April 10, 2016 / What are you discussing together as you walk along? / Sara Wolbrecht / Luke 24:13-35
Christ is Risen! Friends, we continue to celebrate Easter, the resurrection in these weeks following the official holiday of Easter. And our journey together is to look at seven things Jesus said after his resurrection – he’s baaaaack! And he was around for 40 days – seems like he might say and do some important things in that time. And today, we are at the third thing Jesus said. This passage of scripture we’ll hear from Luke’s gospel is known as the Road to Emmaus. A tale of the two – often considered two men, though also considered to be Cleopas and his wife, Mary. We encounter these two walking, talking, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, and it is perhaps the finest scene Luke ever sketched. It is a stunning story – of grief, a stranger who brings insight and care, the sharing of a meal, and the revelation that it is Jesus who is with them. People, this is the stuff of prime-time television.
And it is a long passage we’re going to look at. We’ll focus on the front end of it, but it is important to see the whole story. And so to help us enter into it, we’ll have three readers take us through…
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 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?”
“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. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 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. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 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.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 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?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
For us today, we’re going to experience this beautiful story in two ways. First, this story is one that we enter as one of the two who are on the road. We put ourselves there. With dust on our feet, grief in our hearts, and a stranger who approaches us. And we hear our third word from Jesus, this question for us: Jesus: “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
Question: do you have times – I know I do – when something happens and it becomes the only thing we can think about. It doesn’t matter what else is going on around us we’re just stuck in that thing. We go to bed thinking about it, we wake up and in the first fuzzy-headed moments of the day we remember it, and we think of it all day long. And we talk and talk to folks about it. Do you ever have those times?
Jesus, in this moment on the road to Emmaus, steps into that kind of conversation, where these two who are walking – all they can do is think about, talk about what has just happened over the past few days: the death of Jesus, the one who they were sure was the Messiah. All their hope had been crushed. Such sadness, such despair they carry as they walk. And such confusion that people said that just that morning, the tomb was empty.
In this, we get this vision of a piece of what the life of God is like – that we are people who do this, who walk along together, like these two, and that there are the things that we must talk about as we walk along together. The hard things, the heart things, times when we too are weary after disappointment, when our hopes have been lost, when we feel unsure about the future. Anyone ever have those kinds of feelings?
And in this portrait of what the life of God is like, as we walk along, here comes someone who walks with us. God shows up. And notice: this is the day of Jesus’ resurrection. He’s fresh out of the tomb. Question: what would you be doing if you had just been resurrected as the Son of God? Maybe gathering crowds, healing, flexing some serious resurrection muscle. Or maybe spending some precious time with your people, the disciples. But that’s not what’s happening here. Notice: on the day of his resurrection, Jesus spends the day with these two, who walk and talk along a quiet road. He walks with them in their despair. Entering into it by asking – what are you discussing as you walk along?
This is what Jesus does after his resurrection. Here, as a part of that vision of the life of God, we see who we are: the ones God shows up with in our pain, in our hopelessness, in our walking-along when we are spinning on something. Jesus joins the conversation because God cares about the things we care about. That’s who we are – the ones who are beloved and cared for by our God.
Here is our God, then, our God in the flesh who shows up in our grief. Who comes to walk the road with us. Who asks what is heavy on our hearts. Who takes the time and patience to be there on our quiet roads.
Today, now, then the first question for us to ask ourselves in response to this: what do we bring on the road to Emmaus? What do we discuss as we walk along? What are we spinning about? In our life, that of someone we love, or that of the wider world?
I carry and discuss a few things – one is an issue of sadness and frustration – our 5yo daughter gets into these epic, unstoppable tantrums. And I feel so powerless in knowing how to help her navigate those times – it is something Jason and I are walking and talking about, for sure, and thankful for the ways Jesus shows up with us in that walk with grace for ourselves, patience with June, insight into where to turn for help. But it is hard to walk it.
How about you? Today, what do you bring on the road to Emmaus? …As we often do at Salt House, we’re going to name one thing, together. You have a brick. What is it you have been discussing at this time in your life – maybe something pressing or emotional this week, maybe an on-going slow gnawing, something you carry, your own question or uncertainty, or that of someone you love? It could also be a greater hurt in the wider world? And we will each write one thing on our brick.
We’re going to sing a song about asking Jesus to walk us, and as we do, use this time – to sing, to listen to your life, and then to write your one thing that you carry.
Sing: I Want Jesus to Walk with Me
Time to write on a rock. Gather up near the end.
The second way for us to enter this story, to walk the road to Emmaus – can you guess how we might do that? We enter the story as Jesus. We become the one who is walking alongside these two on the road. Because: Jesus says Come and follow me, which means embodying the kinds of things he did, the ways he loved this world. We do it, too. And remember (as we have talked about before) that the way we walk-alongside others is not in a super-human, super-spiritual way, but Jesus calls us to be ourselves, the Jesus-shaped, Jesus-inspired version of ourselves. And to walk with others in everyday walking down the road kinds of ways.
