Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Slow burning hearts. . .
The Gospel presents us with another odd story. Jesus cautioned people to keep quiet about Him before the cross but after Easter they are commanded to speak all that they know. Yet here on a dusty road to Emmaus, the disciples don't have the whole story. Jesus is the one who must unravel the story and fill in the gaps of their faith. These people knew about Jesus but they did not know Jesus.
The Gospel describes them as slow of heart. Perhaps we might define slowness of heart as the tension between desire and reality. These folks on the road were very clear on what they wanted Jesus to be. They thought He was the One. They had hoped He was the Redeemer they longed for. And then the cross happened. They could not reconcile their hopes with the reality of the cross.
What they saw conflicted with the Savior they wanted. So their faith was on hold when the Jesus they wanted died on the cross. Like Thomas last week, they were left with their disappointed hopes and their very real fears. We hoped Jesus was the One but then He died and with Him our own hopes and dreams of redemption. So they did not recognize Jesus in their midst. They did not see Him; therefore they did not know Him.
We still wrestle with the tension between what we want and the cross. We don't want to suffer. We don't want to deny our selves. We don't want to sacrifice. We want a freedom which indulges us. Instead we get the cross. Not only the cross where Jesus suffered and died but the cross we are called to take up and bear in His name.
Jesus opens their eyes but not by jumping up and down and waving His arms and shouting to them. No, Jesus opens their eyes by walking them through the Word. We are told that Jesus opened to them the Scriptures beginning with the prophets and all the way through to what they knew had happened. Our eyes are opened in the same way. Through the Word of the Lord.
Jesus calls them to repentance. The slow of heart confess their slowness to believe, confess their fears, and confront their doubts. They did not hide them but openly spoke of them. This is also true of us. We make no progress in faith by hiding our doubts and living a sham of a life. Bring them to Jesus, admit them to Him, and give them to Him. That is how faith grows.
Jesus breaks bread with them. Now lest we miss the significance of this, they did not share peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a picnic by the side of the road. Breaking bread in Scripture means Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar.
They heard Jesus speak what we hear Him speak through the voice of the Pastor each week... This is my Body... This is my Blood. Jesus took them through the Scriptures and how they testified of Him and then brought them to the meal where Christ is host and food, priest and victim. And the Sacrament did what it always does – opens our eyes of faith to see Jesus!
We remain the slow of heart. Like Philip who got tired of Jesus's words and in frustration simply asked to see the Father, our great temptation is to disdain the means by which God is known to us and we receive the gifts of His grace. We go here week after week and then we go home to the same old problems. When is Pastor Peters going to say something that will make a difference for those problems. I can answer that. Probably never. What we want to see and know is different from what God wants us to see and to know, the tension between desire and God's reality continues among us.
We remain the slow of heart who daily wrestle with the great divide between what we think we know and what we want, and what the Word of the Lord says and what He discloses to us in the means of grace. What happened on the Emmaus Road is that those disciples left behind their wants and fears and met the Lord where the Lord revealed Himself. And then it was clear. Christ does not lead us to the answers, He is the answer.
Faith is kindled by the Word (from the Torah of Moses to the Revelation of St. John). Faith is born of the water of baptism where the Spirit teaches us faith, leads us to repentance, and shows us that we can leave our fears and doubts with the Lord. Faith is renewed when we hear His Word and accept His invitation to enter His presence and take the place He has prepared for us at His table. Faith is fed by His flesh given for the life of the world and our own food in this Holy Supper.
At the end of the story we find Jesus disappears – His visible presence is gone but the means of grace remain and with them faith, courage, comfort, patience, and peace. Freed from the prison of their wants and desires, they run back to town with the news. Christ is risen.
You and I will go home to the same problems and the same challenges. They do not change but we do. Christ is risen and in Him we too rise... from the water of baptism to the life of the forgiven... from the prison of our wants and desires to the freedom to believe Christ in His Word and meet Him in His supper. Friends, this is where we see Jesus, where we know Him, and where we are born from death to life.
Christ is Risen!