May 4, 2014
Karin Liebster, Pastor for Faith Formation
Christ the King Lutheran Church
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
There is no proof for the resurrection. But its case is building.
Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the free act of the God whom we worship as the creator, redeemer and sustainer of our lives and our world. For us, for Christian believers it is the defining act of our God. Only we can’t proof it. And yet we know Christ is present, Christ is real. Christ’s case is building continually, here and throughout the world.
Easter is always such a rush. It lives from the build up over the Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the quiet Saturday, the long Easter Vigil which finally bursts into the proclamation “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
The rush gives way to everyday life again, and this time is the time of crisis for new Christians or old Christians who thought, I am going to give it a try again this Lent and Easter. This is the time when young faith or rekindled faith breaks away.
Because we have no proof; the tomb is empty; all we have is the word of the women who said they had a vision of angels saying that Jesus was alive. This is the Easter proclamation on which all else rests – our entire faith and the church.
What we are asked to do at this point is to see. Seeing is understanding. The appearances of the risen Jesus call to us to see. He opens doors, he shows his hands, he beckons from the lake shore with the good smell of roasting fish, he joins the wanderers on their way. There are moments in these encounters after Easter when time seems to stand still, no rush, no push. Only presence. In this way the case of the resurrection is building. It is a deliberately slow period of gestation, faith gestation.
Fifty days the disciples live in this way until the next big rush when the Holy Spirit descends on them on the day of Pentecost, preceded by Jesus’ ascension on the fortieth day. Fifty days – which we can take as a metaphor for our lives of faith. We are given time to begin to see, to respond to the beckoning, to follow the invitation, to invite the risen Lord in to stay with us and share a meal.
The disciples needed to transform. They needed to get to know Jesus in a new way. As one who is present in absence, one who is real even when invisible, one who accompanies on the way, one who interprets scripture and tradition, one who eventually sends them out. Out of followers the disciples needed to become leaders who call other followers. The fifty days of Easter are like a slow cooker when disciples turn into apostles who proclaim the risen Lord. Fifty days when introspection produces listening, beginning to see, sharing excited news of presence, getting ready for the baptismal life in the world.
The story of the Emmaus disciples is especially wonderful for us because we know from the start that the Risen One is present. The two disciples, they discover only afterwards that Jesus was already there. We, filled with suspense, get to enjoy so much longer what they realize only in retrospect as a long, slow process of recognition. Then their hearts really burn and they quickly make it back to Jerusalem at night.
As we go with the two disciples, one Cleopas, the other without a name so you and I can put ourselves in that place, we get to meditate with them on experiences that are not foreign to us and are meant to renew our trust in the process:
There is the theme of walking and journey. The disciples leave Jerusalem, walking away, sad, distraught, not necessarily with a particular goal, but they are on the way. Jesus had been on the way to Jerusalem for a long time, the goal set on his destiny to die on a cross. Now he joins the disciples on their way walking with them even if they don’t have a goal set. The story makes clear that the Christian journey has both the physical and the spiritual aspect. The disciples’ return to Jerusalem emphasizes the gestational character of the faith journey which is never a straight path.
There is the theme of blindness and seeing. The disciples’ eyes are kept from seeing/knowing Jesus. It is their human weakness which causes this blindness. It is also God’s acting to have their eyes open up eventually. Seeing, we learn from this story as from the other Easter appearances, seeing really means the intelligence of faith if there is such a thing. We may be blind, but we may also trust that God gives seeing. It will happen. In our own work of ministry and evangelization this is something to keep in mind – God gives the seeing, we can only help prepare it.
There is the theme of scripture and interpretation. In lives of seeking and persisting we are thrust back always to the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God become flesh in Jesus Christ. The Emmaus story confirms it: the first interpreter of all of the scriptures of the Old and New Testament is always Jesus Christ, the Risen One who has given life and salvation. In his name and through his eyes we are to read and study and while we do that coo like doves over the meditation of God’s life giving word day and night, like Psalm 1 is singing.
There is the theme of hospitality. Hospitality is a deeply active mode of life, at the core of the communal life, but also at the core of reaching out to proclaim the mystery of Easter. We have reached the turning point when the disciples finally take initiative and invite Jesus to stay with them for the night and dinner. Their desire to continue to be in his presence pushes them over the edge of their sadness and hesitation. Now soon their eyes will be opened. And once they see they know that Christ is the true host of their meal, the Eucharistic meal as well as each meal the faithful share.
Dear sisters and brothers, these themes: physical and spiritual journey, blindness and seeing, understanding scripture, the hospitality of one and the other – all these are places in which the enigmatic presence of the Risen One and his radiating absence play out. The Emmaus disciples recognized only afterwards that Jesus was already there, on the way, in the word, at the table. This is how our experiences of the presence and absence of the Living One still are, in our searching, in our pains, in our hope, in our joy.
And so the case for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is slowly building, and you and I are part of it, in real time and real life, living proof of God’s mercy and salvation for this age and the next. Amen.