EASTER 3 - YEAR A - MAY 3, 2014

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1:17-23
Psalm 116:1-4,12-19
Luke 24:13-32, 45-54
Hymn: #265 Breathe on Me, Breath of God
Homilist: Robert Dunn

Mr. Cleopas:My name is Cleopas. You heard of me this morning in Luke’s gospel. My wife also figures in Luke’s account but, alas, she is not named. Today for the sake of convenience, and because you do not know her name, I’ll call her Mrs. Cleopas. Women were not always singled out in biblical narrative, so one might assume that an unnamed person noted in scripture might very well be feminine. And that, I say, is true even in Luke, who does better than other gospel writers in giving women a place and a voice.

Mrs. Cleopas:Thank you, Mr. Cleopas, for allowing me to appear with you. But what I suggest we discuss is not me but Jesus’ visit with us after his resurrection. For truly we had come to love him, to love all that he seemed to represent for the future of Israel.

Mr. Cleopas:  Yes indeed. You cannot imagine how depressed we were. As Mrs. Cleopas says, we loved Jesus and could not believe he was no longer with us. We Followers of the Way believed that Jesus had come to redeem God’s people, but he had died. Did that mean that he and his cause had failed? It was extremely difficult for us to walk that Sunday afternoon after Jesus’ execution. We had hoped that things would have turned out differently. Instead we were left with the Romans still in power, the Jewish leaders continuing to try to placate Rome and her governors, and we mired in despair. Our path home to Emmaus after Passover seemed more than ever dusty and rough. Then suddenly we both were aware that someone new was walking with us. We did not recognize him.

 

 

Mrs. Cleopas:  This man wanted to know what we had been discussing. Cleopas in surprise assumed he was a stranger because the arrest and execution of Jesus was the subject of nearly every conversation we overheard. I told this person that we had considered Jesus a mighty prophet, but the Roman and Jewish leaders had handed him over to be condemned and executed.

Mr. Cleopas:  We thought Jesus was dead, yet we no longer were certain of anything. We had grown dizzy with some of the latest speculation, none of which seemed solid. Some of our women had gone to the tomb and found no body there. The women saw a dream or vision of angels who sang to them that he was alive. So I listened carefully as the stranger began to interpret the scriptures in ways we had never understood before. In effect this was a Torah study like I had never experienced before. Had our Jewish scriptures actually foreseen what we were experiencing? What, I wondered, did it all mean? This man’s words warmed my soul. As I listened I thought I felt the earth shaking under my feet. Were we on the cusp of a New Age?

Mrs. Cleopas:  The day was waning as we approached our home. I knew Cleopas had been deeply moved by our conversation. Furthermore, I thought it safer for this stranger if he joined us for the night. In our Middle Eastern culture we often invite someone we have met into our home. I wanted to let this man know that we already regarded him as a friend or even a member (as it were) of our family. So I urged him to stay with us, and so he came in. More and more both Cleopas and I sensed this stranger was not an ordinary but an extraordinary, a holy man. As we sat down to share a meal together we instinctively allowed him to act as our host. We do not usually do this, thinking that our guest would understand our hospitality better when we guide the visit. But even as Abraham had deferred to three men who turned out to be divine beings, so we deferred to this man. We still did not recognize him for who he truly was.

Mr. Cleopas:  Our talk at first was a continuation of our previous discussion. We were still, as it were, in the Beit Midrash, the House of Study, hearing this man who spoke like no rabbi I had ever heard before. But after Mrs. Cleopas brought out the bread and the wine and the rest of our supper, our guest proceeded to take a loaf of bread in his hand, bless it, break it, and give it to each of us. That was the very moment when I understood that this stranger was none other than Jesus. Jesus had used this simple liturgy before when he took a loaf of bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to friends and even strangers who came to regard him as one with them. The taking, blessing, breaking, and giving are sometimes called by people you may know as the four actions of Holy Communion or the Eucharist.

Mrs. Cleopas:  I, too, recognized Jesus at that very moment. I had never seen someone preside over a common meal in the way he did that evening. He not only made us feel at home in our own home in a way we had never felt before, but he made me think that our simple fare and plain table setting belonged in the palace of a king. I sensed we were guests at a heavenly banquet.

Mr. Cleopas:  No, we did not feel that we were alone with Jesus. That meal brought together all who had ever responded to him, all who in the future would respond. We had seen him feed 5,000 people in the same way—taking peasant bread, blessing it, breaking it, and giving common folk the food in a ritual that seemed divine and yet so utterly ordinary. I mentioned a few moments ago that I thought we were on the cusp of a New Age. Now that sense intensified. The time to come, I hoped, would be marked by no distinction between rich and poor, rulers and ruled, women and men, the blind and the seeing, the well and the diseased, the sane and the insane, even the Samaritan and the Jew, the Roman and God’s covenant people because we are all Children of the One God. In short, we had come to recognize a new worldview. I began to think that this Jesus, the Messiah Rome had thought to defeat, would become all in all.

Mrs. Cleopas:  How could anyone object to the world Jesus talked about? In short it was the Peaceable Kingdom Isaiah depicted. If only I had the right words I should like to say it better still. I would so like to be a poet, a musician, perhaps even a crazy dreamer. How can I express it better than Isaiah did? But I remember that Joel tells me that in the last day I or people like me will be granted eloquence:

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;

                    Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

                    Your old men shall see visions

Even on the male and female slaves,

                    In those days, I will pour out my spirit (2:28-29).

Mr. Cleopas:  As the hours of darkness deepened, I anticipated a prayer that would be written centuries later by a Christian. That prayer is based on our experience. It very well summarizes and glorifies our encounter with Jesus. It expresses overpowering love, love that wants to resolve all quarrels and tensions, love that heightens the glory of Jesus’ resurrection.

Mr. and Cleopas:  Mrs. Cleopas will you join with me?

 “Lord  Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way; kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love” (BCP 124).