the wreckage of an ending marriage.

We have received diagnoses that terrify us.

We have watched loved ones, some way too young and way too quickly.

We have seen family members self-destruct due to drugs, alcohol, untreated mental health issues and other burdens.

We have lost jobs and found ourselves facing financial crisis and an uncertain future.

Life sometimes doesn’t go as planned. And, if I am honest, from time to time in my life, when I have felt terribly discouraged, it has been difficult to recognize Jesus in my midst.

Like Cleopas and his travelling companion, how often do we miss the signs of God’s presence right before our eyes?

The Road to Emmaus shows us the way.

Think, for a moment, what Jesus does first as he walks along, before he recounts scripture or breaks bread or disappears from their sight. Jesus asked them to name their great sadness.

To experience the Risen Christ, they first needed to admit what that had lost, and what they were still lacking. They invite Jesus into their grief.

Only then does this hidden Jesus testify that Jesus fulfilled the promise of scriptures. But it still isn’t enough for them to recognize who Jesus is.

As they arrive home, Cleopas offers Jesus, a stranger, deep hospitality, graciously inviting him into his home to share a meal and spend the night. But even as Jesus says yes, it still isn’t quite enough for them to recognize who he is.

It takes Jesus inviting them into the sacred, sacramental act – taking, blessing, breaking and sharing bread for them to realize who he is.

And, without a word, he disappears from their midst. Suddenly it all make sense. Suddenly, they can see Jesus for who he is and the implications of what he was teaching along the way home. They share how their hearts were burning as he spoke. And then they race back to Jerusalem to share the Good News of the Risen Christ!

And their lives are forever changed because they invited Jesus in – into their grief, into their homes, into their lives. And then, the Risen Christ invites Cleopas and the others to ongoing discipleship as he makes himself visibly known in the breaking of the bread.

To know the Risen Christ and be instruments in God’s Kingdom, we too must respond to Jesus’ invitation, and invitation to faith and discipleship. This ongoing invitation to discipleship with the Risen Christ is our Emmaus Road.

And we are to bring our entire selves to this journey – not just the shiny happy stuff, not just the easy stuff. We bring our authentic selves.

Like Cleopas and his companion, we experience the Risen Christ in the Word broken open, as we study and meditate on Holy Scripture alone and in community.

The Risen Christ is among us as we explore scripture and wrestle with Big Questions and maybe even Bigger Doubts about who God is and who we are called to be as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ gift to us, illumines our minds and hearts so that God’s Word might transform us, convict us, inspire us and console us.

Like Cleopas and his friends, we experience the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread, in the Body and Blood. In the Eucharist, we take, we bless, we break, we share. We remember. At the altar rail, the space between heaven and earth can become a little thinner as we experience Jesus in the Eucharist.

We experience the Risen Christ in the hospitality of community – together we share the ways in which we sense Christ’s presence and the Holy Spirit moving.

Perhaps, more importantly, we experience the risen Christ as we bear each other’s’ burdens and share the painful and disappointing parts of our lives. Jesus is in our midst as we name those things.

We experience the Risen Christ when we welcome the stranger into our lives, when we offer deep, grace-filled hospitality that invites others to share in what we have, and to experience community that is based in nothing less than the transformational love of Jesus.

And sometimes, like Cleopas, we feel our hearts strangely warmed, when we experience something that defies all logic and reason, when Jesus Christ lives speaks directly to our most desperate grief and pain, to our abounding joys and hope.

Word and sacrament, experience and community…these elements of our faith bring us into the presence of Christ. We need all these pieces, all these facets of faith, to more fully comprehend the Risen Christ.

It is in word and sacrament, experience and community, that we learn and grow as we walk along this life’s journey. They have profound power to shape and change us, to remind us where hope is found.

We can’t do it alone. We aren’t made to do it alone. We are invited to journey together, so that we can experience Christ revealed and reveal Christ to one another. In the grief and the joy and everywhere in between.

May you experience the hope of the Risen Christ more fully as your journey continues.