Sermons are meant to be heard. There is something that gets lost in just reading one. The following sermon was written to be spoken aloud which explains why the writing is not always perfect and the punctuation is at times nonexistent. Nevertheless, I pray that it speaks to you.
WHEN YOU JUST WANT TO WALK AWAY
April 30, 2017
If tonight is your first night with us we want to tell you that we are glad you are here. We have been doing this worship service – called The Gathering on Wednesday nights since January and tonight switch over to Sunday nights. And I have to tell you that there is a little bit of anxiety about the move. So, we are glad that you are here with us on our first Sunday night.
You may notice that The Gathering is a little different. You will notice a lot of silence. You will notice a lot of scripture. You will notice that we do communion each week. And there is a reason we do these things in this way and primarily it’s because these are the things that Christian communities have been doing for centuries. So that’s where the “ancient” comes from in what we are calling ancient.modern.worship. The modern comes from the music and hopefully from the relaxed atmosphere but primarily from our desire for The Gathering not to be a show or a performance but rather just a relaxed time of connecting with God with each other. There are other thoughts about The Gathering listed in your worship guide and I hope that you will take time to read those and of course ask any questions that you might have.
So one of the things we do here at The Gathering is use the Revised Common Lectionary for our scripture texts each week. The Lectionary is just a set of scriptures assigned to each Sunday of the year. They include a Psalm, an OT reading, a NT reading and a Gospel reading.
Tonight our Gospel reading is the focus of my message and it is found in the Gospel of Luke chapter 24: 13-35. You can read along in your Bible or on your device or you can just listen.
In Luke 24 we have the story of Easter. Chapter 23 is all about the death of Jesus and then Chapter 24 is about what happens on Easter Sunday. The first part of the chapter tells the story about the women who went Jesus’ tomb and then Peter running to see for himself that Jesus’ body was not there.
And then we get this story about two friends walking on a road. Follow along with me Luke 24:13.
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 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?” 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 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.
Let us pray…
God give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand what it is you want us to learn about you this night. We pray in the name of the resurrected Jesus. Amen
Where do you go when you just can’t take it anymore? You know, when life just gets to be too much – what do you do? Maybe it that you’ve been dealing with a tragedy in your life – or maybe an ongoing issue or problem – or maybe you just watch too much cable news – but at some point or another we all get to a place where we just need to walk away.
The two friends in our story were walking away. They were walking away from Jerusalem after the events that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion. They were walking away from the confusion that was gripping the disciples after they discovered his body missing. They were walking away from an event that had rocked their world. Maybe they were going home. Maybe they had things to do in Emmaus. But I wonder if they just needed to get out of the city and walk?
This is a very human thing to do – this walking away. We all do it. We all walk to Emmaus.
Theologian Fredrick Buechner expands on this idea when he says: “Emmaus is the place we go to in order to escape - a bar, a movie, wherever it is we throw up our hands and say, "Let the whole damned thing go hang. It makes no difference anyway.". . Emmaus may be buying a new suit or a new car or smoking more cigarettes than you really want, or reading a second-rate novel or even writing one. Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday. Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the -world holds nothing sacred: that even the wisest and bravest and loveliest decay and die; that even the noblest ideas that men have had-ideas about love and freedom and justice-have always in time been twisted out of shape by selfish men for selfish ends.”
But he has a point. The travelers on the road to Emmaus had just experienced something traumatic and unsettling and confusing. Maybe they just needed to get away.
I don’t know about you but I see myself in these travelers. I tend to hope onto the road to Emmaus a lot – sometimes daily!
Because sometimes life gets to be too much. And so the road to Emmaus can be the way we shut down and stare at a tv screen at the end of a trying day; the road to Emmaus can be a stiff drink or three slices of cheese cake or some other vice that we don’t want to talk about; the road to Emmaus can be an actual trip to get out of the city or away from what has been consuming us; or maybe the road to Emmaus is just walking to our bed and pulling the covers over our heads.
If we look at it this way, the Road to Emmaus is anything that helps us move away from what is troubling – what is overwhelming – what is just too much.
We all have Roads to Emmaus in our lives because we are all human.
But this is where the story gets interesting.
As they are walking along – discussing what was happening – the Greek word is literally pitching back and forth to each other – someone appears and starts to walk with them. Someone they don’t recognize but, as we will learn later – someone who resonate with their souls. And this someone asks what they are talking about. And the question stops them in their tracks. “What do mean? Where have you been?” And so they proceed to tell him everything that has happened.
And what I love about Luke is how this re-telling of what has transpired over the last few days is not some recitation of the facts. Instead we get a sense of the emotion that these two were experiencing. Look at what they say starting in verse 19.
