Weekly Seeds: While You Walk

Sunday, April 23, 2023
Third Sunday of Easter| Year A

Focus Theme:
While You Walk

Focus Prayer:
God with Us, show up on our journey in unanticipated and heartwarming ways. Amen.

Focus Reading:
Luke 24:13–35
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 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?” 19 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, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 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. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 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. 24 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.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 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. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 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?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 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 this Sunday:
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 • Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 • 1 Peter 1:17-23 • Luke 24:13-35

Focus Questions:
What leads you to take a walk?
What do you experience in walking?
How is walking toward a destination different than walking away?
Where and do you encounter Jesus?
How do you recognize Jesus connecting with you?

By Cheryl A. Lindsay

I take walks to clear my head, move my body, enjoy nature, and pray. Only occasionally do I walk as a means of transportation. Usually that occurs when I travel away from home. I’ll explore an unknown city by foot. It slows me down and provides unexpected encounters and experiences.

For the disciples in the Lukan account, walking was their primary means of transportation. The road to Emmaus might have been able to accommodate horses and chariots, but these two travelers make their way by foot. Even at a brisk pace, this journey will take a couple of hours to make. They use the time to process all they have seen and heard in the last days and especially that morning. It was, after all, still the day of Jesus’ resurrection. They did not think of it that way yet, they were astounded by the report of the women of the empty tomb, and they did not understand what it meant or believe in its possibilities.

And returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:9-11)

While processing their uncertainty and confusion, Jesus shows up. The lectionary immerses us in these accounts of Jesus’ first appearances to his disciples. These two were not part of the twelve, but they are not merely members of the crowd either. They heard the firsthand account of the women who went to the tomb, but unlike Peter who grabbed that line of hope and ran to the tomb, these two hit the road for a walk.

In the Lukan version of events, Jesus does not go back to the tomb. Rather, he meets them on the road. Consistent with other first encounters, his disciples do not recognize Jesus. There’s something about his resurrected body that keeps his closest companions from knowing immediately that they are in his presence. This text suggests that their view of him was divinely shielded until the appropriate time. It’s interesting that in these accounts, across Gospel writers, that recognition comes from a moment of deeper connection: the calling of Mary by name, revealing wounds, and now, breaking of bread. At the same time, Luke tells a particular story that is unique in content and intent:

At the center of Luke 24, and dominating Luke’s Easter narrative, is a lengthy account, found only in Luke, of two disciples’ encounter with the risen Jesus on a journey to Emmaus. The passage sews together important narrative threads as it recapitulates the events of the Jerusalem ministry and passion, relates them to the hope of a people’s (and city’s) liberation, and through interpretation of Scripture and solidarity at table brings followers of Jesus from lack of sight and insight to deepened perception. Even in the recent hope-shattering events, they come to see the fulfillment of God’s purposes for the Messiah and his people. Luke thus tells the story of the postcrucifixion community gathered around Jesus as it discovers the resources to deal with the “cognitive dissonance between their experience and their convictions.”
John T. Carrol

I’m not sure we can fully appreciate the spiritual, mental, and emotional overload the disciples experienced in these few days. We take the journey through Holy Week, but coming from the other side of these events, with the benefit of two millennia’s worth of processing and reflection at our disposal, our experience is one of appreciation, humility, grief, awe, and joy among other emotional responses. I’m not sure how many of us are afraid. We might empathize with the doubt and uncertainty they faced; we may envy the assurance we assume they received as eyewitnesses to these events. But as eyewitnesses, they lived through the trauma as much as the miracle, and their fear was an understandable response.

Perhaps, that fear explains why these two make the curious decision to leave town after secluding themselves with the other disciples just at the point of victory. It’s like watching a television series for seven seasons but refusing to watch the final episode. It’s reading an epic novel or biography up to and excluding the last chapter. It’s running a marathon and walking off just before reaching the finish line. It makes no sense. They just heard that Jesus was alive, and this is when they decide to leave Jerusalem for Emmaus. It could not wait a day?