You’ll notice part of what Jesus does with us, as we walk along, is what he does with the two on their way to Emmaus – he almost reprimands them – like, “Can’t you see the bigger picture? Don’t you see what else is going on here?” And he walks them through the story of God – that death wasn’t defeat, but death was actually the very thing that had to happen in order for God to bring the kind of rescue and life they longed for.
And Jesus does a similar thing for us – in the midst of our own struggle, Jesus comes alongside us and points to the ways in which there are signs of God with us in what we’re going through. Pulls us out to see the larger story, to consider how God might actually be at work despite the thing we’re facing. Eyes to see the story of God in our story.
So we, too, embodying that voice and presence of Jesus, we get to be that voice, that perspective with others – to be present on the moment of grief, to point toward what God might be doing, to name the hope that is there, to be the gracious listening ear that is needed as others walk along the road (And remember it is about showing us, it isn’t always about having to say anything, and certainly not worrying about saying the right thing – after all, what did we learn from Ed’s Story in Lent? We show up, and we? Shut up).
How have you come alongside someone else recently? With the phone call, the text, the time spent over coffee or a beer. The helping someone through something – how have you shown up and walked alongside someone else?
…One of the things we do here, then, as a community at Salt House, of folks who belong to each other, and who are figuring out how to live like Christ, we look for ways to do this with and for each other. To walk with each other in conversation, in reaching out, by showing up as we are, in doing the uncomfortable work of getting to know each other – I know it takes work, and I know the church is a place where we bump into people who are different than we are – that’s the beautiful reality of the church, of God’s people. We get to be beautifully awkward with each other sometimes, and there in our differences and diversity is the life of God.
And we find ways to walk with each other. And we’re going to try something by way of doing that together, now. We all have our brick. We all named something we carry on the road to Emmaus. And in a moment we’re going to pass out the bricks again – and you will receive someone else’s brick that names the weight they carry.
And we get to carry that weight with them, sharing it as we open up space for prayer. You’ll be holding a brick that says something on it. We are encouraged to pray on behalf of what we see on that brick. To name the thing or situation that is on that brick – or if it’s too hard to figure out what they meant, then use it as a trigger to pray for something that comes up for you.
We’re invited to pray out loud, we don’t have to say a lot, and we don’t have to be articulate. If someone wrote: “Aunt Susan.” Then we can simply say: God, we pray for Aunt Susan. And as always – we do not need to say anything out loud if it is uncomfortable – but a little tip – this is a really safe place to try pushing your comfort zone.
We are also welcome to pray for anything else that is on our hearts. And if we start speaking at the same time as someone else – that’s ok. You can keep speaking or wait – don’t worry about it. Just go for it.
So we’ll begin by singing and use that time to pass out the bricks. And then I’ll open up our time of prayer and then close it when we’re done. Let’s sing, let’s pray.
Sing: Prayer of the People. After bricks passed out: (Use the grey cart in the center aisle)
Thank you God, that you are the God who comes alongside us, and that you work through us to be people who walk alongside each other. We do that now, breathing deeply of this time in prayer, speaking with you about the stuff that is on our own hearts and that of our friends in this room, being vulnerable in naming and carrying the pains of our community and our world, knowing that you hear us when we pray. And so we pray together now, silently and out loud.
Time for prayer
Into your hands we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy, and leaning into the grace and presence of one another. Thank you, God. Amen.
Continue to stand with me and hold that brick. As a final movement for us in our time with our bricks, and mindful of how heavy and awkward they can feel – we take a moment to come back to Jesus’ question: Jesus: “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
You see, we do discuss and carry burdens with us – the hard things, the stuck things, and a nice heavy brick is a good metaphor for that, the hard, frustrating stuff of our lives. And yet burdens are not – by any means – all that we carry, it is not all that we bring on the road to Emmaus. We are also people of joy and creativity. We are people who dream and work hard, and who are driven by passion and compassion and gifts and skills and tremendous resources and generosity.
My friends, though we always carry burdens, we are also: rock stars. The bible speaks to our brokenness and also to our identity as beloved. We are the Imago Dei – we are made in the image of God. This means that we are also, always carrying boundless potential for what we can offer to others and the world.
And here’s the thing for us to name: that potential we carry as individuals exponentially increases when we bring it together with others. Our gifts, joy, creativity – bringing all of who we are to community – THAT is where big, beautiful, life-changing, justice-serving, mercy-laden, poverty-stopping work can happen. When we bring it all together. The apostle Paul spoke of this in many ways, particularly in 1 Corinthians, as he names how we are one body, but many parts. That when you bring the ear and I’m the toe and he’s the arm – on our own? Almost useless, compared to what happens when we are pieced together as one.
In a moment we’ll move into Holy Communion. And as a part of coming forward to the table, we write one more thing on that brick. Next to the words that are already there – or on another side if you need the room, we each name a passion, a gift, an asset we bring to this community. Something about ourselves that we feel pleased about this week – for we are made in the image of God. Name it. Own it.