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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Road to Emmaus - 04/26/2020

I have to acknowledge that we are very much like these devastated and disappointed disciples, traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

It’s like a Good Friday that will not end, I thought to myself the other day. This thought occurred to me as I was forcing myself to take the Christmas evergreens, now with purple ribbons for Lent, off the front doors of the church. I put up the bright pink and white Easter wreaths, even though most will not see them for a while yet.

I most certainly is Easter, I thought – but it still feels a lot like Good Friday.

 I bet this is something like what these two disciples might have felt. They’d put aside everything they knew to follow this charismatic teacher, miraculous healer, politically savvy community leader named Jesus. They started all over again so they could be part of his ministry. They liked the way he was upsetting the powers and structures that kept people like them at the mercy of the emperor.

Now Jesus was dead. The corrupt Jewish leaders and powerful Roman Empire had won – again. Everything they thought was so certain, so hopeful, so much like progress has just vanished – Jesus “was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” but their own “chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.” (24:19-20, para)

And so they made their way back to Emmaus, beaten down by their devastation and disappointment, people who “had hoped,” … they had hoped before … but not now. It was a Good Friday experience they probably feared would never end.

And that’s kind of what this Easter season feels like, a long, a too-long Good Friday. The majority of us have made the sacrificial choice to put nearly everything on hold for the sake of neighbors near and far … most of whom we may never meet or even know we helped. It is holy work and Jesus is on every step of this road with us. And it’s also very hard work and, by the looks of it will stay hard for some time yet.

Now, this is not to say that we do not believe that Easter Sunday happened. The report of Mary Magdalene and the other women is true – Jesus was not dead in the tomb – he has risen – just as he promised!

Bishop Katherine’s proclamation last week of Jesus’ encounter with the so-called “Doubting Thomas” still opens our eyes so we too have come to believe with every cell of our being that Jesus is our Lord and our God!

The Good News is true and, thankfully, it is true regardless of anything we may or may not do, anything we say or withhold or lament or praise – God has acted and Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Still, those words, our anticipated springy, breezy Easter celebration is dampened this year by this hard and holy disruption.

One interesting thing about the story of that day our Risen Lord showed up on the way to Emmaus is that in his very presence there, Jesus acknowledges that we do have these Good Friday times and experiences. And he also provides guidance on what we should do in these times.

He encourages us to talk and write and sing about God and this story and his resurrection. He goes with us when we turn to the scriptures and we look for ourselves in them and mine them for wisdom.

When we do these things, we are testifying to our Risen Lord… we express through our own experiences and study and questions and even doubt, that Jesus is a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. That he was condemned to death and crucified for the redemption of God’s people. And that, despite that death, he is alive, even now!

And when we do this, we – like the disciples headed back to Emmaus with all their devastation and disappointment, we begin to notice what Jesus does to us.

He pulls us from hopelessness – tugs at us to come his way instead, which rises above all the devastation and disappointment and gives us wings to do what is holy and hard.

Jesus teaches us, opens the scriptures, and invites us to wrestle with them, to question how they are understood and listen deeply for God in them.

And then we feel that spark of recognition of truth and true power, the kind that sets “our hearts (to) burning” (2:32) – and to more discussion and questioning and hope … unquenchable hope.

We also find that Jesus does not turn down our invitations. “Stay with us … it is almost evening and the day is nearly over,” (24:29) we say, and Jesus does not hesitate in the least. He is there in our homes, receiving our hospitality and in our midst at our tables.

In the days following his resurrection, Jesus’ sets the tone of his post-resurrection ministry by being present in the day-to-day lives of his disciples – Mary, Peter, the two on the road to Emmaus and all of us since then. He comes to be present even in our Good Friday experiences, even when our places of worship are confined to our homes, and even in the midst of the ordinary and commonplace act of breaking daily bread.

Look around it all, underneath it, to the left and right, above and below, within, and you too will find that the Jesus has been walking with you – rejoicing and always saying yes when you invite him into your home and life …

… and transforming all your devastation and disappointment into belief and gratitude with even the tiniest glimpse of our Risen Lord.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~

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