It is probably fading from memory, but in the generation passing there was a favorite hymn by lay people that was most despised by clergy – In the Garden. It is the proto-Jesus as my boyfriend song. But it is one that I’ve often thought there was a challenging and orthodox reworking available in its bones. What it expresses is the presence of Jesus with his people. It is expressing the power of the resurrection. Its verse “he walks with me and talks with me…” is the core of what could be. Because that is the core of this text. All resurrection texts speak to the historical reality of the event. They all also proclaim the power of the resurrection to bring us eternal things. What the Road to Emmaus does is show us how this kingdom comes in weakness. While we can’t see him, Jesus walks with us. For a long time, until our faith is strong enough, he walks with us. The reign of the living Christ is one that comes in weakness. Through preaching and teaching. In Word and Sacrament. Things that accompany us. As we are prepared for the full weight of the resurrection to come to us.
The Lukan resurrection texts are one long story – one long Easter. When I read it I wonder if that is authorial privilege, or Luke’s research. The eating of fish sounds so much like John’s beachside story. The road to Emmaus is uniquely Luke’s. The rest are reflections of the other gospel stories. Luke pulls them all together and tells a very tight story that focuses reflection on seeing the body of Christ in three things. The Emmaus disciples are the first in Luke to see the risen Christ, and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread which is a Lord’s Supper scene. We recognize the body in the Supper. We recognize the body is the Peace of the gathering is the next one. It is in this one that we also recognize that the body is not just a spiritual reality, but is flesh and blood. Lastly we recognize the body because the scriptures have testified to it.
This sermon starts out playing with the Nicene creed’s phrase “according to the scriptures” which was one that young Parson Brown didn’t really get. But Luke gets it, and Jesus goes to great lengths to make sure the disciples get it. This sermon meditates on those scriptures not as the proof, but as the family album. In and through those scriptures we can recognize the body of Christ. And because we can recognize it, we can also move forward in faith on the promises that are not yet.
The text is the Road to Emmaus. Luke likes road trips. Chapters 10 through 19 are known as the road narrative as all the action is suppose to take place while Jesus is walking from Galilee to Jerusalem. The Emmaus Road I think is Luke’s poetic description of the Christian life. I don’t comment on in in the sermon, but imagine Luke himself for a moment. He interviewed all these people: Peter, John, James, Mary, Paul. All these people who knew the physical Jesus and testified to the resurrected Jesus. Luke knew him through them, and through the breaking of bread.
Life is full of expectations. The road to Emmaus present in the sermon is how we have wise expectations instead of foolish ones. The main part of that is recognizing Jesus. And we are given to recognize him in the Sacrament and the Scriptures – Word and Sacrament. Our life here, after that recognition is a walk toward the New Jerusalem. Now the walk and the witness, next year in Jerusalem. And as on of the metaphors has it in the sermon, next year happens. I’m a Cubs fan. It does.
Preaching on Easter is a unique experience. You do get the full joy. A full house. The best music and hymns. The core message. But you also get the full foolishness of the gospel. As if some loser 2000 years after the event could possibly have anything to say. At least the Orthodox just get in the pulpit and repeat Chrysostom. Likewise the proclamation is unique, sui generis, not replicable until well it is replicated. All examples and illustration and props are gone. All you can point at is Christ. He’s risen. Any eloquence you might have, any cunning or logic is stripped away. He’s Risen. This is how God fixes broken things. After the cross, resurrection. And there you have it. He’s either defeated death, and it will be given to you at the right time, or his hasn’t. I’m just the messenger telling you what I’ve been told and believe. He’s risen. Broken things will rise.
Recording note. I would love to have left some of the music on, but the gap between the live experience of Easter music and our poor recording of it is just too much. So, it is just the lessons and sermon. Come to church next week. We will still be singing the Easter hymns on the octave.
So much in our world we deal with by deleting, or attempting to delete by shoving in some memory hole. We delete everything from pixels to inconvenient people. And we all eventually become inconvenient.
God does not delete. God does not deal with problems by covering them over. God deals with problems (like sin) by absolution…by transfiguration…by resurrection. That is the conflict of Easter and the triumph of our Lord. Sin, the World and Satan want to erase, delete and hide. Christ rolled back the stone and lives.
Facts, assertions, methods, inferences, hypotheses, stories. Facts are nice. We all like facts. But lets also be straight: 1) facts are usually boring or maybe better inert and 2) a lot that parades as fact just isn’t. My 3rd grader does a lot of learning of facts and methods. There are some things that come home as fact that I might question. I’ll challenge her every now and then to evaluate or analyze the facts, but that is not the role of a 3rd grader. That is the role of an adult. Unfortunately, in our postmodern world, that is a responsibility that we often neglect.
Probably the biggest reason that we have come to metaphysical despair is simply the question in the title – How do you know? I can (and do) proclaim the wounds of Christ, the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and all of the apologetic strategies. As the great lenten hymn says, proofs I see sufficient of it, ’tis the true and faithful word. Those are the facts of the Jesus story. The question is what to say about them: A ghost, like the disciples at first, a fraudulent conspiracy, a mass delusion, a myth, a resurrection triumph over sin, death and the power of the devil? You can tell most of those stories with a purely materialist mindset. You can’t tell that last one. How do you know that Christ is arisen? The Spirit who spoke by the prophets lives in me, lives in the live of the church, the people of God.
The adult task of the Christian is to work with the Spirit – in word and deed. Be in the Word on a daily basis. Live that word out in our daily lives. We are witnesses of the resurrection – starting in Jerusalem.