Saturday, May 3, 2014

We had hoped...

Alleluia, Christ is Risen….

After preaching regularly for 30 years, I am pretty familiar with the lessons for Easter tide.  And today’s lesson (Luke 24:13-35) is one of my favorites.  And because it is so familiar it is easy to just say what I have always said about this passage.  But as I read this passage this week, some phrases jumped out at me.  And I tend to pay attention to such experiences when I am reading Scripture because it is the way that the Spirit often speaks to me.  

I would like you to take your bulletin home with you, or look up this passage in your Bibles during this week and re-read this resurrection narrative.  It is long, but it is so full of meaning.  There are layers of meaning here, and after a Holy Week full of the Gospel of John; we should be able to find in our readings much to stimulate our understanding of how God interacts with us.
 The two phrases that jumped out at me were “But we had hoped…and "Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight."

“But we had hoped…” is what the two walking along the road to Emmaus say to this mysterious companion on their journey.  They are obviously disciples of Jesus who
have experienced his death on the cross and feel deeply the dashing of their hopes for the future of Israel. It is easy to feel their confusion and grief.
 In my own experience it may have been similar to what I felt when John, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in a matter of a few years during my 20’s.  We had hoped…”  The dashing of hope is very difficult to support without becoming cynical or becoming dis-empowered to follow through with the goodness one is called to in life. 

We have had a bit of this here at St. Albans. Five years ago, we saw this legal battle as being one that would be over because we have a system of “swift justice” in our nation.  But with each step forward in the courts, it feels as we have gone two steps back.  We had hoped…”.  (On this I would like to say one thing:  Please don’t bother to read the press from the other side.  The former regime has its own particular spin on things that does not necessarily resonate with reality.)

Hope is the stuff of faith.  It is rooted in our relationship with God.  It is rooted in the journey we make with the Holy One.  Just like Cleopas and his friend, it is important to
get the real story.  Jesus, in mufti, fills them in about what has happened to the Son of the Living God.  He showed them in Scripture that what has happened was to fulfill what the Prophets had proclaimed for centuries.

 Jesus was not there to start a new religion but to show them that faith in God had always given hope even in the midst of their darkest hours.  For anyone who was devoted to the Holy One of Israel, hope came from trusting implicitly in the goodness of God, that God’s goodness would prevail.  
When we allow ourselves to succumb to hopelessness, and it is common to do so, it is incumbent on us to look to Scripture to repair the lines of relationship with the Holy One.  Hopelessness is not a mere feeling.  It is also is often choosing to not search one’s life for holiness, or the Scripture for mighty acts that God has done in the past, or availing ourselves of the grace in worship, or finding God’s love in the hearts of those who love God.  Most of all, when we are faced with hopelessness, we are being called to wait and remember.  We are being called to embrace the emptiness of our souls so that God can fill the void.

Last year while I was working at St. Martin’s, one of the high school kids who was very active in youth activities and Happening, asked me a question.  ‘Lauren, do you ever feel that Jesus is far away?”  “Yes,” I said.  “And to be frank, it is a place where I
have lived most of my life.”  She looked at me shocked and crestfallen.  She said:  “I don’t like it.  I want him to be close.  How can I get him back?”  I said, “YOU can’t”. God comes close when we are in need.  To have a mature faith, we must be willing to live in the hope that that closeness will return. And at the same time REMEMBER.

We can’t live on the warmth of Divine intimacy all of the time.   It is far too rich to have that familiarity on a regular basis. That would tempt us turn inward and not outward toward others, which I believe, is why Jesus came. 

The second passage that came to my attention was Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”

It is important that Jesus was recognized in the breaking of the bread.  By the time Luke wrote his Gospel about 70CE, evidently the Christian community was already celebrating a type of Eucharist, the feast of thanksgiving, as a ritual in their
gatherings.  The people who heard Luke’s Gospel understood that Jesus could be seen in the breaking of the bread.  It is in this communion of God with humanity that Christ is to be experienced.  It usually takes a long while to develop ritual.  But in less than a generation, breaking bread together was a sign of God presence among those who followed Christ. 

But this passage does something more:  it tells us that Christians cannot expect that
Jesus is always going to be close.  Jesus vanished from their sight once they recognized him.  Why?  Because we are not called to just sit around and discuss theology with the Holy One of God.  We are called by all of the resurrection stories to tell the message that God love is forever.  We are to share our hope in a God who presents to us the goodness of life and allows us proclaim that there is an alternative to the cynicism that life often leaves us with.  The experience of the Holy One of Israel propels us to live our lives in hope.  Walking with the Godhead offers us a chance to choose for goodness rather than wandering aimlessly and without companionship. 
What do the disciples do when they recognize Jesus at the supper table?  They don’t sleep on it.  They RUN BACK to Jerusalem to tell the others that they have seen the
Christ.  Eucharist, sharing in the body and blood of our Lord, compels us to share the hope that God’s love engenders in us.  We cannot contain that love.  We have to tell others in some way.  Whether we do it with words or actions doesn’t matter, but we are all called to share with others the greatness and the hopefulness living a life within the promise of resurrection.  

My young friend is now in college far away from home.  She has had to step into a
mature faith which can claim a faith that is supported by her own experience of Jesus, by the Scriptures that remind her of the promises of God, by the worship that allows her to ‘see Jesus’ in the breaking of the bread, and supported by other Christians who can retell the hope that God holds for her.

Hope is the work of all of us no matter what happens.  It is rooted in Jesus’ love, the love he poured out on Good Friday and the love he proclaimed in his resurrection.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen... The Lord is Risen, Indeed!  Alleluia.


Teri said...

good news indeed--thanks Lauren!

Sharon said...

I like the way you take hope from passively happening to us to being a work we are called to be about.

Thank you!