On The Road…

April 30, 2017
by Rev. Melanie Homan

      LHUMC 4-30-2017 Sermon

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“On the Road…”

April 30, 2017

Rev. Melanie Homan

Luke 24:13-35

 13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The last two weeks of worship have been inspiring. We’ve had spirit-filled services that can best be described with words like “joyful”, “celebratory”, and “moving”.  After remembering Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, we land on resurrection.  At our youth sunrise service, (that, thank God, was not at sunrise), Natasha Richter, one of our youth, preached.  Wow, did she hit it out of the park!  I never get to listen to someone else preach good news on Easter!  So, it was a gift to me personally, but I know it was a gift to everyone who heard her.

If you’re thinking, “Well gee, I missed it” and you didn’t get to hear her, then I encourage you to check out our website and sermon page. You can both read AND listen to her message!  Afterwards, I sent her a note thanking her for her words, and she said, “If you ever need a junior pastor, you know where to find me!”.  My heart about burst with pride because I see in her a call to ministry, and I see all of you supporting and celebrating that.

From there, we moved into traditional Easter worship, with all of the tulips and hydrangeas, colorful banners, and the music. The music that evokes in us what words cannot express.  The bells, the brass, the band…and then there’s Handel’s Hallelujah chorus.  We had so many people singing, we ran out of copies!

And THEN, when you thought that nothing could be a more perfect conclusion to Easter worship than sitting and listening to Kathy play Vidor’s Tocatta she turned it up to an 11 by adding in brass. Perhaps you joined me in leaving worship, feeling like you were walking a few inches above the ground.

And THEN, last Sunday we had the GodsKids and Cherub choir musical. Now there’s some resurrection joy!  Our children sang their hearts out and danced and shared the story of Moses and the Freedom Fanatics with their protest signs!

And today, we got to hear from Rosey. Rosey, who moved to Minnesota just a couple of years ago and didn’t know anyone here, who was maybe a little bit shy (or a lot bit shy), and she told me she wanted to be a pastor for a day.  Rosey…I’m thinking you might not be a pastor for a day, but a pastor for life!  You are pretty amazing!  And, I want to be clear – it’s not just for Rosey.  If anyone else wants to be a pastor for a day – just let me know.  We can make it happen.  Doesn’t matter your age – it’s our job and the promise we make to each other in baptism, to support each and every one of you as you figure out how to live out your call and your vocation in life, .  Aall the while making sure you know how much God loves you as we love God’s world and God’s people.

The season of Easter is GOOOOOOD! Praise God, the Spirit is alive and moving!  We are in this season of joy and hope and new life, and yet that is NOT what we hear in our scripture reading this morning.  This passage – otherwise known as the walk to Emmaus – is not one of joy.  These two people – who followed Jesus and centered their lives around him – are making the long, seven mile hike back to their home in Emmaus from Jerusalem.  Their teacher was killed, there were these stories running amok of an empty tomb with no body, and they were discussing it…trying to understand.  The Greek in this passage from Luke is used to describe a deep, rational review of all the details.  They are clear-headed in their review of what they know.  But, they just don’t know what to make of it.

The women tell them that Jesus is alive. But, to their rational minds, it is simply NOT POSSIBLE.  It’s not like the women said, “Jesus is alive!” and the men responded by singing out in four part harmonies of hallelujahs.  No!  The 11 disciples were locked up in a house in Jerusalem in fear.  And these two, like others, were returning to their homes.  As they walked that seven mile road, talking, they were disappointed.  They were heavy with disappointment.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” They are walking forward, and they are disappointed.  It will only be later, when they are able to look back, that they will understand what WE already know – that the stranger who walked and talked with them was Christ, with them and alongside them in their walk of despair.

I think it’s important to remember that even as the women were beginning to celebrate and understand that something new and good was happening, that not everyone was in the same place. The two walking on the road did not yet understand that something new and good was happening.  There were three words that they said to the stranger that exemplified where they were at, and where we can sometimes find ourselves.

We. Had. Hoped. “We had hoped that Jesus was the one who would redeem Israel.”  Basically, we had hoped….and now all we know is disappointment.

