Grace to you and peace, from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s late Easter afternoon, and two friends are walking toward a small village called Emmaus. Their hearts are heavy — even though they heard that Jesus was alive, they hadn’t seen him for themselves. Did all that really just happen? Was Jesus who he said he was?
As they are walking, Jesus comes among them, but they don’t recognize him. He starts up some small talk. “Hey guys, what’s new?” And the two disciples respond, “Are you kidding me? You must be the only one that doesn’t know what happened around here in the last few days!” Then they begin to tell the full story of Jesus, a prophet of God who would redeem Israel, who was put to death, and who might just be alive.
As evening sets in, the disciples ask this stranger to stay with them. After all, it’s not safe to walk the streets alone at night. So they share the meal they had brought along, and as soon as Jesus breaks the bread, their eyes are opened. They see him and believe all that Jesus had foretold. This Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet of God who would redeem Israel, who was put to death, is alive again.
Once they recognized him, Jesus vanished from their sight. They immediately went out and told the others that they had seen the Risen One — that he was revealed to them in the breaking of the bread.
I wonder how often I’ve been walking with Jesus, and have not recognized him. I wonder how many times I’ve shared a meal with someone, and not seen the Risen One in our midst.
We like to say that “where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, he is there in the midst of them” — and I believe that to be true. But there is something unique about gathering together around a meal. There is some special way that Jesus is present when we break bread and share a cup.
Maybe it’s because the Risen Christ is our true companion. Y’all know where that word comes from, right? Companion — con panna – ‘with bread’. Jesus is the one who is present whenever we gather around a meal. He is present with us when we share our resources with a stranger. He is present with us when we tell stories of God’s redemption.
Through the seven weeks of Easter, we will hear more and more stories of the Risen One encountering ordinary people like you and me. I hope that you will tell others about this Risen One — the one who turns weeping into joy, the one who turns sin into righteousness, the one who turns death into life. Amen.
This homily was preached at St Michael’s Episcopal Church in Trenton, NJ on Wednesday, March 30, 2016.