Summary: About the power of the resurrection in Christian believers through the Holy Spirit.
THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 10, 2005
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Very Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
"Easter in Us"
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem in memory of five Franciscan sisters who drowned when a ship named the Deutschland went down. In the 35th and final stanza of this poem, Hopkins writes about Jesus Christ, “let him easter in us.” Hopkins uses the noun Easter is used as a verb, and it is this striking use that has evoked comment from Methodist Bishop William Willimon.
Willimon asks, “what could be less like us than Easter? What could be further removed from who we are and where we live than Easter?” [Pulpit Resource, 4/99, 16]
As Willimon suggests, nothing could be further from our everyday thoughts and experience than the high-flying wonders of Easter: resurrection, immortality, eternal life and the rest of it. Which is why it is good to look at a gospel story that meets us at road level. On Easter Day, two followers of Christ left Jerusalem to travel to Emmaus, a village about 7 miles from Jerusalem. Along the way, Cleopas and his companion, possibly his wife, talked what had happened in Jerusalem.
Along the way, they discussed Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. They discussed what they had heard about earlier that day, that some women had gone to the tomb were Jesus was laid and discovered that it was empty. Furthermore, these same women said that they had seen "a vision of angels" at the tomb who said that Jesus was alive. As they talked and walked on the road to Emmaus, a third traveler joined them.
Here are two followers of Christ who have left Jerusalem disappointed. They are discouraged about what has happened to Jesus and they have discounted the story they heard about His resurrection. They were headed out of town and there was no Easter in them. They once had hope that Jesus was the One who would redeem Israel, but now their hopes were dashed, and they were in despair.
Luke tells us that "their eyes were kept from recognizing" Jesus as He walks with them, and they replay their conversation to Him as they travel. Jesus has some sharp words for them after they complete their sad story.
vv. 25-26 And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them from the Hebrew Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Cleopas and his traveling partner remarked later about this experience, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
They continued walking as Jesus taught them, and they came to Emmaus. Jesus indicated that He was going to journey beyond Emmaus, but His two followers pleaded with Him to stay the night with them, and He agreed to do so. During the evening meal, Jesus "took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them" (v. 30). It is through the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of the bread that the two disciples recognize Jesus. Although Jesus is the guest, He takes on the role of host at dinner.
As we see in this wonder-filled and much-beloved story, it was in the breaking of bread that Cleopas and his fellow traveler come to understand that Jesus their Lord is with them. In this regard, I love what that great German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer has to say about table fellowship. Bonhoeffer says in his little book, Life Together:
The Scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship that Jesus
keeps with his own: daily fellowship at table, the table fellowship
of the Lord’s Supper, and the final table fellowship in the Kingdom
of God. But in all three the one that counts is that “their eyes were
opened, and they knew him.” [p. 66]
In that brief meal that they share with Jesus, “their eyes were opened.” In the simple act of sitting down together with Jesus to share a meal, “their eyes were opened, and they knew him.” Easter came to these two disciples later than for those who stayed in Jerusalem, but Easter did come to them, thanks be to God.
In the Emmaus Road story, we find two important elements of Christian worship. First, Jesus opens the Word of God to His fellow travelers. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
While we read together more Scripture in our services than any other church, even in Episcopal or Anglican worship, in our sermons and homilies we do not interpret everything pertaining to Jesus from the Hebrew Scriptures. But in every season other than Easter, we do include an Old Testament reading and a psalm. In the Easter season, we read the great witness to Jesus by the apostles in the Book of Acts for our first reading. Secondly, every Sunday we read a New Testament lesson and a Gospel lesson. Afterwards, the Word of God is interpreted in the sermon.