Springwater Presbyterian Church
On the Road Together Sermon Series (1 of 4)
November 3, 2019 - Sunday following All Saints Day Luke 24:13-35 (13-17 Focus)
All Saints - Ordinary, Holy On Friday we celebrated All Saints Day - a celebration that began as a way to remember and honor those who had been martyred for their faith. It’s been observed for a long time - specifically on Nov 1 since the year 835. It had been part of Easter celebrations prior to that.
All Saints’ Day has a rather different focus in the Reformed tradition (that’s us Presbyterians if that doesn’t sound familiar to you). While we may give thanks for the lives of particular luminaries of ages past, the emphasis is on the ongoing sanctification of the whole people of God. Rather than putting saints on pedestals as holy people set apart in glory, we give glory to God for the ordinary, holy lives of the believers in this and every age.www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/christianyear/all-saints-day
We give glory to God for the ordinary, holy lives of the believers in this and every age… ordinary, holy lives. How easy it is to look at those in the life of faith we admire and think that they must somehow have a gift that we don’t. A confidence and a surety of the presence of God, of the power of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of Christ that is simply embedded in them.
Do you have any heroes of the faith? There is Mother Teresa of course, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I bet you could name a couple others that we would all go - oh yes, of course! at the fame of their name. But how about those that probably only you know? They are ordinary people that have a life of faithfulness that is extraordinary to you - I know several sitting in this very room. They are navigating the life of faith with its challenges and disappointments, its joys and gifts, they are walking the road of faith and in such a way that their life welcomes company.
Our scripture text today invites us into a portion of the journey of faith of two ordinary people of faith at an extraordinary - ordinary moment in their life. I’m going to read the passage in its entirety and then we’re going to focus in on the beginning steps. Let us listen for the word of the Lord for us today:
https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/christianyear/all-saints-day/ (italics my 1 note)
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 8 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
An Ordinary Response —Escape “ Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.” There could hardly be a more ordinary moment. After a long hard few days walking the road to …well, someplace other than where things had been/are? so terrible. I wonder if these two were asked of their travel plans - what would first come to mind might’ve been - AWAY FROM HERE - yet what comes out of their mouth is - Emmaus. A village that is described to be about a 7 mile walk away. On foot - that’ll do. Long enough to give them a good long time on the road and put some distance between them and all that heartache.
These two have had their world turned upside down. They are living one of the moments that undoes us. As they say, their hopes are dashed, their friend (and the hope of so much more) has been murdered in front of them, and they are profoundly sad. I imagine scared, bewildered, and confused followed right along. Have you had a moment like that? Moment seems too small a word- season maybe? Where everything upended? The road to Emmaus, the road out of there sounds the best way to go. Frederick Buechner, reflects on what Emmaus might be for us: the place we go to in order to escape—a bar, a movie, where it is we throw up our hands and say, “Let the whole damned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.”…Emmaus may be buying a new suit or a new car or smoking more cigarettes than you really want, or reading a second-rate novel or even writing one, Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had — ideas about love and freedom and justice — have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends. 2 These two disciples are in the throes of that kind of crisis. What did it all mean? Does it mean anything? Who was Jesus? Was this real? How could our hopes be so far off?
We don’t have to work hard to put Emmaus road dirt under our feet. In fact, I’d say that if we don’t find ourselves on these types of journeys we might not be letting ourselves pay attention. We can do that, you know. Shut all the troubling things out. We could decide to simply sit by the side of the road, by ourselves, and call that a life. A really numb life that does not expect anything, engage anything, hope anything…. Or we can put one heavy foot in front of the other.
Buechner, Frederick, The Magnificent Defeat (New York: Seabury, 1966) 85-86.2
On the Road Together “They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.” These two disciples decided for that one. One foot in front of the other. While nothing seemed certain to them anymore, they set in place that they would be on that road of disillusionment together. We don’t know for sure, but there is thought that this is Cleopas and his wife Mary who are sharing the journey , it could be another disciple as 3 well, that distinction doesn’t really matter. The fact that they are together, that matters. The fact that you and I are together matters. The life of faith has both roads too Emmaus (disillusionment, doubt, fear) and roads to Jerusalem (the one they walked full of hope and certainty in Jesus and God’s action in the world), and we walk them together. No one gets by in the life of faith on their own. God is too big, too complex, too full of surprises and too loving to create a life of rugged individualism for us. It’s a together life. We walk the road, whatever road, together.
Ordinary disciples. Living ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances, together. Who are you walking with most closely? Do you have someone to talk with about all that’s happened and happening in your life? Do you have someone you can ask the questions about God that puzzle you? Thoughts about your life with Christ you can discuss? Express your hopes and your prayer requests and your truest heart too? Can you welcome questions like that? Can you welcome a partner in the faith, a fellow disciple to walk with on the road of faith?
Welcome 5 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
Cleopas and his companion welcomed the conversation in the middle of their crisis. They poured over their experiences with one another and expressed their emotions together. They also welcomed a stranger. Right into that sadness.
I don’t know about you, but I think I would have used all my skills of body language and overt social cues to shun an intrusive stranger. You know, no eye contact, a turned away body. They are walking this whole time, perhaps I’d cross to the other side of the road, speeding up or slowing down to disinvite unwanted conversation. It would not be the type of situation where I would necessarily welcome a stranger. You?
See John 19:25. Reference to Mary, wife of Clopas. Spelling is so close to Cleopas it is 3 thought to be the same.
The cautionary tale is that those uninvited strangers, the disruption to our routines, the out of the normal meetings - are often the breaking in of God. They are Jesus stepping in close and asking, “what are you talking about?” When do we ever expect God exactly a certain way and then God performs or shows up that way? Isn’t that the problem in this whole story? God not showing up how these two thought God would? Jesus not fulfilling all their hopes in the way they expected?
It might be that what prompted them to stop was the ache of disappointment that couldn’t contain itself. The events of the past few days have so rocked their world that they cannot image anyone being oblivious to it. The surprise of that makes them stop. Or maybe it’s the affront of his not knowing - like someone talking to you on 9/11 as if it is a normal day and the world didn’t shift under your feet. Whatever it was they came to a stand still. They let all that ache roll through them again as they felt the world shifting so profoundly and stared at the dirt of the Emmaus road. The stopping. The stilling themselves. The presence with sadness and no denying of their response to it. It’s this opening that welcomes Jesus in.
Do you have a moment to stop? To be still? To give a little attention to someone or something that seems strange and probably a bit intrusive to you? You don’t have to throw open the door and let it/them all the way in, maybe just stop, be still and pray for the welcome you can give. Jesus is near.
This is the gift of the saints before us. Being able to walk with them, watching how they did it, how they do it because they live open enough for us to see in. To see that the life of faith is one that isn’t a special gift given, but a daily one foot in front of the other, walking together. Paying attention to the interruptions and the strangers. Welcoming who and what joins us on the road. Together.