With Joy Burning In Our Hearts
Call To Worship
Where shattered hearts are made whole, where bruised souls are healed,
Where life is stronger than death:
There, the stone has been rolled away.
Where the lonely become our friends, where the stranger is welcomed home,
Where hope is stronger than despair,
There, we find Jesus walking.
Where minds welcome new understandings, where the anxious find serenity,
Where love is stronger than hate.
There, Jesus is opening eyes.
The stone has been rolled away!
Let us rejoice with full voice and bright eyes!
Let us receive this new day, so fresh with possibility, as we encounter the Living Christ!
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Alleluia! Christ is with us!
Living God, rejoicing in this day of resurrection, we have come to celebrate
the strength of your love— a love that triumphs even over death.
As we exult in the miracle of your incarnate love, we thank you for the opportunity
to encounter the Risen Christ here in our midst.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed.
Today we heard the Easter story as told by Luke.
Generally speaking, at Easter morning worship, we are used to hearing from the John, aren’t we?
An empty tomb, confused disciples, a weeping Mary Magdalene, and “Gardener Jesus.” After the heaviness of Holy Week, this is the story that we want to hear… There is something so full-circle feeling, about a distraught Mary Magdalene slowly coming to her senses and realizing that the Lord is standing in front of her! Her Savior is risen! And she runs off down the street joyfully calling out, “I have seen the Lord!”
But, that’s John.
Luke’s story is a little different.
Sure enough we have an empty tomb and confused disciples…But we also have angels asking bewildering and murky questions: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
After the events of the week, the disciples are dealt another blow… no Jesus on Easter morning. Just angels… and another day of grief.
Jesus takes his sweet time showing up in Luke’s Gospel!
In fact, the first people that Jesus reveals himself to are a pair of travelers heading home from the Passover Festivities in Jerusalem, walking home to Emmaus. A man named Cleopas and another traveler. Perhaps a Mrs. Cleopas?
Now, the Cleopas’ are not a part of the twelve… but we get the impression that they were nevertheless disciples of Jesus, for they truly believed him to be the Messiah.
They may not have feasted at the table when Jesus broken bread in the upper room, they may not have been there when Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, or to see Jesus betrayed with Judas’ kiss…
But they probably were there to see the miracles/the healings, maybe they drank the wine at the Cana wedding, or heard Jesus teach about the Kingdom of God from the hill top… They saw enough that their faith was captured by this man they knew to be the Messiah…
They knew it with all their heart… enough to make it a point to be there when Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna!”/to wave palm branches and lay their coats along the road.
But sadly, that means… that they were there to witness Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.
They had seen the glorious ministry and the brutal end.
And here they are walking home to Emmaus hearts broken, dreams dashed…
Here they walk the seven miles back to their fishing nets or accounting books, back to their 9-5, back to the rhythms of their ordinary lives… they walk home believing that the extraordinary possibility of Jesus had been a mere dream.
And… then… in walks Jesus.
He strolls up to the melancholy travelers and with a smile asks, “Whatcha talkin’ about?”
Like a curious/ friendly stranger on a plane, you have the misfortune of sitting next to when you just want to be left alone… Except the Celopas’ didn’t have ear buds to quickly pop in place or a book to pretend to read…
It took them a moment to get over the shock of the stranger’s chipper ignorance, so they filled him in on the Jesus story. Told him about the man whom they had put their faith in. The man of miracles. The mighty prophet. They tell him about “Hosanna!”… they tell him about the cross.
And “incognito Jesus,” patient as ever, just let’s them talk…
When their sad tale comes to an end, “incognito Jesus” surprises them again by sharing his own version of the Jesus story. Maybe it went a little something like this:
In the beginning God created this beautiful earth, God made it because there was just so much love… it had to go somewhere. God made people, made a holy nation to love and to parent. Sure, it wasn’t perfect! They struggled in their relationship… but even through the rocky times/ the times where they felt just so distant from one another… God was there! God waited with open arms, eager for the homecoming. Teaching them, encouraging them, carrying them through scary times… God was there.
And one day God had an idea! An idea that meant that no sin, no shame, no broken boundary could separate God from the people. God would come to earth himself. God incarnate. And he would face sin and death, face brokenness and sorrow. God would look it right in the eye… and battle it. God knew that it would require his life. His time on earth, where his heart would beat/where he would get to hold his people/ where he could break bread with them, laugh with them… God knew that it would require all of that. To have it, that closeness would be so perfect… but then he would give it… But! It would be worth it! God knew it would be worth it! Because that meant that nothing could ever get in the way of love ever again. It would be worth it!
