We are still in the season of Easter, still celebrating resurrection, even though the chocolate bunnies are probably devoured. Today we are on the third week of Easter, which has 7 weeks, but the passage we focus on backs us up to that first day of Resurrection. We hear about two disciples who are walking along a road. They do not yet understand all that has happened. They are distraught. They know about crucifixion, they know about the body being missing, but they do not know about resurrection. When Jesus comes and asks them what they are discussing they stop and their faces are downcast. These are people who are grieving, these are people who are walking a road of lament. We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel, but they crucified him, they tell the stranger walking with them.
I think a lot of us can identify these days with that phrase, but we had hoped. Things have not turned out how we thought they would. We had hoped to have so many things that we do not have during this time. We had hoped for life to carry on as it had, we had hoped for this birthday party and this graduation, we had plans, a trip we wanted to go on, and now they are all taken from us. Remember when we thought maybe we would be back in church by Easter? We had hoped for so many things… and those hopes are broken right now.
Jesus, when he comes alongside this pair, who by the way may have been a couple, maybe Cleopas and his wife or partner, he does not immediately reveal himself. He even asks for them to tell him what they are talking about- as if he doesn’t know! But he knows that them talking about it, putting it into words, is part of what they need to do. So he listens to all they have to say.
And then he invites them to tie this story to their larger story, the whole story of the people of God, and he makes connections for them to help them see that it’s not that they were wrong about Jesus and who he was, but to show them how and why suffering was part of his path, not only victory. It is the way God has always done it Jesus seems to have explained. God comes near and shares our experience, just like Jesus did as he listened to them pour out the hearts about all of their broken hopes.
But the moment they get it is not in the explaining. It is how they invite him to be their guest at the house they were going to, and he goes and does that thing he had done so many times before. Throughout Luke, Jesus eats. He is found at the table with Pharisees and sinners and his disciples and Zaccheus – more than any other gospel, Jesus in Luke eats. He is even accused of being a glutton- an overeater- and a drunk –towards the beginning of his ministry because he is eating so much. And it seems he has done this before- taken the bread and broken it, saying the traditional prayer of thanksgiving to God- Baruk atta adonai eluheynu Melech ha olom- there’s the one bit of Hebrew that has stuck with me since college- that is traditionally the host’s role, to break the bread, to say the prayer. In that moment of ordinary fellowship, of eating together once again, of taking the role of host even though he is a guest- that’s when the two disciples get it.
It’s Jesus. Right there with them. Alive. Resurrected. The impossible has happened. And so they get up and return at once to Jerusalem. It was already getting late, they had said so to Jesus, it was time for the evening meal and some rest- but they can’t keep this good news to themselves-they go back to tell the others.
I love that part of the story. How Jesus is revealed when he breaks the bread. When he is joined with them in fellowship, about to eat good food, that’s when they know it’s him. Not when he was explaining the Scriptures, giving them theology and understanding- although they will say, weren’t our hearts burning within us, all the wonderful things he was saying. The moment of truth is in that simple moment of an ordinary meal. Like so many Jesus had shared before.
I love that part of the story, because it is so true for us also. When we are gathered together and share the ordinary moments of our lives, Christ is among us. We can do beautiful theology and have wonderful insights, sometimes even put them into words that are stirring, but Jesus comes most clearly when we do the ordinary thing of eating together, sharing ordinary life together.
So this part of the story has been painful for me to ponder this week. Because I miss being with you. I miss sharing our lives together. I miss eating with you and seeing you and yes touching you, handshakes and sidehugs and pats on the shoulder. A lot of how I sense God is in those moments, being able to be present with one another.
And we can’t do that right now. We need to not do any of that, for stopping the spread of this awful virus, to protect the vulnerable among us. But it hurts.
It feels, even though we are celebrating resurrection, like we are still on that road, that long dreadful road of telling the story of our broken hopes, with faces downcast.
But even so, brothers and sisters- it turns out, that it was Jesus all along. He was walking right there with them, even when they couldn’t see that it was him.
Because Jesus had broken the bread, his body had been broken, and God made him whole again. God would make all of their hopes fulfilled- even more than they thought possible. Here was the Messiah who suffers with, who is broken, who shows them he understands brokenness and that God doesn’t shy away from our brokenness- but comes so so close. Takes it on. Becomes broken. I can’t know for sure just what Jesus told them but I am pretty sure it had something to with that, a complete incarnation that must include death. So that God could then do that great work that we call resurrection, we call triumph we call salvation.
How God goes all the way through the brokenness to make everything whole again. And when these two disciples see the truth of it in the bread he has broken that represents that broken body now resurrected so that he can eat- They jump up from the table, go back on that same road, tell the others what happened on the way, and that he was revealed in the breaking of the bread- that Jesus is alive- and then Jesus will surprise them again and come among them right then and there. This goes beyond what we read for today but it turns out Jesus was still hungry , he asks them for some food- in Luke’s gospel Jesus sure knows how to eat!
I’m reading another novel now, and it is really good. It is really complicated, too, stories layered upon stories and metaphors that are characters- it’s hard to explain. But one line stuck out to me- “it is broken,” one person characters says to another- “how do I fix it?” The other responds and the first speakers says “There is no fixing. There is only moving forward in the brokenness.”  Which I think is beautiful and true. With Jesus, there is moving forward in the brokenness, that is transformational and restores our hope.
While Covid -19 is wreaking havoc like we haven’t seen before- this isn’t the first time that hopes have been dashed and broken in human history and it won’t be the last. It isn’t the first time we experience brokenness as humans and while I hope it is the last we see anything like this- it won’t be the last time we experience brokenness of some kind. But no matter what we are going through, God comes and walks right along with us, like he did in Jesus, like Jesus did on that walk to Emmaus, like he was broken and how he broke the bread. I’m holding onto my hope of being with you all as soon as it is safe, and then later even getting to do some side hugs and handshakes when that is safe again, and even eating together too!… in the meantime, May we find ourselves within this story of how God comes right into our broken hopes, and may our eyes be opened to how God is with us here and now- and if not-because sometimes just like those disciples we can’t see it in the moment- if not may we hold onto hope that someday we will see Jesus revealed, and all our greatest hopes will be realized. Amen.