A Sermon for The Eliot Church of Newton, UCC
Rev. Reebee Girash
April 10, 2016
24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,
24:14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,
24:16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
24:17 And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" They stood still, looking sad.
24:18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?"
24:19 He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,
24:20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.
24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.
24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,
24:23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.
24:24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him."
24:25 Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!
24:26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?"
24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.
24:29 But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them.
24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
24:31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
24:32 They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"
24:33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
24:34 They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"
24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Risen Jesus, walk with us, in this sermon and beyond. Be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.
This story is about those who don’t get to see the empty tomb with their own eyes, hear the angel say ‘why do you look for the living among the dead?, ’ or touch the empty shroud.
This is a story for us.
This is a story for after the last notes of the trumpet fade, after the lilies and tulips dry out, after that brief, strange, transcendent moment. After we set out for home wondering what it could all have meant.
This is a story for those who aren’t convinced, even in the middle of the Hallelujah chorus. That’s okay. Neither are the disciples in our story today. That’s why, this is a story about us.
Cleopas and his companion - I’m going to call her Jessica, as one hymnwriter does - they are walking seven miles home. To Emmaus. In the last week they have seen Jesus eating with the tax collector Zacchaeus, been in the crowd that waved palms, they have been at the temple when the tables were turned over, they have heard Jeus intepret the widow’s mite, they have been close enough to hear “this is my body, broken for you,” they have been at the foot of the cross, they have hidden from the authorities, they have mourned their teacher, they have heard a crazy rumor of his rising. And now they are walking seven miles home. To Emmaus.
David Lose says, “If you don’t have serious doubts about the Easter story, you’re not paying attention....disbelief starts with the disciples.” And Cleopas and Jessica, they have doubt. They are grieving and lost. They are putting one foot in front of the other and going somewhere safe and they are not yet Easter people.
But even when you are confused and retreating, if your teacher is Jesus, there are some thing that you just know to do. If you have followed the Way, every road is the road of community, even if it is also the road back home. Every road is the road of scripture, even if it is also the road of doubt. Every road is the road to the welcome table, even if it is also the road to the funeral reception.
They walk with each other, in comfort and care.
They bring a visitor into their community, walking the road together.
They discuss all these things that happened -
They bring a visitor into their faith talk, but we had hoped....and he goes deep into scripture with them.
They break bread together.
They bring a visitor, a stranger, to their table.
The text literally says they constrain him to stay.
They remember their beloved teacher’s own love by loving this unrecognized stranger.
They practice hospitality - not hospitality to Jesus, but the hospitality Jesus taught them to practice. They do it because their teacher, whom they are missing, showed them how to love the stranger and welcome the outcast, and even in their grief they cannot let a tired man walk a single step further.
The entirety of Luke’s Gospel can be read as a story of hospitality: Jesus’ hospitality, paralleled and contrasted with the hospitality people offer to Jesus, and because of Jesus. 
These two disciples have heard the message, learned the lesson. Here on the road to Emmaus, Cleopas and Jessica show us the depth of the teaching, the power of the Way, as they walk down this road.
This is important so I’m going to say it again: they did not invite this stranger in because they knew he was Jesus. They invited this stranger in because they knew Jesus would want them to offer hospitality. Luke wants us to hear an echo of Abram and Sarai in this Cleopas and his companion - Abram and Sarai invited strangers to dinner and they turned out to be messengers of God, angels, sent to predict the coming of Isaac. But Abram and Sarai did not invite the strangers to dinner in order to get the good news - they invited the strangers to dinner because it was the right thing to do, to invite the tired sojourner in to share a meal. And so it is with Cleopas and Jessica. And their hospitality made it possible for a meal to be shared, and the meal that was shared revealed the risen Christ.
“It is the presence of Christ at a table opened to a stranger which transforms an ordinary supper into a sacrament.” A table opened to a stranger becomes holy. A walk with a companion becomes grace filled. A Bible Study on the road opens to wonder.
You know, there is nothing wrong with the Hallelujah Chorus. On Easter I was up here bouncing away and singing, confident that no matter how loud I sang, your glorious voices would drown me out. It was so GOOD, wasn’t it? Wouldn’t it be glorious indeed if every single Sunday was like that? If every moment made us feel great? If we just were butterflies and daffodils every day?
There are church experiences like that. We call them “consumer church” because you come to church to get something.
I think Cleopas and Jessica show us “discipleship church.” They show us that offering welcome, studying scripture, sharing food, - building community, growing faith, living love - are how we walk the Way of Jesus. They had practiced enough that it was “muscle memory” to set an extra place at the table. Folks who come to discipleship church come to practice: community, study, hospitality.
And here is the good news, the Gospel truth of this story:
The time we are most likely encounter the risen Christ is when we follow his Way.
We follow Him - try to match our lives to his teachings, try to welcome the ones he welcomed - because we are practicing to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
The Hallelujah Chorus playing on repeat...or stumbling steps seven miles to home - our way to live is to walk, study and welcome without expectation.
The world is messed up. A lot of things are broken. What can we repair? A lot of people are despairing: do we have a word of hope? A lot of people are excluded and put down: who can we make welcome? A lot of people are hungry: who can we feed?
And when we follow him, that’s when we, sometimes, oh sometimes, we get to see him. When we study the word with each other, don’t our hearts burn within us? When we come to this welcome table, don’t we recognize him?
When we follow him, that’s when we, sometimes, oh sometimes, we get to see him.
That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. [The eleven] were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then Cleopas and Jessica told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Oh sometimes, we get to see him.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.
 “On the Emmaus Road,” Bryan Moyer Suderman
Brendan Byrne, S.J., The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke's Gospel
Interpretation: Luke by Fred Craddock, page 286
From the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer