New Testament: Acts (2:14a, 36-41)
Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 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.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
The Response: Psalm (116:1-3, 10-17)
1 I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, *
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
2 The cords of death entangled me;
the grip of the grave took hold of me; *
I came to grief and sorrow.
3 Then I called upon the Name of the Lord: *
“O Lord, I pray you, save my life.”
10 How shall I repay the Lord *
for all the good things he has done for me?
11 I will lift up the cup of salvation *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people.
13 Precious in the sight of the Lord *
is the death of his servants.
14 O Lord, I am your servant; *
I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people,
17 In the courts of the Lord‘S house, *
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
The Epistle: 1 Peter (1:17-23)
If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.
The Gospel: Luke (24:13-35)
Now on that same day two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 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?” 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, 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. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 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. 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.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 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. 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; and he vanished from their sight. 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.
by the Rev. Michael Kreutzer
One of the prominent characteristics of the two-volume work that we call the Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles is the author’s use of a journey motif. A full ten chapters of Luke’s version of the gospel takes place in the context of Jesus’ determined march to Jerusalem. In Acts, we are told of many journeys, culminating in the three great missionary journeys of Paul. And in today’s gospel reading, positioned at the juncture of those two accounts, we have a two-fold journey. It centers on the transition from the first of those journeys, the one taken by Jesus during his lifetime, to the second, the one taken by his disciples after his resurrection.
On the evening of the first Easter day, two of Jesus’ disciples find themselves taking two long walks. The first is a slow, disillusioned, despairing trudge from Jerusalem to Emmaus; the second, an excited, fast-paced, joy-filled march in the opposite direction: from Emmaus back to Jerusalem. In the relatively brief time in between the two, the nature of their journeys has been radically changed – changed by an amazing and totally unexpected encounter with Jesus, changed by what had been the unseen presence of God.
This story, found only in the gospel of Luke, is reminiscent of the Genesis account (18:1-15) of Abraham and Sarah, welcoming some anonymous guests. We will hear that story again as one of our first readings in June. While our spiritual ancestors are engaged in their own years-long saga, they receive three travelers and provide them with welcome, with shelter, and with a meal. And it is in the course of the meal that Abraham realizes that he has actually welcomed God, who has been present at his table all along.
Luke employs that same pattern as he tells the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Once again, the central characters are on a journey. Once again, they encounter a stranger, a fellow traveler. Once again, they take the initiative to welcome him and to care for his needs. And once again, they eventually come to realize that God has been with them in the encounter and that God has entered into and touched their lives in the person of that previously unknown guest.
God it seems is sometimes most powerfully present in unexpected places and, especially, in unexpected people. In the case of Abraham and Sarah and in the case of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, God was present when people reached out to and welcomed a stranger and shared a meal with him. But in both cases, those involved did not recognize God immediately. It was only in remembering that they came to know what had actually happened in the encounter, and who it was whom they had welcomed, and who it was who had touched and entered their lives.
New Testament scholar Fred Craddock has explored the role of remembrance in relation to today’s gospel story (Luke, page 287). He observes: “There are three times in which to know an event: in rehearsal, at the time of the event, and in remembrance. In rehearsal, understanding is hindered by an inability to believe that the event will really occur or that it will be so important. At the time of the event, understanding is hindered by the clutter and confusion of so much so fast. But in remembrance, the nonseriousness of rehearsal and the busyness of the event give way to recognition, realization, and understanding. This is a time of understanding an important trip, a wedding, a gathering of friends, or a conversation with a stranger turned Christ at table.”
When and where has God been present in your life, even though you might not have realized it at the time? Was there a family member, a neighbor, maybe a teacher who took the time to pay attention to you, to listen to you, to reach out to you with concern: someone who was exactly the person you needed at a particular crossroads in your life? Was there a friend or maybe a complete stranger whose concern or whose gentle word or whose small act of kindness touched you in a way that you did not recognize at the time? Or, like Abraham and Sarah or like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, was it the other way around? Was there someone whom you helped – a stranger, a fellow traveler on the road of life – who, on later reflection, might have blessed your life more than you blessed his or hers?
We often don’t recognize the positive effect that others have on our lives at the time that we encounter them. We often don’t recognize the way that God enters into and touches our lives through others, except in remembrance: the remembrance that leads to recognition, realization, and understanding.
In our gospel story, the two disciples did not recognize Jesus while they journeyed along with him. It was only when they welcomed him into their lives, when they reflected on the word of God together, and when they joined with him in the breaking of the bread, that they remembered and knew.
And that is exactly what we are doing here today. We come together as fellow travelers to pause for a time, to listen together to God’s word, to break the bread and share the cup, and to remember. And in remembering, we allow God to help us to recognize God’s presence and power working in our lives. Then, renewed by word and sacrament, we are sent out by God to do what our ancestors in the faith did: to reach out and welcome our fellow travelers, strangers along the road of life, sharing with them whatever we have, and, by the power of God’s Spirit, opening up at least the possibility that they might experience in remembrance the way that God has been present and active in their lives through us.
“Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest;
Nay, let us be thy guest, the feast is thine.” (George Wallace Briggs)
Whether we share with others as their guests, or whether we have the honor of taking on Jesus’ role as the hosts to others, the real host of every feast is Christ, our risen Lord. He is the one who, in last Sunday’s gospel reading, declared to us: “As the Father has sent me, so now I send you.” And it is in his name that God sends us out each week: to know that we are blessed and to be a blessing to others. For we are all in this life together. We are all fellow travelers on the way. And, whether we recognize it or not, that way is always a way with, in, and to our one God.