Apr 08 | “Stay with Us” (Sermon, April 8th)

Luke 24:13-49

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then 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?’ 19He 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, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But 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. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and 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. 24Some 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.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then 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. 29But 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. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They 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?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

When I received the news that my father died, I came home to discover that my husband had made a pot of tea. I know he did this because he knows I love tea and it’s a comfort…but I rather think it might also have been what I’d call an “ethnic reflex.” Both of us have English blood, you see, and that is what we do when the world collapses.

This is only a smaller version of a habit that is far more universal. When our friends found out about Dad’s death, they arrived at our door with lasagna and banana bread.

When people die, we eat. We eat as if to prod death with our life, to silently shout our ability to fill what death hollows out. We eat because it’s something we all do, and it helps us pick up the dropped stitches of one life and try to knit ourselves back together. We eat because it’s aggressively normal.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spends most of his time eating. He ate with outcasts and sinners, rich and poor, healthy and broken – all of us, and every part of us, because each of us carry every category within if not without. Jesus ate with us to remind us that the great kingdom feast had come near to us and we could laugh at the paper tigers of self-imposed inequality. Jesus ate with us to remind us that all of us are linked by our mortality and our limitations, and we all need food to keep body and soul together. Jesus ate with us because it’s aggressively normalizing to eat with those whom we would rather not touch or talk to.

You could really say that this meant his whole life was shadowed by death – that every feast was funereal as well as joyful.

No wonder he was frustrated with these two poor disciples on their way home from Jerusalem, the great city of supposed redemption. They should have figured it out! No wonder it all seemed so obvious to him that he called them foolish.Michelangelo_Caravaggio_034

But let’s make space in our hearts for them. Let’s make much of those three very poignant and heartbreaking words: “We had hoped…” We had hoped Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel, to overturn things, to restore us to a blessedness that we could really see, to liberate us from the chains of imperial Rome. “We had hoped…”

Don’t we all? Haven’t you ever hoped that you could rewind a conversation? Haven’t you ever hoped that a mistake was made and could be undone? Haven’t you ever hoped that your day was all a bad dream?

I’m going to suggest something that might sound a little radical. I think Jesus doesn’t quite hear this honest and very human echo of disappointment right away. Maybe that’s why he keeps going when they get to their destination.

We can cut him some slack too – he spent his morning re-arranging the truths of the cosmos.

But he’s not the only one. This might seem amazing and wonderful to us, but the best part – and maybe the scariest part – is that Jesus does not change things all by himself. That would be beautiful, but not particularly surprising. God is supposed to do ten amazing things before lunch.

What’s really astounding is that – I think – as God changes a cosmic truth, we change a Godly truth.

These two disciples – who are unnamed, because, let’s face it: they’re us – say, “Stay with us.”

“Stay with us, because it is almost evening, and the day is nearly over.”

Stay with us in the dark. Stay and eat. Even if it’s just the three of us, we want you here, eating with strangers, because it’s what we do when the shadows grow long and we are afraid of what comes after.

And so Jesus does – and at the end of the day, when we set out the meal for our guest, we discover that we were the treasured guests all along. We are given a gift: not just God’s presence, but God’s continued acceptance of our invitation.

A sacrament.

We are promised in this one beautiful moment, that every time we gather together and break bread in order to proclaim death is not the end of our story, God is with us, hosting this very strange meal that proclaims truth and love and eternal life.

We taste and see, and when we really see, we can’t stay in our seats. We jump up and run for miles, straight into the sunrise, without fully knowing or caring where the strength to do it even comes from.

All because we asked God to stay, because it’s getting dark.

That was all we had to do.

That’s all we have to do.

leave a reply