RCL Reflection, Third Sunday of Easter, Year A
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April 23, 2023
Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. -Luke 24:35
There’s a wise saying about life, that life is best lived in the present and understood in the past. When you think about it, there’s a lot of merit to that statement; if you spend too much of the present time planning for the future or worrying about the past, you aren’t able to see and enjoy the gift of each moment. And, it is only in looking back across the landscape of our past that we are able to make sense of the events and memories we hold.
Maybe the travelers on the road to Emmaus were caught in this all-too-human trap of not being fully present in the moment and attentive to the relationship at hand. Their hearts and minds were devastated by the crucifixion of Jesus. It had completely altered their lives, hopes, and dreams. On the road to Emmaus they were merely going through the motions, traveling through the day to get to the next one. Their hearts and minds were stuck in a memory loop of grief and pain–so much so that they couldn’t see the risen Lord walking right beside them.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, it’s tough to recognize folks out of context. There have been plenty of times that I’ve failed to recognize someone I met in a church setting because they were now in a store or restaurant. It’s only later that my mind is able to connect the dots and form a recognizable pattern of relationship. So maybe it’s not all that unusual that Cleopas and his companion fail to make the connection on a dreary walk away from the awful experience they’ve had in Jerusalem.
They see and recognize Jesus only in the blessing and breaking of the bread. This common act of hospitality, humanity, celebration, and nourishment sparks their neural synapses in ways that words could not. It takes the tactile and gustatory senses to bring the Messiah into focus before them. All the shards of their shattered faith, broken dreams, and motley memories coalesce in the loving act of blessing and the simple pleasure of sharing a meal. Just as quickly the present moment passes, and the “rearview mirror effect” kicks in to put everything in perspective. Suddenly it makes sense, all the teaching, the blessing and breaking of bread, the body broken and restored, and the story that must be shared.
Jesus is still showing up and bringing people moments of poignant clarity that can be fully expressed and shared only in the telling and recounting. Maybe it happens in baptism or the Eucharist, with the sacramental melding of divine word and ordinary earthly element. Maybe it happens on the road from nowhere to somewhere, or in a blinding storm, or dark night of the soul. It might even happen in the memory of ordinary, everyday saints and their extraordinary witness to the grace and mercy of God. Whatever you see and experience in the rearview mirror of your faith walk, know that it is a powerful story to share and tell. Soon the table will be set, the wine poured, and the bread blessed and broken for you. Go from that table. Share your story. Take a peek into that rearview mirror of the soul, and tell the world what Jesus is up to in your life.
Invite worshipers to consider what they have experienced in the “rearview mirror” of their faith walk. What faith story might they have to share with others about how God was at work, even when they couldn’t see or understand it? Invite them to share the story with someone in a pew close by.
What does it mean to be “born anew”…”through the living and enduring word of God”? Have your youth read this week’s epistle passage from 1 Peter (1:17-23) and think about how Jesus’ grace and mercy enable us to have “genuine mutual love” so that we may “love one another deeply from the heart.” What does it mean to look at God not as the “one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds,” but through the lens of Christ’s saving grace? Are we too often like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, caught up in our own lives and situations, and not able to see Jesus Christ in action in our own lives and world?
Consider using Psalm 116:1-2 with the children as a way to talk about praying to God as a two-way street, as real communication. God listens to us, wants to hear from us, and desire that we love both God and one another. So if God listens to us, how do we listen to God? Silence? Scripture? Preaching? Teaching? The sound of the wind, birds, and trees? Our parents’ instruction and guidance? Invite the children to share their ideas. Finish with a prayer and ask them to listen for God in the week to come.
(Photos: adogcalledstray, Denise Krebs, and Ted, Creative Commons)