We are surrounded by violence,
learning geography through tragedy:
Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Brooklyn Center, Chicago.
No place is safe.
We pray for all whose breath has been taken.
Receive them into your loving embrace.
We pray for all who grieve.
Carry them gently through the darkness.
Be their strength and ever-present help in this terrible time of trouble.
Bring your light into our darkness.
Bring your peace into our chaos.
Bring your love into our broken communities.
We ask because we know you can—because of the cross.
You held all power and yet refused to strike back.
No threat could tempt you to violence.
Through your restraint the world was reborn.
Oh God of resurrection hope, give us the strength and courage to do what you would have us do.
Mold us into who you are calling us to be.
And meet us in our inadequacy to make all things new. Amen.
Prayer by Pastor Jen Brothers, Roanoke, Virginia
Luke 24:13-16; 27-49Easter is Fifty Days
13Now on that same day [Easter] 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. … 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.
36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, jesus said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
• Easter is 50 days—a week of weeks (7 x 7). The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter—May 23rd this year.
• As the day after the Sabbath, the Day of Resurrection is both the eighth day of the old week and the first day of a new week. As the first day of a new week, Easter is the beginning of a new creation.
• The new creation contains evidence of old, deadly pasts. Last week's two-part reading from John showed us Jesus' scars. Today on Resurrection Sunday evening Jesus proves his humanity by displaying his hands and feet. On this side of Easter we often find ourselves in the "Yes, already!" of resurrection and the "No, not yet!" of Holy Saturday, that apparently motionless time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The Third Sunday of Easter
Though we've been in the lectionary year of Mark's gospel since Advent, on most Sundays of all three years during the fifty days of Easter we hear a passage from John, and this week we're considering a pair of post-resurrection encounters with Jesus from the evangelist Luke.
Luke's Gospel (Volume 1) and his Acts of the Apostles (Volume 2) emphasize: history with an almost constant "on the road" trajectory; women and other marginalized persons; prayer; neighborology—the word about our neighbors; the Holy Spirit; table fellowship. This week's reading includes most of those themes.
Jesus told them and showed them about the Reign of Heaven throughout his earthly ministry, yet he needed to teach and tell his followers more, because during those three years of public ministry he hadn't yet been killed by imperial forces and raised from the dead. The forty days between Jesus' resurrection and his ascension are particularly important because Jesus calls us – and in the power of the Holy Spirit enables us – to be his crucified and risen presence in the world, so we need to learn how. Last week we read John's account of Jesus bestowing the Holy Spirit on his disciples; every year on the Day of Pentecost we hear Luke's multilingual fire and wind from his book of Acts. Jesus doesn't ask us to do anything he hasn't already done.
Though we often refer to Jesus post-resurrection appearances, he wasn't a ghost, an apparition, a stained glass likeness, or a digital rendering. Just as when he lived on land from infancy through childhood into adulthood and onto his death and burial, after being raised to new life Jesus had a substantial body. People who met Jesus after the resurrection touched flesh and blood and bone; in the Creed we confess, "I believe in the resurrection of the body." In today's two-part reading Jesus enjoys real meals of real food. However, a resurrected body has an additional dimension. Jesus enters places without going through a door. In today's story he disappears without leaving through a door. We can't do that yet!
To Emmaus and Back to Jerusalem
Luke's story of Jesus emphasizes inclusive table fellowship. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Little Town of House of Bread. Throughout his ministry we meet Jesus eating with friends, strangers, and outcasts; his first act of public ministry in John's gospel is turning plain water into finest wine at a wedding party. In the upper room of Maundy Thursday Jesus says the cup is his life blood, the bread is his body.
Jesus' twice identifying Moses, prophets, and psalms with his own life recalls the Exodus story of the God who sees the suffering of enslaved people and calls Moses to liberate them, along with later prophets who called people back to faithful obedience.
As many have observed, the meal in Emmaus definitely is about the presence of the risen Lord in word and sacrament; it sometimes is considered the first Eucharist because unlike the Lord's Supper Founding Meal of Maundy Thursday, Eucharist is a meal with the Risen Christ in the midst of a fully redeemed creation.
This also is about Christ with us whenever we welcome strangers to our table as Jesus did. Welcoming others often opens our eyes so we recognize Jesus—sometimes in retrospect, like the travelers on the Emmaus Road. As happened in the meal in Emmaus, at times we will find ourselves hosted and made comfortable by people we imagined were our guests.
Where We Live: COVID-19
We've all celebrated the Day of Resurrection countless times, but the world still experiences hatred, poverty, violence, and injustice. Illness and death continue. Every one of us knew we had to trust the year 2021 would be a lot better than 2020 had been, and then it began with an insurrection on Capitol Hill and COVID-19 surges, continued with I've lost count of how many mass shootings. Yet our theology tells us Easter, the event of Jesus Christ's resurrection, that eighth day that's also the first day of the new creation, marked the end of decay and death, concluded endless cycles of poverty, violence, illness, injustice, and sorrow.
Theology of the cross emphasizes Saturday with its winter-like quiet, yet God calls us to live as people of the cross who are fully alive, resurrected, and redeemed. Filled with the Spirit of the Day of Pentecost that's the fiftieth day of Easter, we become agents of God's justice, inclusion and freedom for all.
Where We Live: Into the Future
So… Jesus again shares a meal with friends, in a culturally congruent way, of course:
"While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, Jesus said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence." Luke 24:41-43
Jesus' first followers fished for a living! Fish was a more abundant and therefore less expensive protein source than sheep or goats. They may not have had stationary BBQ pits as we do on beaches and other places, but I love to imagine there were dedicated areas in their meeting spaces where people cooked food they brought to share.
The Christ of God and Christianity always are incarnate (embodied, enfleshed) and contextualized into Right Here and Right Now. With the current plethora of spoken languages, cultures, and cuisines (these days isn't almost everything almost everywhere some kind of culinary fusion?), contextualizing our service to others into this Right Here and this Right Now is a challenge we meet head on as we resume old ministries and create new ones post-COVID.
• In Luke-Acts life in Christ is a journey along The Way of the cross and the empty tomb. How would you describe your journey to the Day of Resurrection 2021?
• What difference does the presence of the risen Christ make in your journey during these Great Fifty Days and into the upcoming Green and Growing Season of Pentecost that's often called the Season of the Church?
• How have you experienced the risen Christ by providing or receiving hospitality?
• How will you recognize the risen Christ when you meet him?
• Like the Emmaus Road travelers, do you sometimes only realize you encountered Christ when you look back?
• Will we make a place at the table for everyone?
• Or is that unrealistic?
• Will the world recognize us as the body of Christ when we welcome strangers and make the surrounding world a post-resurrection reality?