Year A — The Third Sunday of Easter

Commentary for May 8, 2011

Click here for today’s readings

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Verse 39 is one of the Bible’s beautiful promises: “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Repentance, baptism, forgiveness of sins, the presence of the Holy Spirit — these are each and every one gifts of the promise that we receive from God in Christ.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
“I love the Lord, because….”

The psalmist participates in giving testimony to God’s goodness, a feature of the worship of God’s people for countless generations. We are invited to do the same. How long since you (or the people in your pews) have taken the time to fill in the blank?

“I love the Lord, because ….”

1 Peter 1:17-23
There is, from time to time, considerable dialogue over just what it means to be “born again”… or, as the NRSV has it, born “anew.” 

No need to revisit any of that ground here; much to be preferred are the descriptors that Peter employs in vv. 21-22. To wit: trust in God, set your hope and faith on God, and love each other deeply “from the heart.”

There is the bit about obedience to “the truth” — another phrase that evokes seemingly endless discussion throughout the church (just whose “truth” does this mean? God’s? And who is the arbiter of said truth?) I don’t know when we will all agree on “truth”…but that still leaves faith, hope and love.

To paraphrase the great American theologian, Meat Loaf: “three out of four ain’t bad!”

Luke 24:13-35
Jesus could certainly be a little coy, couldn’t he?

Here are the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, all abuzz with their visit to Jerusalem and the spectacular rumors emerging from the Passover situation. We are told that they “were kept from recognizing him.” 

By whom, or by what, I wonder? Is this divine intervention in order to set up the tale? Or are we supposed to read something in here, something along the lines of “they were just so caught up in their own concerns that they couldn’t see Jesus right in front of them?”

I have certainly heard the latter interpretation; if I think hard enough, I could probably recall preaching it.

Anyhow, Jesus saunters up and asks, quasi-innocently: “What’cha talking about, guys?” 

Which, of course, gives an excellent opening for the story to proceed and for Jesus to get in a few of his final theological licks before his impending ascension. Somebody has got to understand all of this, after all. Peter and the gang back home weren’t handling it so well at this point!

There’s a lot of stuff we’re still trying to figure out, ourselves. We, too, are “foolish… and slow of heart to believe.” But Jesus is with us, nonetheless, whether we recognize him or not. 

In word and sacrament, the Christ makes himself known as we break the bread and remember. Open our eyes, Lord; open our eyes!

by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

When I was a kid, we always got to the movies late because, well, Daddy was Daddy and he was always late, and it was difficult to get five children anywhere together at the same time. We always came in after the movie was about a third over.

So we saw the end of the movie, then we waited in the theater while the ushers swept the floor and carried out the trash, and a new crowd came in, then we sat through the previews and the opening of the movie, then the whisper came down the row, “Let’s go. This is where we came in.” And Papa Chilton and Mama Chilton and all the embarrassed little Chiltons would file out.

Besides the embarrassment, the thing that stuck with me about that recurring experience was how odd it was to watch the beginning of the movie when you had already seen the end. Knowing how the story comes out changes how you see the beginning.

As we look at this story of the Road to Emmaus, we already know that the stranger is the Christ; we already know that Christ is risen, we already know how the story comes out, we have seen the end.

So, we may miss the utter despair behind the words, BUT WE HAD HOPED.

(Verses 20-21) “and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. BUT WE HAD HOPED that he was the one to redeem Israel.”

BUT WE HAD HOPED – are there any sadder words we can say?

BUT WE HAD HOPED – have you ever lost hope, lost confidence in the future, lost a vision of what can be, could be, should be?

BUT WE HAD HOPED – have you ever lost your grip on the promises of God?

In our story these men had lost hope – they were walking home to their village of Emmaus, returning to their former lives after years of following Jesus.

They had given up. They had lost the confidence in the future, they had lost the way forward, so they decided to go back, back to the comfort of their past.

They had hoped in Jesus, but now that they had lost hope, they were feeling, well, lost.

Until they were found by Jesus on the road.

When they were at their lowest, Jesus found them and picked them up.

When they were the farthest from God, God in Christ came to them.

They were on the road away from Jesus- when Jesus found them on the road.

The first thing Jesus did was open the Bible to them and tell them about himself, explaining to them about how this Jesus they were lamenting was really the Messiah of God.

 (verse 27) “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”

Then they got home and invited him in to eat with them. They still didn’t know who he was, but they remembered Jesus’ teaching about welcoming the stranger so they compelled him to come in.

Then he fed them, (verses 30-31) “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

I have participated in all sorts of Communion Services over the years.

I took communion at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford England. That was quite an experience. All “bells and smells,” and boys choirs and ushers in “morning clothes.”

I have also sat in little Slate Mountain Missionary Baptist Church and passed a plate full of little cut up pieces of Wonder Bread and a tray of glasses filled with grape juice up and down the pew.

I have celebrated communion by a lake with a bunch of teenagers, in hospital rooms with dying people, in a hotel conference room near the airport in Chicago.

And, as different as all those sacramental moments were; they were all connected to one important thing; that those of us who were there “knew Christ in the breaking of the Bread.”

Their eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread. They knew Jesus – they knew who he was.

Perhaps they were there the night of the Last Supper and the eerie similarity of his actions made them recognize him. Maybe something more mystical and mysterious happened. Either way, they knew him in the breaking of the bread.

This action of taking bread and blessing it and breaking it, opened their eyes to who Jesus was and how he had died to save them. It also let them know that he was alive, he was risen, he was present in the world to give them life and joy and hope.

So it is with us. When we participate in the breaking of the bread, we are reminded of what Christ did for us on the cross, and of what he continues to do for us each day of our lives.
The Breaking of the Bread gives us hope, for it opens our eyes to the living Christ in our midst.

(verses 32-35) “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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

We have a mission from God to share Christ with all people. We have God’s commandment to share the story of God’s love with the world. We are called by God to get up from the table and to go out on the road and point people to Christ.

The world is full of people who have lost hope. The world is full of people who have lost a vision of goodness. The world is full of people who are wandering dazed and confused, down the road to Emmaus. The world is full of people who are looking for some one or some thing to lift them up and give them joy again. The world is full of soul starved people in search of the true bread from heaven.  And we are called to go out and invite them to the table where we have been fed.

Are you one of those who have lost hope? Come to the table. Are you one of those who need a new vision of God’s love? Come to the table. Are you one of those who seek to understand the ways of God with the world? Come to the table.

Yes, Come to the Table. Come to the Table and receive Jesus Christ. Come to the Table and receive the True Bread from Heaven. Come to the Table and receive New Hope for Life.
Yes, let all of us come to the Table.

Christ is Risen,
Christ is Risen Indeed!

Amen and amen.

2 thoughts on “Year A — The Third Sunday of Easter

  1. I'm not sure what I'll preach on come Sunday, but I am nudged by the three little dots after "I love the Lord because…" . Thank you.

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