Elizabeth L. Windsor, DMin. The Third Sunday of Easter April 26, 2020 Luke 24:13-25 2 Corinthians 5:17
“The Building Blocks of Faith”
The Scripture we heard from Luke today is the traditional story the Church tells on the third Sunday after Easter. In many biblical accounts following the resurrection, Jesus appears in forms the disciples do not recognize. The Emmaus story is one of these accounts. Two unnamed disciples meet a stranger on their way to Emmaus. Their discussion of Scripture with the stranger is so compelling that it results in an invitation to dinner. It is only after the Scripture has been “opened to them” - when the bread is broken - that they recognize the resurrected Jesus. The Jesus they met on the road was not the one they knew. The resurrected Jesus required understanding their Scriptures in a new way; only then could they know their resurrected Lord.
All of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels contain this element of surprise and revelation. How could Jesus’ followers understand their new reality when it was nothing any of them had expected?
In a series of reflections on the last words of Jesus, the American historian, Jon Meacham, expresses it this way: “As the sun set on the Friday of the execution, Jesus appeared to be a disappointment, his promises about the kingdom of God little more than provocative but powerless rhetoric.” They had been anticipating the final struggle between evil (the Roman Empire) and good (the people of God). It was supposed to end with the triumph of God’s chosen one, Jesus, reigning over a restored Israel, liberating God’s people, and establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. No wonder they were disappointed.
This Easter, unlike many of the Easters of the past, brings us into a similar place of confusion, disorientation and disappointment. Our new reality is frightening. It overwhelms our hope. Whatever we believed about resurrection, it certainly isn’t this. So what do we do now that our reality and our expectations have nothing to do with one another?
A cataclysmic outbreak of pandemic that shatters our expectations parallels much of the disciples’ experience of the crucifixion and resurrection. So perhaps looking at how they made sense of their new reality might show us how to do the same. Meacham writes, “Jesus’ followers reacted to his failure . . . by reinterpreting their theological views in light of their historical experience. If the kingdom they had so long expected was not at hand, then Jesus’ life, death and resurrection must have meant something different. The Christ they had looked for at the beginning was NOT the Christ they had come to know.” Isn’t this exactly what happened on the road to Emmaus? The Emmaus story invites us to do as the disciples did, but how?
Last week, Rev. Rick invited us to keep a journal as we live through this pandemic. A world changed by Covid-19 is our new reality, much like the crucifixion and resurrection were the disciples’. But to make sense of its impact on our faith, we need to reinterpret our previous faith journey in light of our new lived experience. So Rev. Rick and I are inviting you to use this time of physical distancing to examine the building blocks of your own faith and explore how they have supported your faith in the past and might sustain you in our new reality. Perhaps previous understandings will be challenged, sustained or re-imagined in light of the pandemic. Perhaps the blocks need to be re-arranged, or you might want to remove particular blocks and search for different ones to build new configurations.
Our new “Building Blocks of Faith” project is designed to share our individual blocks of faith with each other via virtual space, much like our Easter Vigil project. Each week, there will be a theme chosen to help you reflect in your journal. While some of this work is intensely personal, some blocks will be shareable. For the coming week our theme is “What is your favorite hymn?” You will find prompts in TWEC and on our new “All-Church Adventures in Faith” page on the Eliot website. PLEASE participate and share. Not only will you come to understand your own faith journey more deeply, this project will build our relationships with Jesus and each other. In so doing, we will construct together the new Eliot Church God calls us to offer to the world around us. What blocks of faith continue to sustain us? What new forms might our blocks create together? We won’t know for a while yet, but we do know it must be done together. We can’t do it without you, so please participate in this adventure of faith. May the new creation we build give glory to God and sustenance to all in whatever lies ahead. Amen.