(READ TO SHOW EMOTION OF THE TEXT?)
You get a sense that they have been swept up in the emotion and stress of this moment and it’s almost like they are just dumping all of their feelings onto this stranger who just walked up and asked them what they were talking about it.
But Jesus – instead of recoiling at what they are saying – he encourages them – he teaches them – he reminds them of what scripture says about the Messiah. And you can almost feel them relaxing. “Oh, it might be ok after all.”
In fact, when it looks like he’s going to keep walking past where they are stopping, they implore him stay and get something to eat. And while they were eating – when the stranger took – blessed - broke – and gave the bread – only then did they recognize this was no stranger who walked with them. It was Jesus.
I think there are some things we can learn from these two walkers. I think maybe, if we do indeed all have roads to Emmaus in our lives, we can understand something about how the risen Christ operates in our lives and especially when we are just done with everything. When we are on our road to Emmaus – what does Jesus do?
First of all I think we can see that no matter what kind of road we are walking on – Jesus joins us. Of course we may not notice him! But just as Jesus joined the travelers on the road to Emmaus – he joins us on our journey. It may feel like he’s not there. It may seem like we are alone. It may be that we really just want to get away from everyone and everything – but Jesus walks with us.
Also, I think that Jesus provides a place for us to dump. Sometimes we think that we have to get everything perfect to come to Jesus. That we have to use the right language and not say anything offensive. And we certainly can’t show our emotions to Jesus.
But what are we afraid of? That Jesus – the author of all creation including us – can’t handle it? The travelers on the road to Emmaus used their conversation with Jesus to just pour out everything that was going on. The good. The ugly. The confusing. The broken hopes. The worries. The fears.
Jesus walks with us and allows us to bring everything to him.
So, when you find yourself on your own road to Emmaus – just let it out. Write it down even. Just tell Jesus. There is an old, old hymn that we used to sing in the church I grew up in called I must tell Jesus.
I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.
That’s what happens when we are on the road to Emmaus – we can tell Jesus what is happening because Jesus is walking with us. What do you need to tell Jesus tonight?
And then as we walk along Jesus encourages us and teaches us and helps us to understand the bigger picture about what might be happening to us Just as he taught and encouraged our travelers. He has a larger understanding. He sees how setbacks can be redeemed. He knows that there are more expansive forces at play in our lives than we can even phantom. He knows how the thing we are walking away from can be redeemed.
So what is that we can do? When we find ourselves on the road - walking away from the tragedy or the problem - what can we do when we find ourselves ready to throw up our hands and escape and eat a dozen Krispy Kreams?
First, we can pay attention to our hearts. Because when Jesus is near – our hearts warm. The travelers recalled this as they were looking back on what happened to them. They remembered that their hearts had warmed when Jesus was talking to them. That’s what happens when we encounter Jesus on the road. We may not know it’s him – but our hearts know. And if we can tune our attention to what our hearts already know we can become ever more aware of his presence.
Second, we can listen. This is kinda like tuning our hearts to his presence but its more than that – it’s actually listening to what we are being taught and how we are being encouraged. You see our travelers could have said to this stranger walking alongside them “You don’t know what you are talking about”. Or they could have just nodded and acted like they were interested or listening. But I don’t think they did that. Otherwise, I don’t think they would have invited him to stay and eat – they would have been happy to see him go. But they listened and were encouraged and learned something.
When we are on the road to Emmaus I believe, somehow, someway, we will be exposed to the truth about what we are going through just as these travelers were. Somehow God uses scripture or a sermon or a song or even a stranger to bring truth to our situation. But we have to be willing to listen.
Finally, we have to invite Jesus in. Jesus does not barge it. Jesus does not bully. Jesus waits to be invited. I believe if the travelers had not invited Jesus to stay and eat – he would have just kept on walking and they would have never understood that they had just experienced the risen Christ. When we are on our own road to Emmaus we have to intentionally invite Jesus in. Maybe tonight you need to do just that. Maybe in the act of communion you can say to Jesus – I invite you into this mess – I invite you to join me on this road.
One other thing. Our travelers did not stay on the road to Emmaus. They did not even stay IN Emmaus. They went back. They went back to the site of the trouble. They went back to the scene of the crime. They walked back into the fire and into the world and into life. But they walked back changed. They walked back encouraged. They walked back ready to take on whatever was before them. They walked back ready to tell everyone about what happened to them. When we get on the road to Emmaus we have to be careful that we don’t get stuck in Emmaus. Instead we have to back into life – BUT we go back with the knowledge that Jesus walks with us.
Let us pray.