serving Towson, Morgan State and UMBC


Walking the road to Emmaus with Jesus

Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on May 2, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Luke 24:13-35

“We had hoped. . . “ That’s what the followers of Jesus said as they walked back to Emmaus. They were walking slowly- the way you do when you’ve got nothing to look forward to where you’re headed. We had hoped that this would turn out differently, they said to each other. And when a stranger starts to walk the road with them and asks them why their steps are so slow, these two say, “we bet all our hope on Jesus and we don’t know what to do next.”


We had hoped Jesus was the one that was going to save our people and overthrow the Roman government. We had hoped he was the one to bring change or at least bring some judgment on those who were making life miserable for us. We didn’t expect to be walking back from the place of his death with nothing to show for it. We had hoped that this wasn’t the end. But it’s been 3 days and Jesus isn’t coming back to us. He isn’t showing up. And we’re about done with this hope thing.


And I bet a lot of us know that same feeling. Some days we just don’t have the strength to hope anymore. Some days we’re walking back home after our loved one has died saying, “we had hoped that our prayers would be answered. That we would be rejoicing instead of crying.” We had hoped that we would find a job before the bills came due. We had hoped that justice would finally come rather than life continuing on as it always has.


And sometimes, as unholy as it sounds to us, we lose hope in Jesus showing up. Because we had hoped that following Jesus was going to suddenly make things different. Make it better. But we’re walking around with all the mess still in front of us. And we don’t have much trust that things are going to change. Because Jesus is great and that’s why we trusted him and followed him. But we don’t see him right here with us, right now, which is where we need him to be. We aren’t seeing the change that we hoped Jesus would bring. And there may be days when we just don’t have much strength to hold onto faith anymore.


Anybody know what that’s like? When we just stop thinking any good is coming to us. When we stop trying. We just start walking aimlessly back to our lives. Going through the motions. That’s right where these travelers are when a stranger comes along to walk the road with them. But instead of walking in their despair with them, he starts talking about Scripture. Making all those Scriptures that they scratched their head about make sense. (Wouldn’t you like that!) And making the Scriptures come alive- as if they were speaking right to the hearts of these two Jesus followers. This stranger spoke with words so powerful that he made the love and hope of God into something alive and active. Something that changed how they were walking. Something that spoke to their soul and revived them.


They were being changed on the road and they barely noticed when they actually got to where they were going. And then they didn’t want the moment to end, so they invited this stranger in for a meal, since it was getting dark. You’ve shared life with us on the road, they say. Come share a meal with us, now. And maybe you can keep sharing this hope of God with us. Because we need it.


And “when Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” Doing just what he had done so often with his followers. On the hillside when 5,000 gathered. At the table with his friends before his death. And at so many normal meals with friends, strangers and enemies. And in that moment they recognized Jesus. He was here, with them. He was here, living out the same stories he had before his death. Speaking the same hope. Challenging them to trust God’s work and be a part of it. Jesus was still with them!


Their hearts are so filled up and ready for the life in front of them that they wondered why they didn’t recognize Jesus sooner! They said, “were not our hearts burning within us when he talked to us on the road?” And those burning hearts send them right out the door- even though it’s dark outside- because they can’t sit still with their hearts on fire! They run back in the middle of the night to tell their friends, “we have seen the Lord!”


That’s how I tell the story every single week to my college students at Towson. Every single week. It’s become my students’ favorite part of Tuesday night dinners, which is our main gathering at Towson. (And I’ve told it enough that my students have FINALLY gotten into their heads that these disciples are not going to Amadeus or Damascus or another place.) And the reason we tell this story over and over again is because we trust that this is not just a story of two travelers 2,000 years ago- this is our story. Our story of how Jesus keeps showing up to us.


Every week we tell the story and remind each other that we are these two followers on the road. And sometimes a stranger walks the road with us. And in those moments when we recognize Jesus right beside us, we get to run back in the middle of the night to our friends to say, “I have seen the Lord!” So after this story each week, we share the moments of God’s presence in our lives. Sometimes they are small things, like a glimpse of the flowers in spring that point us back to the God who brings life or a peace that came over us in the midst of painful times. And the presence of Jesus does even bigger things- from being given the strength to begin healing from an eating disorder to God putting a student with medical training in the right place at the right moment to care for someone who needed immediate help. And just this week one of our students talked about the courage that God gave her to intervene in a sexual assault on campus last week.


So every week we Jesus folk get together, we share the good news that Jesus keeps showing up. He comes in was we don’t always recognize, we don’t always understand at first, but he keeps showing up to walk the road with us.


And we do this every single week because sometimes we know we are, like Jesus tells the travelers, “foolish and slow of heart to believe” all that God has already told us through the stories in our Bible. Sometimes we are foolish and slow of heart to believe our neighbors who have testified to God’s presence in their lives. Sometimes we have been “foolish and slow of heart to believe” when Jesus has come up alongside us and walked the way with us. So we desperately need to be reminded that Jesus walking with us isn’t just a reality for the two followers on the road, it’s the reality for us, too. Over and over again.


And I’ve got to tell you- every week when I tell this story, I think that I’m going to be met with silence. But I’m not. Ever. And there are some weeks when I need to stop the conversation if we’re ever going to make it to our topic for the night!


Because Jesus keeps showing up to walk the road with us! When our hope is hanging on by a thread, Jesus comes to revive our souls and give us enough strength to keep walking. And to remind us that there is nothing in life that we walk through alone, no matter how painful.


When reading Scripture has just become going through the motions, Jesus will pull up beside us to make them into living realities instead of just words. He will help know our God’s relentless desire to love us and have us know God’s love in return. He will remind us of the incredible work God has been up to throughout our Scriptures: forgiving enemies, bringing justice for those who long for it and welcoming the outsider- so that we can have the strength to follow in God’s paths.


And Jesus, who never seems to turn down an invitation to sit down at the table and share a meal, will keep being known to us around the table, too. He will pull up a chair beside us when we share meals with those who don’t always get an invitation and with those we disagree with. Jesus will keep showing up to make our food enough- to fill up our bellies and our souls.


And most surely Jesus comes in the meal we share as God’s family together, at this altar. He promises that all of us weary travelers will meet him here and he’ll keep giving us the bread that sustains us.


We are those travelers on the road and Jesus keeps showing up to us. But do you know what happened when the two recognized Jesus? He vanishes from their sight. And they have nothing to hold onto. Except the holy bread that he gave them. Scriptures that are opened to them. And hearts that are revived. And this is enough to send them out to follow him in his forgiving, justice-bringing, enemy loving work in the world.


They don’t have proof to hold onto that will make all the world believe. But they have their stories. They have their hope and their courage to live their lives in the way of Jesus. They have hearts set on fire for God. They have their eyes open to a world where life conquers death, where love defeats evil, and where Jesus shows up for them in their despair.


This is what our risen Jesus does. Over and over again. May we train our eyes to recognize him when he comes and then run back to testify to our friends, “Truly I have seen the Lord!”


Categories: sermon