Disappointment. We had hoped.  We had hoped this round of IVF treatment would work.  It’s the last one we could afford.  We had hoped to buy a house.   We had hoped for a different diagnosis.  We had hoped for a different election result.  We had hoped for a different college acceptance letter.  We had hoped.  What have you hoped for that hasn’t come to be?

I have had a knot in my stomach all week, as the judicial council of the United Methodist Church met to clarify church law as it relates to a lesbian Bishop serving out west, as well as ordination criteria for GLBTQI persons. After a week of meetings, their decisions were released on Friday, and I am deeply disappointed in the decisions.  We. Had. Hoped.  Many of us had hoped that the Spirit would finally redeem the church and transform it so that we could break free of exclusionary practices that are harmful to so many people.   Now all we know is disappointment.

Each of us has had those times when we’ve walked a road alone, or with others, and the words on our lips are ones of grief. Loss.  Disappointment.  We had hoped… It’s important to remember that there is a place on the road for dashed hopes, even when others are singing joyful alleluias and proclaiming the risen Christ.  And where is Christ?  Walking with the ones who are on the road of dashed hopes.

“Life can only be understood looking backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” For the two walking on the road, they finally realize the stranger they were talking to was Jesus, but only after they invited him to share a meal with them.  Only when he broke the bread were their eyes opened and they recognized him.  Then, all that talk on the road made sense.

So, what did they do?  They got back on the road.  But this time, they made the seven mile trek back to Jerusalem, where they joined with the disciples.  Even though they were heading BACK to Jerusalem, they were living FORWARD.  They were living into a future that wasn’t based on dashed hopes of the past, but on new hope for the future!  Their future would be drastically different from their past.  They were transformed!  Changed!  Change can be scary and exciting at the same time because when you’re living forward, you don’t know what’s coming next.  Except, you can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be the same as what it was before.  It won’t be all roses, either, as the early followers of Jesus found out.  But, it also won’t be all thorns.  Life is going to have both.  The road is going to have disappointment and joy and, like the two who walked the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus and then back to Jerusalem, it was the same road that offered them both.

That’s life. It’s never all good or all bad.  I love that Jesus was with those who were disappointed – they just didn’t realize it.  So, for those of you who find yourself on the road, with your head down, saying “We had hoped…”, you don’t walk alone.  Christ walks with you.

Particularly as it relates to the minutia of church law and the politics of trying to decide where God’s grace lands and where it doesn’t – I just can’t give my energy to it. I have a clear sense of the ministry God has called me to, and the extravagant grace and mercy available to all.  I’m going to live it out the best way I know how.  For me, that means telling our Bishop, who happens to be the President of the Council of Bishops – the closest thing we have to a pope in the Methodist Church – exactly what I think.  It means telling him not only what I think, but what I believe, and how I am living it out here at Lake Harriet.  While the larger institution of the church struggles to figure out how to live God’s grace, we are moving forward.  We are simply going to do what God is calling us to do and hope the larger institution will eventually catch up.

I’ve shared with the Bishop that “I ultimately want to meet the spiritual needs of as many people in our church and neighborhood as I can, with integrity.” Integrity, transparency, and honesty.  For me, that means being really clear with our Bishop about where I stand and encouraging HIM to stand for what is right.  I suspect that he, too, was walking the road on Friday with his head down, saying, “We had hoped…”

The Reconciling Ministries Network wrote, “These are stops along the way to inclusion and the eventual victory of the all embracing gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithfulness of United Methodists committed to ending discrimination is causing the church’s infrastructure to give way to justice and mercy, but currently we are enduring the labor pains that anticipate new life.” We don’t get to new life without labor pains.

“Life can only be understood looking backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” In our disappointments, Christ walks with us.  If you are on the road traveling with those who are grieving, saying “We had hoped”, keep an eye out for those who are around you, who walk with you.  Let them be a source of comfort.  And after you’ve had a chance to rest, to break bread with others, and to spend some time at home, may you find yourself returning to the road, living forward, heading to Jerusalem.  Joining in the celebration of new life and resurrection with those who’ve already experienced it.  Eventually, eventually – may we all make our way to the celebration.