Their response reminds us that not all rejection is done harshly or with animus. A risen Jesus would fulfill their hearts’ desire, but that hope seems impossible to them. They aren’t just taking a walk; they’re running away. They find they cannot escape, however, as even their conversation is drawn to the impossible. Jesus meets them at that crack of receptivity. He eases them into his identity because even good news, at times, becomes hard to receive. This is a consistent theme through the Lukan account of Jesus:

He also brings in angels, characters who prophesy, and the Holy Spirit. According to Luke, God proclaims Jesus’ messianic identity even before his conception when the angel Gabriel describes him as “the Son of the Most High,” the one who will inherit David’s throne and “reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32-33). This is confirmed by three Spirit-filled prophets: John the Baptist (in utero), his mother Elizabeth, and his father Zechariah (Luke 1:41-44, 76). When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, “the city of David,” angels announce the advent of “a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Simeon recognizes Jesus as “the Lord’s Messiah” (Luke 2:25-32). Jesus’ first public act is the preaching of a sermon based on Isa. 61:1-2, a prophecy that outlines the mission of one “anointed” by God (Luke 4:16-21). The third time Jesus predicts his suffering and death, Luke adds to Mark’s account that “everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31).
Jocelyn McWhirter

Only those who are prophets themselves seem to catch and hold these improbable announcements. Others reject not only Jesus but the prophecy of others, like the women who proclaimed the resurrection early that morning. Rejection may look like crucifixion or even indifference, but it may also look like taking a walk to Emmaus instead of continuing to wait for what comes next with Jesus.

Fortunately, Jesus is relentlessly and persistently incarnational. He’s with those who seek him (the women at the tomb), those who wait (the secluded disciples), and those who run away (the travelers to Emmaus). He remains with them and makes the connections between the teaching of the prophets (including Jesus himself), his ministry, and the recent events of the passion. He does this first through teaching (Word) and then by sharing a meal (Table)…truly “a prophet mighty in deed and word.”

The main contribution of the Emmaus story to Luke’s guest Christology is in showing how the resurrected Jesus continues to have meal fellowship with his followers. There is a clear continuity between the miraculous meal in the desert, the visit to the two sisters, the last supper with the disciples, and the meal with two followers at Emmaus. In all of these meals Jesus the guest becomes the host, providing for physical as well as spiritual needs. After Easter the risen Jesus visits his followers and stays with them (cf. the repeated μ6ν6ιν, 24:29). He uses two ways of staying with them: through the Word, which causes their hearts to burn, and through their shared meals, where he is the invisible guest. Both are ways in which the resurrected Jesus accompanies his people as guest and host. Jesus as guest is not only the receiver of hospitality, but also the giver of gifts – the Emmaus narrative offers the climactic gift of the visiting Jesus: his continuing presence as risen Lord!
M. C. Dippenaar

There’s a moment in this text where it appears that Jesus will leave before they know who he is, but they aren’t ready for him to go. He remains with them until they recognize him. That’s when he leaves. It seems abrupt and was likely jarring to them. But that propels them back. With the same immediacy they left Jerusalem, they set off to return. Their journey fulfilled the purpose they were afraid to wait for and answered the prayer they dared not hope for as Jesus met them while they walked.

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
“Black women carry the trauma of systemic racism and serving other people before taking care of themselves, and it’s killing them, say GirlTrek founders Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison. Dixon and Garrison give their Brief but Spectacular take on mobilizing black women to save their own lives.”
To view the interview or read the transcript, click here: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/brief/256922/morgan-dixon-and-vanessa-garrison

For further reflection:
“He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to.” ― Laura Adams Armer
“Now shall I walk or shall I ride?
‘Ride,’ Pleasure said;
‘Walk,’ Joy replied.”
― W.H. Davies
“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.” ― Rebecca Solnit

A preaching commentary on this text (with works cited) is at https://www.ucc.org/what-we-believe/worship/sermon-seeds/.

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (lindsayc@ucc.org), also serves a local church pastor and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments below this post on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SermonSeeds.

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