Sunday, May 8
Third Sunday of Easter
Elusive God, companion on the way, you walk behind, beside, beyond; you catch us unawares. Break through the disillusionment and despair clouding our vision, that, with wide-eyed wonder, we may find our way and journey on as messengers of your good news. Amen.
Now on that same day two of them 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.
All readings for the Week
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1:17-23
1. How might believing help us to see, rather than the other way around?
2. What "miracles" have you hoped to see in order to believe? Were they really necessary?
3. What is the connection between faith and hospitality in this story?
4. What experiences of community - of communion - have opened your own eyes to God?
5. How does Benjamin Franklin's pragmatic advice (in the quotation below) sound to a Christian?
by Kate Huey
Throughout the Gospels we've seen and heard of many astonishing events: healings, exorcisms, the raising of Lazarus, the multiplication of loaves and fishes (to feed the hungry crowd), and the sky opening up with the voice of God addressing those present. These many, convincing "revelations" are powerful, but no more powerful than the simple acts and events of this passage from Luke about the Emmaus story.
Friends are making their way from one place - a place of hope-turned-into-despair, a place of perplexity and the unbelievable (and "idle") tales of women - to another place: Emmaus. Frederick Buechner has written evocatively in The Magnificent Defeat of the many ways we seek to find a place, an Emmaus, to run to when we have lost hope or don't know what to do, the place of escape, of forgetting, of giving up, of deadening our senses and our minds and maybe our hearts, too. He even says: "Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday." As you look around, do you see folks who have "gone to Emmaus," even though they go to church and try to practice their faith? What do you think took, or drove, them there? How can the community of faith, and the experience of worship, be helpful in the "opening of their eyes"?
These resurrection appearances are powerful stories of community, of believers, doubters, and strugglers gathering and breaking apart, and gathering again, coming together and telling the stories of their experiences, sharing their memories of Jesus - his acts and his words - and then, as we must today, as people of faith, shining the light of Scripture on that experience and coming to new and deeper, transformative understandings. But that's not all. They sit at table and break bread, and often, more than intellectual understanding, they come to see with their hearts what was right before them. What are stories from your own life, when your eyes were opened because someone welcomed you, or because you opened your heart, your door, your life, to a stranger, someone you didn't expect to be a blessing?
A world rocked by one death
If the world of the disciples had been turned upside down by this person Jesus, think of how that same world had been "rocked" by his death. Even so, they haven't had time to absorb that calamity when new stories have sprung up. When has the news or your own life unfolded in ways that shook the foundations of what you believed in, perhaps too fast for you to process and integrate into your understanding? What did you do to find peace and balance, and to build new foundations?
If the Bible is about hospitality, hospitality, hospitality, we might hear and tell this story as one of hospitality and its deeper meaning. Hospitality isn't a condescending or begrudging, dutiful sharing (preferably from our excess, not our substance); it's an openness and welcoming to change and the new learning change brings (however uncomfortable and perhaps even painful). Hospitality and openness make transformation possible, brought to us from the most unexpected places by the most unlikely people, perhaps even strangers. If we know that we must see Jesus "in the least of these," how can we not share our table and its abundance with all who are hungry, in one way or another? In what ways have you known hunger, both physical and spiritual? Who was the unexpected person who shared with you, who "broke bread" with you, who helped to open your eyes, and transformed your life?
The power of hospitality to transform
The New Interpreter's Bible commentary on Luke draws wonderful parallels between this story and that of Lazarus and the rich man, drawn from the work of Eugene Wehrli. Both stories involve the interpretation of Scripture ("Moses and the prophets"), table sharing (or not!) and "someone rising from the dead." Again, hospitality has the potential to transform our lives if it opens our eyes even more than we have opened our doors. As the United Church of Christ strives to extend and embody extravagant hospitality, where is the possibility of transformation within our own lives, within ourselves?
The experience of these two travelers (one may have been a woman, like other New Testament pairs) was fleeting, as our glimpses of God, or brushes with God's presence, are. We look back on our experiences and process them, understanding them better "in the rear view mirror" than we did face-to-face. How does God still speak to you today, not only through the encounter these early Christians had with Jesus, but through your own encounter with Jesus, in the breaking of bread, the sharing of stories, the study of Scripture? Is there more here than only hearing the story of others, long ago and far away? What is happening inside us today? Are our hearts burning within us? Is it possible, when we struggle with questions of meaning and we just can't understand what's happening around us, that the answer is often right before us?
For Further Reflection
Anselm of Canterbury, 11th century
I believe in order that I might understand.
Oscar Wilde, 19th century
I can believe anything, provided it is incredible.
Meister Eckhart, 14th century
God is at home; it is we who have gone for a walk.
Henry David Thoreau, 19th century
Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.
Benjamin Franklin, 18th century
Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.
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Weekly Seeds is a service of the Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries, United Church of Christ. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, © 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The Revised Common Lectionary is © 1992 Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.