Third Sunday of Easter

Prayer of the Day
O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Receiving God’s promise through baptism
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23 Born anew through the living word of God
Luke 24:13-35 Eating with the risen Christ

Sermon
Title:  Where Christ Finds Us

Where are you today?  I ask not like many of your phone apps that ask to access your geographical location.  (Speaking of phones and “Where are you?”  Have you noticed in our new world order of mobile phone domination, that the opening line of most phone conversations is no longer “Hello.  How are you?”  but “Hello.  Where are you?”  But enough about phones, right?)  So really, where are you today?  Our readings for today have a rather wide scope, enough to find you in the various places you may answer that question with.

If you are finding yourself still hanging on to the joy of that empty tomb morning, still standing among the lilies, (some are still looking fresh), still flying with the butterflies and making good use of that resurrected and renewed word Alleluia.  If you are finding yourself still there, in the ecstasy of that resurrection morning, well the lectionary is certainly encouraging you to stay there.  Our gospel reading, two weeks after Easter, is still set on that day.  Luke reminds us of that in the opening verse.  Last week it was that evening in the locked room with the disciples – sans Thomas.  This week, it is that same day, on the road with two other disciples who were hitting the road with the same fear and terror and despair that had the others shaking behind a locked door.  Have these wonderful post-resurrection encounters with the risen Christ on that resurrection day kept you near the empty tomb?

Or perhaps, like the psalmist, aware of all the God has done for us, you are joyfully searching for how best to respond to this victory over death that has been shared, to live that new life that has been freely given.  Are you still singing a victorious song of praise with the psalmist?

But I’m guessing, what with the way this world is spinning these days, with the speed of the spread of news feed – and so much of it troubling, I’m guessing that not too many of us are still lingering at that empty grave in a state of pure, spirit-filled joy.  Would be nice, wouldn’t?

So then, where are you today?  Perhaps you are on that road on which we find the two run away disciples.  Perhaps you are connecting with their despair and their fear.  We can imagine them saying “This was not the way it was supposed to turn out?”  Referring, of course, to the life they thought that they were embracing when they decided to follow the one who came teaching of a merciful God and a kingdom filled with love, ruled with justice, and overflowing with peace.  He wasn’t supposed to be betrayed by one of his own friends.  The crowds weren’t supposed to turn on him like that.  He wasn’t supposed to die like a common criminal.  It didn’t work out the way it was supposed to and now they are regretting the waste of time and the waste of passionate following;  and they are asking themselves what’s next?  To make matters worse, were they heading home to endure laughter and ridicule for having made a really bad decision?  The same ridicule that was already playing out in their own heads?

Are any of the strains of their cacophony of despair and regret catching a familiar tone with you?  Are things not the way they were supposed to be?

The crowd listening to Peter’s sermon in the first reading is filled with regret as well, as he lays the blame of Jesus’ crucifixion at their feet.  (Don’t you want to be the one in the crowd who responds to Peter’s statement “this Jesus whom you crucified” with a cutting shout of “yeah, and who you denied and abandoned.”)  But, back to the question:  Are you standing in the guilt-burdened crowd?  Are you being loaded down with someone who is guilty themselves?  Under the impeding weight are you ashamedly asking “What should I do?”

Or maybe you are finding yourself sitting with the recipients of Peter’s letter.  They were feeling persecuted, oppressed as they strove to live into this counter-cultural faith that is rooted in the perfect mercy of God, the grace made known in Jesus Christ, and the radical inclusiveness of the Holy Spirit.  Peter encourages them as one would encourage an exile – for they were now strangers in their own land, outsiders in their our hometowns.  It is understandable that, with all that is going on with divisiveness in our own land, that some might be finding a deep connection this morning with those exiles that Peter is writing to.

Have I hit on where you are today?  Or is there some other place that you are finding yourself?  Perhaps it is a place that is not identified in any of the readings.  And yet, with differing circumstances to be sure, yours is a place that is at least in some way akin to where those two disillusioned, frightened, and discouraged disciples running away from failure and despair.  If not today, certainly most of us have been there before.  Perhaps that is what makes this such a beloved story.  Perhaps it is the reason Luke was sure to include this particular post-resurrection appearance in his gospel.  It is on a very familiar and universal road that we are finding these disciples.

(I love to poke fun at our German forebears of St. John’s because of this window over here.  It was installed in 1905 on the 50th anniversary of the congregation.  As you can see it depicts the story that is our gospel reading for today – Jesus meeting the two on the road to Emmaus.  But look closely at the disciple in blue, I think he looks an awful lot like Martin Luther.  Such regard for the great theologian and reformer that they put him on the road with the Risen Christ.  Or maybe it just confirms that everyone ends up on this road sometime or another.)

And thanks be to God that the risen Christ meets us on this road, opening our minds to God’s mercy and grace as proclaimed in the scriptures, opening our hearts to the hope and peace that is ours through the reconciliation that is ours through Christ’s victory over death, revealing his eternal, death-defeating presence in the simplicity of breaking bread.  Whatever road we find ourselves on today, Christ is with us, he is with us.

Wherever you are finding yourself this day, hear the good news of where God is finding us.  The God of love who finds us even when we are dead.

By God’s grace we are in the waters of the font:
Like those feeling guilty in Acts, in these waters we are washed clean and gifted with the Holy Spirit
Like those reading Peter’s letter feeling alienated and cut off, in this water we are given new life as God’s people, woven into the fellowship of God’s family.

By Jesus’ invitation we are at the table where bread is broken and Christ is revealed.
Like those two disciples, we are renewed by the presence of the risen Christ as we watch the bread being broken, the wine poured, and the gathering of God’s family in this time and this place.

By the Spirit’s power, we are woven into this diverse community of faith.
Like that great cloud of witnesses of those who have gone before us and now encourage us, this new life in Christ challenges us with a great commissioned, with a new purpose.  We are called to see that we are in the body of Christ.  That we are called to be the imperishable seed, rooted in the good soil and, having died with Christ, now growing in him for the sake of feeding the world with the fear defeating news:

Alleluia, Christ is risen.  The Lord is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!

The Rev. Mark Erson,
Pastor

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