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It’s still Easter!

by HW in HI

based on Luke 24:13-35

Easter hangs around a lot longer than Christmas – at least in the Episcopal Church. Does anyone happen to remember how many days there are to Eastertide? (50)

There are several pretty good reasons for this. The scriptures tell us that following the resurrection Jesus made many appearances and ascended to heaven 50 days following the resurrection. Easter is the summit of our faith, the cornerstone without which we would have no faith. Easter is the best we have, nothing is better. So, we have 50 days of Easter. Does anyone happen to remember what comes at the end of Eastertide? (Pentecost)

This morning we join two of Jesus’ former followers. They are walking on the road to Emmaus, returning home disappointed after all that had happened in Jerusalem. Jesus joins them, but somehow they don’t recognize him. This is curious, and it is easy to pretend it isn’t in the story. But it is. Jesus started to walk right beside them, and they had no idea who he was.

This is one of those stories where Jesus shows up. It is such a typical metaphor for our lives that it’s a cliche. They say there are no atheists in the foxholes – that’s a World War II cliche. It means that when you’re a few feet away from the enemy and his gun is pointed right at you – it’s time to believe in God. And just about everyone does. When we hit our low points, God is there. Cleopas and his friend were struck low: they had lost their beloved rabbi, and they had thought he would be the one to redeem all of Israel. Jesus was there, walking right beside them. Jesus is here. Walking right beside us, trying to make sense of things for us. Sometimes we know he is here, and other times we are so confused or so miserable that we have no idea Christ is with us.

For these two travelers, Jesus tried to make sense of things. He explained to them how the scriptures prophesied everything that happened to the Messiah. But they still had no idea who he was. Then something happened. And this is a critical point: they invited him to dinner. Now, it would be typical to invite a kinsman to dinner – a relative. Or possible, if you are traveling with someone from your hometown, you might invite them to dinner. But a stranger? It was not normally done – so the invitation was generous. And notice if you will, that they had to urge him to come. It was a serious invitation; they really meant it.

And when they invited Jesus, he came. This is a point to remember – Jesus cannot resist a true invitation. If we invite him into our homes he will come. If we invite him into our hearts, he will come.

So Jesus comes to dinner. Rather an intimidating dinner guest. Probably Jesus seemed to them to be a rabbi, for he had interpreted the scriptures. And so they gave him the honor of breaking the bread. And Jesus broke the bread and blessed it and gave it to them. And then, at that moment they recognized him.

This is another point worth remembering: they knew him in the breaking of the bread. This is central to us as Christians, and something we embrace in the Episcopal Church – the breaking of the bread. During communion we pay special attention to the breaking of the bread. We remember what Jesus said at the last supper when he broke the bread, and even more – we especially ask God to be present, to send the Holy Spirit upon the bread and the wine. And something happens. There are a lot of fancy words that have been created to try to describe what happens. All I know is that the bread and wine become more than the elements they are, more than the symbols they have become. They seem to somehow be infused by the Holy Spirit.

It is not unusual for people to have powerful experiences of God at the time of communion or the time following communion. Many people have a sense of light or joy, sometimes a very strong connection with God. This happens to me every once in a while. This is my story:

My family was enjoying a good church home. We had friends there. We heard the Gospel. Our children had been baptized. We got involved. I was on the altar guild and Chris was ushering. Our priest was a really good person. One day after communion I was kneeling and giving thanks for this abundance, and giving thanks for our priest. A voice said to me, “You are supposed to do that too.” I looked up fast: there was no one nearby me. No one giving me a knowing look. I quickly came up with what I considered to be a pretty good list of twenty or so reasons why I could not do so, and why it was just not a good idea for me to ever be a priest, and why perhaps I had made the whole thing up. I didn’t hear any more voices, so I figured I was clear. The next day at work, a friend came into my office just before lunch time. She had gone to the Christian bookstore and had a strong desire to buy a book for me. She handed it to me; it was called Wake Up and Preach. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t say a word. I just sat down with my knees shaking. Years later, here I am.

Communion can be a powerful thing. Sometimes people actually have revelations. Often people have a sense of peace and comfort. One person I know had a vision of angels following communion at the Cathedral. I know another that always has hymns floating through her mind as she takes communion.

I want to be clear though, that the power of communion is not so much the manifestations of the spirit. Manifestations of the spirit can be wonderful, but the power of communion is in the real presence of Christ. We have said: Come, Lord Jesus! We have said: Be known to us in the breaking of the bread! And Jesus, who simply cannot resist an invitation, shows up.

Come Lord Jesus. Enter our hearts and homes, and be known to us in the breaking of the bread! Amen.