Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | May 8, 2011

2011.05.08 “And Their Eyes Were Opened” – Luke 24:13-35

Central United Methodist Church

The 3rd Sunday of Easter

“And Their Eyes Were Opened”

Luke 24:13-35

May 8th, 2011

[Sermon delivered by Intern Pastor, Elizabeth Sherfey]

Traveling down a long, winding path, which seemed to go on and on, I feared that I would never make it the whole way. It was a treacherous climb, and it was definitely a path that I had not been on before. Why had I decided to travel this way? I was already so tired, and it just seemed like the path never would end. I kept going, all the while lamenting over how hard it was. I had to take breaks, tell the others to slow down, but when I reached the top of that great mountain, I understood. I saw why I had chosen this path. It was a view unlike any I had ever seen. It was during this trek that I was able to show the youth to whom I was serving as their youth pastor a part of life, a part of nature that they really had not experienced. As we made our mile climb straight up a mountain, which is appropriately named Sharp Top, I found myself wishing that I had chosen something a little less strenuous for them to do. Yet, I knew that it was something that they needed to see, they needed to recognize that their world is much vaster and much bigger than they could imagine. Some of the youth were bounding around with ease anxious to reach the top and to see what was around the corner. There were others that just slowly went along taking things in and stopping to rest. Yet, I had one teenage girl who wanted to stop, who wanted no part of this journey. She sat down upon a large boulder and told me that she was not going to do it and that she hated me. She was one of my youth that had a lot happening in her life. I told her that she could go ahead and hate me, but I wanted her to reach the top. I wanted her to see, to know that she could, to know that there are much harder paths that she would have to journey, so I walked with her. Both of us huffing and puffing together up this mountain.

            In this morning’s Gospel text, it is still Easter morning. Two of the disciples of Jesus were leaving Jerusalem and were walking on the road, which led them to Emmaus. We only are given the name of one of the disciples: Cleopas. They left town and were headed along a very hard path. Jesus had been their teacher and master, but Jesus had been handed over to the Roman authorities. Jesus, was sentenced to death, and was killed how many other slaves, thieves, murderers, were killed at that time. He was nailed to a tree and left there to die. Their teacher was killed. They did not understand. Even still though, it was three days after his death, and they had heard the strangest news. The women had gone to Jesus’ tomb early that morning and as they reached the tomb, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. How strange that must have been. How terrifying. The women must have been greatly afraid and worried. But angels were there saying Jesus had been resurrected. Wow. Resurrected. The women then continued on their path excitedly and with renewed strength and energy and HOPE to tell the others, to tell Jesus’ disciples what they heard, what they knew, and what they had experienced at the beautiful empty tomb. When they reached the other disciples, they too ran upon the path to see for themselves. Could it be true? What does it mean, they wondered? They too saw the empty tomb, but they were slow to understand, slow to recognize. After all of this occurred, Cleopas and the unnamed disciple, were headed out of town, and they were filled with grief, filled with unanswered questions. As they were walking along their path, which seemed much more difficult, they talked about all that had happened. They, just as any of us would be doing, were trying to figure out what had happened. They had to process and examine. So, while they were discussing and arguing all that had happened, Jesus came near and begins to walk with them. The text tells us that the disciples were prevented from recognizing him, and then Jesus asks them what they are arguing about. Dumbfounded the disciples stop in their tracks and look saddened and discouraged. They could not believe it. They said that Jesus must be the only visitor in Jerusalem who had not heard all that went on. They began to tell him about Jesus. They shared that they believed this man to be a prophet, who was powerful in action and in speech. They told him that they believed that this, Jesus, was the One who they had hoped would redeem Israel. And Jesus, knowing that along this treacherous path, they needed guidance. He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken. Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” And as Jesus reminded them, he also taught them, much like he always did. He recounted for them all of scripture, from the time of Moses to the prophets all the things concerning Himself. The disciples reached their village, where Jesus appeared that he was going to go further. Yet, the disciples urged him to stay, for it was almost dark. So, Jesus stayed with them. As they sat down to have a meal together, Jesus still unrecognized by the two disciples, took bread, blessed it, and broke it. And their eyes were opened. They recognized him, but he then disappeared from their sight. They couldn’t believe it. It was Jesus. They immediately left to head back to Jerusalem to tell the others what they had seen, what they had experienced. Their hearts had been on fire when Jesus had been talking to them, and now for them, it made sense. The path that they had been on began as a sad, lonely road, which seemed had no end and no recognition. The disciples had forgotten the Way. They had forgotten why they were there, why they must travel on paths of joy and purpose rather than ones of despair. As Jesus guided them back, he showed them the way. He began to lead them, even when they were prevented from recognizing him.

            In today’s world, the Church often is on the wrong path, we become bogged down. We lose sight of the way in which we are to go. We often take the side roads or the easy way, yet Jesus is there guiding us back. Many churches lose sight of what it means to be  the body of Christ. Often becoming wrapped up in the details that the world throws at us. We all know those details well. Paying the bills, keeping the electricity on, paying the pastor, making sure things continue to run and function how they are supposed to that we forget our ultimate goal, we forget the path. It becomes treacherous and foggy as we try to maintain these items, these things, that have to be maintained, but it is in maintaining them that we must remember the bigger task at hand. The reason that Churches must fulfill these sometimes menial tasks is so we can live our lives upon the path of love and of mission. This is what must drive us; this is what must lead us. Ultimately, Mission is what we are called to fulfill. We must live out the mission of God in the church and in the world. That means reaching out beyond what we know, beyond the people that we know, beyond the roads and paths that we are used to travelling. Even on the road that day, the disciples were holding onto a Jesus that they wanted. One that would be their redeemer against Rome, yet they had to be shown that Jesus is not some power or trite figure that they, even we want him to be. Oh no, Jesus is to be the redeemer of the world, and he comes to us in the mystery of the empty tomb, he comes to us in the breaking, blessing, and giving of bread, he comes to us when we confess our lives, our sins, and our desires to simply take the easy way. He comes to us through the many, many people who are broken, alone, poor, and in need. It is up to recognize him. It is up to us as the church to recognize them, to love them, to reach  out, instead of doing what sadly, the church does best, which is to continue walking by so focused on our own duties and lives, our own little community that we miss the world around us. We miss all those who are traveling on the path with us, weary and dragging from years of no one stopping to recognize them, to acknowledge that they too need help, need direction, need guidance and love, and mostly they need for the church to walk with them on the journey, however treacherous and uncomfortable it may be. This is the mission of  God. This is what the church must do.

            As I continued to lead the youth up the mountain, we finally reached the top. The view was unlike any other. You could see for miles and miles around. You could see the river below, other mountain tops, and the valley looked like it came out of the 23 Psalm. The girl who had been so set upon stopping, who told me she hated me, kissed me on my cheek and then said she loved me and that it was worth it to reach the top. Her path had been hard. The path up that mountain was really hard and strenuous, yet it is a moment that I will always remember. Walking along the paths of life, we as the church must be willing to take the roads that seem hard, that seem impossible even, it is there that we encounter the risen Christ, teaching us how to live, teaching us that we as the church and as his children must make the way for those who need us, for those too that need so desperately to encounter the risen Christ too, which means me must take paths that are sometimes, painful, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar. But, we in taking this path, we must know and remember that we are not alone, for Jesus is there with us, showing and teaching us the way.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference

…Robert Frost

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