Acts 2:14a, 36-41 & Luke 24:13-35
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
The scripture passages we have been reading in the lectionary these pass three weeks have really been hitting home for me.
I’ve been seeing interesting parallels to what took place two thousand years ago and what we are experiencing in 2020. In fact, maybe, they have been a little too on point.
Think about that first Easter. The apostles weren’t just hanging out, excited about Easter. They had no idea if Jesus’ promises were true. They didn’t know how the situation would turn out. They feared for their livelihood, and many cases their lives. Their had no idea if there was anything left to hope for. They were practicing their own kind of “social distancing” they were hiding out in one house. Afraid to go out or let anyone in. They had no idea how long they would be hiding or what was really going on with the world outside.
Because they knew the authorities knew where they were. They were worried that they couldn’t trust those in authority and that was probably a pretty wise thing to do.
We are in midst of a mounting death toll and so many unknows. To be honest, we still have a lot to fear. A lot of reasons to feel hopeless. And yet, if you look at the Easter stories you will notice that God always remains faithful when we are faithless.
Yes, we say that God is present in all times and places, but we’ve all had times when evidence of God felt scarce. Now might be one of those times. But when we stop our frantic searching, we may find that God is hiding in plain sight.
So often we fail to recognize the presence of the divine in our lives. Don’t we?
It’s like when you’re looking for something like -- your glasses and you turn your house upside down searching for them. It seems to all be in vain. Then, all of the sudden you realize, that they are sitting on top if your head. Or better yet, at the end of your nose. The obvious is not always the obvious until we see it.
The risen Christ and the glories of the resurrection are there for all to see, but we need the Spirit to point all out for us. Sometimes it is necessary not to be able to see in order for us to come to a place where we can say “Now I see!”
That’s why I love the account of the appearance of Jesus on the Walk to Emmaus and the supper that followed, as told in today’s Gospel. It is a poignant story of a pair of men, with their hopes dashed and spirits crushed … and the dawning of their awareness of the grace and presence of the living God alongside them.
Those disciples were so enveloped by their grief at loss of their friend, companion, teacher and Savior that they couldn’t imagine how God could bring anything good out of this precarious predicament.
How apropos. This story is emblematic of our current situation and maybe our spiritual life. Everything is a little destabilized and uncertain.
Today, we too wonder about the outcome of the situation we find ourselves grappling with right now.
As we venture through the long circuitous path of this coronavirus pandemic, how can it possibly be transformed into an “Emmaus Experience?”
How can our time of isolation become a moment of redemptive value?
This past Easter, four of us—took the items you, the members and friends of SAC collected for our Lenten Outreach Project, to the Jesus House. You may remember, we were gathering various food items to fill the 750 Easter baskets that were going to be given to our homeless brothers and sisters around the downtown area and beyond. But, when the virus broke out, we decided it would be easier to give those items to the Jesus House, where they could store them and distribute them, as needed.
Over 100 loaves of bread, 35 lbs. of meat, 1044 slices of cheese, 925 bags of chips,1000 bottles of water and 410 apples. One of the staff members of the Jesus House helped us unload and store the bountiful supplies in their warehouse and thanked us profusely. He told us that it was a God send. Because they had been running low on supplies and these “essentials” would provide needed meals for hundreds of needy people for several days. It was a miracle of sorts on what I thought was going to be an uninspiring Easter afternoon.
It was at that moment my eyes were opened and I thought, this is an “Emmaus Experience.” Jesus—the crucified and Risen One, will be made know when my brothers and sisters have an opportunity to “break bread.”
In earlier in April I listened to Dave Davies’ interview of Sam Sifton, food editor for the New York Times, on NPR’s “Fresh Air” where he stated, “There are precious few good things that are happening as a result of this coronavirus pandemic, but one of them - small as it may be - is that a lot of us are really experiencing the joys of eating together with family regularly. And for me, it's been kind of joyful amid all the sorrow.”
I said, that proves it, when we have an opportunity to participate in the “breaking of the bread” it can truly become an “Emmaus Experience.”
That’s why we as Episcopalians are longing for the day when we will once again be able to gather as a community of faith to hear the sacred stories that have shaped our faith and participate in sharing the bread and cup of the Messianic Meal that transforms us into Christ’s body for the broken world.
In the meantime, as we wait in longing anticipation for that day to arrive, we as a church, have an opportunity to participate in what can become an “Emmaus Experience” for others by our generous support of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
You may know that every day, some 656,000 Oklahomans suffer from food insecurity. That’s enough to fill the Chesapeake arena 36 times over. And as of the beginning of April, because some 50,000 people in our state are unemployed. The number of people need assistance has increased exponentially.
The difficulty for many, is that there no relief in sight.
So, at this critical time, the Vestry has set a goal of raising some $5,000 to matched dollar-for-dollar for a total of $10,000 to be given to food bank. This money will help alleviate some of the burden they are encumbered with at this time, and provided nourishment for those most in need.
In other words, the crucified and risen One will be seen by others in the giving of a meal, in the breaking of the bread and just maybe our eyes will be opened to realize his presence among us, as well.
So, it would lead one to believe that God is still speaking to us and acting in our midst even, right now. Amen.
A Sermon delivered on The Third Sunday of Easter
April 26, 2020