“On the Road to Emmaus” – sermon for May 8, 2011

Luke 24:13-35
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.

A friend of mine got a new car recently, and we were talking about something interesting. Before she started looking at this particular car, she would have thought there were not many of them on the road. But when she got close to buying one, she suddenly began to see them all the time. She could not go a mile without seeing at least one of these cars.

We laughed because the reality is that there hasn’t been a sudden surge of the number of people who drove Hondas. Not everyone had run out and bought a car just like hers around the same time she did. Instead, she had just became more conscious and more aware of cars like hers and she was more able to readily see what was there all along

It’s like that with a lot of things. Try this exercise with me for a minute. If I had stopped you outside the door and asked you to name five green things in the sanctuary today, could you have done it? Probably not. But the reality is that those things have been here all along. You just haven’t been looking for them. So, try it now. What do you see around you?

When we are looking for something, we are more likely to see it. When we are looking for a certain kind of car, it’s there. When we look for a color, it pops out at us

When we look for a sweatshirt or a bumper sticker with our college’s name on it, or a license plate from our same state, or anything else, we’re apt to see it.

But when we’re not looking at all, just like my friend before she was looking for a specific kind of car, we are most likely to miss it.

It’s like that with Jesus sometimes. This story tells us that two men are walking on the road to Emmaus. And they know vaguely what has happened, and they are sad and confused. They have seen what happened to Jesus, and they have heard these stories that he might be back, but they are obviously doubtful. So doubtful, that they are not looking through the world with eyes that wanted to see Jesus. So much so, that when he was walking with them, they didn’t even notice it.

We hear the story now and think they must have been pretty dense. Who would miss it if Jesus were standing right next to them? But the reality is that a lot of us would. A lot of us just wouldn’t have the eyes for it that day. As much as we tend to see things when we are keeping a look out for them. The car. The certain color. We sometimes don’t if we are not.

There was a story about a year ago. you may have heard it. The Washington Post reported on a violinist who played in a Metro station in DC. He played for 45 straight minutes. Only six people stopped. He made about $32 and packed up and went home

The violinist’s name is Josh Bell. He’s one of the most renowned classical musicians alive. Seats for most of his shows average $100. And he was playing one of the most complicated pieces ever.

And yet no one realized. Because no one was looking for it, and no one was ready to believe that an extraordinary musician would just come and play in the Metro station. And so he became just another guy trying to make a little money playing in the subway.

I’m wondering if it was that way on the road to Emmaus that day. Who would have expected Jesus to be walking this dusty road, in the middle of nowhere? Who would have imagined that possibility? It was the Jesus-equivalent of walking past one of the most incredible musicians in a Metro station and hearing him play, and having no idea who was right in front of you.

But we’re not so different. We miss Jesus a lot.

In seminary one of my theology professors would talk about missionaries in the past who left this country and went to places where no missionaries had ever been saying that they were taking God to “those people”.

It was almost as if God were a piece of carry on luggage, loaded up and ready for the journey.

But the reality was that they didn’t get it. They may have been teaching people more about how to see God, but they weren’t taking God anywhere. God was already in every remote village they would travel to. God was already in the lives of the people there. God was already doing incredible things. They didn’t have to bring God anywhere.

And the real irony, is that sometimes those of us who think we get it. Who think it’s our job to show God and God’s will to the people who we think have never seen it, are the ones who are most apt to fail to see it ourselves.

When I look back on things now, I know that there were times when God felt so far away from me, and yet I was never so close. They’re usually the times when everything was going wrong and I cried out, “Where is God in this?” and got, so I thought, no answer.

I didn’t see the little signs around me. The little indications that God was working in my life. The gestures from people that God was working through to give me a sign, the turns of event that signaled that something extraordinary was happening, the moments where if I had just turned to the side, I would have seen that Jesus was walking with me.

I’m not the only one. You’ve probably had these moments too.

We sometimes teach ourselves not to expect what we think is unlikely. We tell ourselves that the kid who is a “trouble maker” will always be a troublemaker and we fail to see the signs that he is really gifted in some area. We say that the relative who was having a hard time with something will never really get their act together, even when there are signs otherwise. We make a million assumptions and snap judgments without meaning to, and we miss the incredible reality of what is in front of us.

And if we do it in the day to day details of our lives, we do it more when it comes to God. We tell ourselves not to expect the incredible. Not to see the life changing. Not to dare to believe in what is extraordinary.

When I get into good natured arguments with my atheist friends, and I do have atheist friends, it often becomes a litany of “but what about this” statements. Every possible sign of God’s absence is used to try to prove that God does not exist. But on the other side, every sign that God is alive and well and working in this world, is ignored.

Now, I’m not trying to argue a point about atheism here, although I often think strenuous atheism is often just another kind of religious fundamentalism. I’m just saying that we are often more willing to see what isn’t there, than we are to see what is. We are more willing to be negative than we are positive. We are more willing to disregard the fact that Jesus is walking next to us than we are to accept the hard, and it is hard and inconvenient, truth that Jesus has been with us every step of the way.

When the two men got to the end of that road with Jesus, they sat at a table with him. They still didn’t see. They didn’t see until he took bread, and broke it, and gave it to them. And finally it became too much to ignore. They had to see it.

Sometimes when have those moments too. When it just becomes too much to ignore. When are eyes, for however short a period of time, are opened wide. When we can’t argue it away anymore, and we have to believe.

They went from that place and they told everyone what they saw. They went to the disciples who had just had their own experience of seeing Jesus. And together they shared the news that he was back.

The church is the same way. We come here week after week, sharing the news that Jesus is with us. Telling one another about walking on the road with him or seeing him again for the first time. We strengthen one another when we look around and really see what is happening around us. We strengthen the church when we look around not with eyes that are looking for a certain car or a certain color, but for Jesus. When we look at the world through Jesus-eyes, we find that we cannot help but see him all around us. And then we find that we can’t keep it to ourselves anymore.

As we walk on our Emmaus roads may we dare to turn to those who are walking beside us and see the light of Christ that is in them. Amen.

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