Sermon for Emmaus Sunday (Easter 3) - Luke 24:13-35
Christ is not for the faint of heart, although he loves faint hearts. He is not for the strong in spirit, though he loves strong spirits. He is not for the place which we demand him to be, although he loves to be, yearns to be, is actually present where you are. He is not for the momentary need of the individual, although he loves every moment that the individual sinner lives, and is there when we need him. He is actually for you even when you have no need of him, or think you are too bad to deserve him. He is there when you really can’t understand the reality or work of the cross, to open up the word and to speak into your ears life and salvation. He is there as one who travels along the way as you head to your home, or work, school, or just life. Christ is there as this one who speaks, and reveals himself in ordinary ways to be your strength when you are weak, and your food when you hunger.
Bubbles are a dangerous thing. I am not talking about blowing bubbles. Although if they get in your eyes they can burn. I am talking about the bubbles we live in. Walls of protection we create to shelter ourselves from all sorts of things we find offensive, or different, or whatever.
When Carry and I were in college it was called the Bethel bubble. There at Bethel College, now University, you would live on campus, eat on campus, work on campus, study and learn there. You would get captured completely by only the life there. If Baptists believed in convents or monasteries, that would be Bethel. This bubble would make you think only of things in words you hear and know from Bethel. Using eyes only you have opened for things at Bethel. Everything was shrouded in this Baptist, evangelical, everyone-is-like-us-aren’t-they sort of world.
But this is nothing new and nothing old. I read this week that St. Catherine Monastery, that is at the foot of Mt. Sinai on the Sinai Peninsula, is so remote that monks there had to be informed in 1946 that World War 2 actually took place. Now that’s a bubble.
I’ve talked about it around here recently, but the studies in this post-presidential election time period have discovered that we so insolate ourselves that so many of us who did not vote for President Trump were so surprised and we say – I didn’t know anyone who voted for Trump. In part because we become so selective with whom we associate, but also because we have a certain story we like to hear. The bubble of life makes this possible.
Cleopas and his buddy had their bubble here. They speak to the one, whom they learn later to be Jesus, as those who had a particular story in a particular place. “Are you the only one in Jerusalem not to have known about this Jesus of Nazareth and all the stuff that has happened?” Having to tell the story to this “fellow traveler.” The story of this Jesus who was so powerful in word and deed, and yet these disciples knew not of what he spoke of in his death and in three days – a resurrection.
The disciples bubble includes this line – he was handed over to death, and they crucified him: and we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. Hoping for revolution. Hoping for a living Messiah that would bring freedom to a conquered people. New government. Going back to the way it was with the tribes and the king. A bubble that includes redemption at least.
Then you have the silly line, I love this – Some of our women amazed us. Well, our women always amaze us because they are just so damn amazing to begin with, but here – some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb and didn’t find his body. Painting the picture as though, in the mind of these men, Jesus was some sort of set of car keys, or wallet, or purse. Misplaced. You know how women can be. So the men have to do the manly thing – well lets go and show them how wrong they are. Only to discover that, well, as usual, the women were right. He wasn’t there. They still don’t know, though, that the angels were right as well saying – he is alive.
Finally, Jesus gets to play the annoying brother who won’t catch the bubble and hold it in his hand for safe-keeping, but instead – pop! 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.
You see, we each have our Jesus or church bubble. A bubble in which we have developed these ideas of this Jesus here. And those bubbles are made because we know no better. It’s the way the rest of our life works. Some of it is survival, because being the Old Adam, the old sinner, living off the way it ended in the garden with the eating of the forbidden fruit and the desiring to be our own god, we wish to shelter ourselves form this Jesus. But this Jesus is a glory killer. An idol hunter. A bubble popper. One who creeps into our psyches to attack our most vulnerable places. The places where we think we can refuse to allow him to be because we have crafted a little deity there. A god we dedicate towards all sorts of things. Reputation. Career. Style. Children. Athletics. Music. Hobbies. Whatever it may be. Our little chapels we make, and he destroys them because for him, as you see here, his suffering, his dying, leads to his glory. Anything that gets in the way of his work in that, dies too. Our death, finished in his crucifixion for us, becomes our life and glory lived in him. Because his death for us actually does something. His resurrection for us, this living again, this need for life that we have lets us know that in our little bubbles we make – we are actually dead, in need of the powers of Christ in word and deed, Gospel and cross.
It is the offense of the Gospel, the world turning place that Jesus has in the words of his good news, that brings all our bubbles to an end. It is supposed to anyways. Thinking that all victories look like a ticker tape parade. A super bowl party. Jesus shows us that victory actually comes through defeat. A dying Jesus, a cross and crucifixion become the goalposts of our spiritual journey. It doesn’t seem too manly because we want the hero. We want this superman to fight off and win against the bad guy through a battle. Never knowing that winning in Christ comes through losing. Losing the argument. Losing the battle. Losing the bubbles we surround ourselves with.
The disciples knew it, in some way. They sensed it. They beg Christ to stay. We actually echo the words in our evening prayers – Stay with us now, for it is evening. And the day is almost over. Why? Because just like the disciples knew this traveler, who turns out to be Jesus, was up to something, had something for us we can’t find anywhere else, we too know it. You do. I know you do because you are here. You are here because God has brought you to this place, these people, this word and altar to hear this Jesus speak to you in his words. A burning in the heart. They say it. Our hearts burned within us as we talk along the road. A burning and yearning because the sinner in us, in you, knows when they have lost. When the bubble is about to burst. And the anchor of the cross, the liberation of forgiveness and mercy becomes our only hope.
Then, as we do every Sunday, Jesus does what he does best and stays with the disciples and gives to them what it is he has to give. 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.
It used to not be that we were an every Sunday Communion church. Maybe twice a year. Four times. Once a month. Well, we do it every Sunday. Because, number one, what if you miss that Communion Sunday, and I don’t have the opportunity to give you the gifts of Christ’s presence in bread and wine, body and blood? What then? Secondly, if the sermon sucks, at least you get Jesus. Finally, and most importantly, the hope is that each time you receive the gifts of the table, you might fully realize the work that was done for you in the breaking of his body, and shedding of his blood for you. In the forgiving of your sin. Each time maybe realizing more and more how beautiful and how necessary it is to hear those words – The body of Christ given for you. That eyes may be opened and you may recognize your Jesus there for you broken and bloodied and risen. Because the more time we spend at this altar, in this word, the less of a bubble we make to separate ourselves from others. For he isn’t in the tomb. Not in the bubble. But he burst it for you. Thanks be to God. Amen.