Cleopas and Mrs. Celopas- Maybe they listened to Jesus. And the truth/ the beauty/ the perfection of God’s story… it burned inside their hearts!
This had nothing to do with late night nachos… no this was the burn of understanding. A simmer of joy.
They couldn’t get enough of this truth, so after seven miles, they invited Jesus in for dinner. In fact they press him to stay…
As they sat down for this meal… “incognito Jesus” finally did something that clued them in to his identity. He reached for the bread on the table. He took it, he blessed it, he broke it and gave it to them… We can practically hear him saying… “This is my body broken for you. This is my body broken for the forgiveness of sins. Take it and eat it… do this in remembrance of me.”
It took until that moment for the Cleopas’ to see that Jesus was with them. And that they were right to place their hope in him! For here again was the Messiah!
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
And then… Jesus vanishes. Of course, as an Easter story, we needed yet another dose of mystery…
This is Luke’s version of Easter Day.
Each of the Gospel writers saw Jesus’ ministry from a little bit of a different angle. And Luke’s angle was relationship. That God wanted a connection with the people/ that God would do anything, anything to keep alive the relationship with each of us. So, of course, this is the story that Luke would shared! One where a couple of out-skirt disciples get to hear, in the midst of their grief, just how recklessly and completely they are loved. Where the weary and brokenhearted, get to experience communion with God. While looking into Jesus’ eyes they get to hear that it was all for them… it was for them that Jesus came to earth/that Jesus went to the cross.
I was in McDonalds on Friday indulging in some “I really don’t feel like cooking tonight” french fries and I was working on this sermon… thinking about what it would be like to experience Jesus’ love as directly as they did. And then I remember that we are offered that opportunity each and every day. Every time we break bread together, every time we come together as the community of God in worship/in service/in fellowship/in solace… there is an encounter with the living Christ. The Emmaus journey teaches us that God meets us there (wherever ‘there’ may be)… and I started crying. I was crying over my fries! I looked like a complete weirdo using those scratchy brown napkins to dry my cheeks.
It burned in my heart, the magnitude of God’s love.
And like Cleopas I too got to experience God in an unexpected place.
In the business and blur of Holy Week, God meet me in the booth at the McDonalds.
There was a video floating around social media a while back called, “Sharing a Twinkie with God.” It showed a little boy, maybe six-ish, coming downstairs with his Spiderman backpack and he goes into the kitchen and he packs two twinkles and two juice boxes and he heads out the door. His mom calls after him, “Where you goin’?” and he says, “I’m going to find God.”
“Ok, have fun.” she says. And off he goes. He walks down the busy city street, Spiderman backpack bouncing along. And he looks carefully at all the people he crosses paths with, he seems to study their faces at the cross walk, he watches a few that have their eyes glued to their phones… Until he comes across this homeless woman sitting on a bench at the park. He bounces right up to her, looks at her studiously, and after an awkward moment she smiles this big toothy grin at him. And then the boy just lights up, like “ahhha!” I found God.
And sure enough he hops up on the bench and promptly opens his backpack and pulls out a Twinkie for himself, and he takes a bite. And then he reaches into his pack and pulls out a Twinkie for her. She looks surprised, confused, but delighted. And they sit there, eating Twinkies and laughing on a sunny day. After a while, the boy gets out the juice boxes and he cautiously put the straw in both boxes…
After a while he walks on home. His mom asks, “So, did you find God?”
“Yup,” he said, “Turns out God is a lady. And she has the most beautiful smile.”…
Then the video shows the still-smiling woman outside a shelter, “What did you do today?” She is asked.
“I shared a Twinkie with God… He’s younger than I thought he would be.”
Children of God, that’s Easter.
That’s the resurrection of Christ in Luke’s Gospel.
God meets us where we are. Coming to us in unexpected times, in unexpected places, through unexpected people.
God meet us there breathing new life into our worlds. God meets us there offering connection and love… and occasionally even Twinkies.
Our problems may not have been fixed by the encounter… but what is left in its wake is joy. What is left is relationship. What is left is the resurrection.
In just a moment we are going to sing our Song of Response. And while we sing, I’d like you to think about a time when God brought hope/encouragement/joy/life into your world when you needed it. Think of a time when God meet you on a melancholy walk to Emmaus.
Think of that time… and then bring your flower up the cross here.
Together, with joy burning in our hearts, we are going to turn this symbol of suffering into something beautiful. Amen.