I invite you to remember with me today. I invite you to remember a person or
people who were especially precious to you who have died. It doesn’t matter
who they were, just that they were a vital part of your life. As you remember,
remember what they looked like, how they talked, remember their funny quirks,
how they used their hands or a unique expression on their faces. And remember
special moments – moments when what they said or did was so important to you
that you will never forget it. Remembering those precious people in our own lives
can give us some sense of what the disciples felt as they walked on the road to
Emmaus on that first Easter evening.
They had given up everything to follow Jesus and had bet their lives on his being
the Messiah. They had seen him teach and heal people, but most of all, they
had known his love. Jesus knew each of them deeply and loved each of them
without limit. And Jesus taught them that God’s love for them was like that –
infinitely deep and unchangeable. So they were sure that when they came to
Jerusalem and Jesus let people know who he was that he would be welcomed and
celebrated as the Promised One. But after that triumphant entry into Jerusalem,
it all fell apart. The people who had hailed him turned against him quickly, and by
Friday, he had been captured and tortured and killed. Not only had they lost their
best friend in the world, but they had lost the hope they had for the Kingdom
of God coming into the world. The shock and horror and grief must have been
But if all that weren’t enough, some of the women disciples had come back from
the tomb that morning and told them that Jesus was alive. This must have been
just one thing too many, and some of them decided to take a walk to Emmaus,
where one of them had a home. They probably just needed to get away, to go
somewhere other than Jerusalem. And as they walked, talking about everything
that had happened, they were joined by a stranger, who asked them what they
were talking about. Amazed that there was anyone who didn’t know, they told
this person about Jesus and what had happened to him.
And then, things started to get strange. Instead of being sympathetic, the stranger
scolded them for their lack of faith, and then proceeded to explain the scriptures
to them. He taught them the way Jesus had taught them, and they felt all the joy
and excitement they had felt when Jesus was alive. When they got to Emmaus,
the disciples weren’t ready to say good-bye, but urged the stranger to stay with
them for supper and the night. And when they sat down to supper, it happened.
In a way only Jesus could have known, with words Jesus had used at the Last
Supper, the stranger took the bread and blessed it and broke it and shared it with
them. This was unmistakable. This WAS Jesus. Jesus was alive. And they rushed
back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.
We recognize people we love by those things they do that no one else does, or no
one does the same way. And what we remember is what those things symbolized
for us. I remember a favorite teacher who would almost giggle with delight when
he heard a really fascinating idea. I remember that giggle as a symbol of how
deeply he loved learning and teaching. What was it that Jesus did and what did
it mean? It wasn’t just the breaking of bread, it was the blessing and sharing that
made them recognize him. And, of course, it wasn’t just the physical act, but all
that it symbolized to them – they knew that, like the bread, Jesus had allowed
himself to be broken for them. They knew that Jesus had poured out his life in
love for them. Jesus had loved them in a way that no one else had or could.
As Christians, we believe that Christ is alive and is still among us. Like the
disciples, we forget that, or don’t really believe it. But the signs of the Risen Christ
are all around us. How do we recognize them? What can we look for? Well, let’s
look at what Jesus did while he was on earth in a human body. He taught people
to love. He taught people to forgive. He healed people who were sick or in any
kind of human pain. And, most of all, he gave of himself. He came as a servant,
and gave all he had – even his own life – for every human being.
So that’s what we need to look for. Christ lives in those who love and who teach
others to love. That’s not just teachers, but parents and friends. Christ lives in
those who forgive – in those who forgive us and, in us, when we forgive. Christ
is the healer and lives in those who bring physical and emotional and spiritual
wellness to others. And, most of all, Christ lives where people pour out their lives
in service to others. We have extraordinary examples of that in the saints – both
in times past and now. But Christ does not just live in the superheroes of the faith.
Christ lives in us when we pour ourselves out in love. We may not do it very well,
we may not do it very often. But whenever we deny our own desires for the sake
of another, we are embodying Christ.
Today, we are doing two things that are related to this. The first is our offering of
our time and talent for the life of this community. It is a chance to learn a little
more of what it means to love, not just in word or sentiment, but in real, practical
terms. We are reminded that love, justice and peace are all verbs, that we are the
hands and feet and heart of Christ in this world.
The second is the baptism of Colin Daniel Strauss.[which we will do at the 10:30
service]. What his parents and godparents and we, his congregation, promise to
do today is to teach him how to recognize Christ – in himself and in others. He will
learn as each of us learns, by being loved and forgiven and supported by others,
learning to see the face of Christ in every person, and learning how to serve
others as Christ served us. We do this because we want Colin to share the gift that
we have been given, being brought into the family of Christ and made children of
God and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let us pray:
Be present with us, Lord Jesus, in scripture and the breaking of bread, as you were
present with your disciples. Help us to recognize you here, in the world, in every
other human being and, most importantly, in our own hearts.