April 30, 2017-Broken Dreams, Broken Bread

April 30 2017 Sermon
Luke 24:13-35

“Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Expectations matter. Whether explicit or implicit, the expectations we carry into any encounter matter immensely. Our emotional life is deeply rooted and intertwined with the expectations we carry. Nearly every corner of our daily life carries some form of expectation or another. Perhaps it’s a schedule for the going on of the day which is sidetracked by an unwelcome distraction or emergency. Perhaps one expects a situation at work to end in a certain outcome and then when it concludes, it’s far from the hoped for resolution. Maybe you hope that a relationship with a friend will be different after your last reckoning but time and time again, you’re disappointed with the backstabbing and gossip. When these realities of the everyday square off with our missed expectations, we’re getting closer to the source of anger, frustration, and despair. Occasionally an event will exceed expectations and we find ourselves delighted, but that’s not where we find Cleopas and the unnamed disciple on the road.

On Easter afternoon, Cleopas, a follower of Jesus though not one of the closest twelve disciples is traveling with an unnamed friend just a few miles outside of Jerusalem. As the two travel together, they meticulously review the events of the past few days. Certainly, there was plenty to review: news of the Last Supper, the arrest and trial of a Jesus by the High Priest and Pilate, the crucifixion, the burial, and the newest news reported by the women on Easter morning. This is not casual conversation but deliberate examination of evidence to make sense of Jesus’ life in light of Gods covenantal promises to Ancient Israel.

In the midst of this exchange, Jesus comes alongside the two travelers though his identity is not yet known to them at this point. What are you discussing? Is this a conversation that I can join? Jesus’ question stirs the prevailing sadness in the hearts of the these two followers. Cleopas begins to share the events of the past few days when Jesus indicates he is not aware of the unfolding drama in a Jerusalem. Cleopas doesn’t hesitate in identifying Jesus as one of the prophets like Moses, Jeremiah, and Elijah. He was great in power and deed. Then Cleopas raises the stakes recalling the messianic hope of ancient Israel that was made all the more urgent as a people under foreign occupation and oppression.

Many 1st century Jews were hoping that a new King David would arrive on the scene to drive Rome out of town with force. This is the messianic hope. Someone sent by God will restore the nation to its former glory and freedom. It was looking more and more like Jesus was the one who would fulfill this expectation that large swaths of folks held as part of their religious practice.

We had hoped. We had hoped. What a phrase weighed down with disappointment, regret, and disillusionment. Rarely do we hear such clear expressions of disappointment from each other’s lips. But I think ‘we had hoped’ captures deep disappointment that pervades our corporate and individual lives that we rarely speak of.

Last week, I shared the story of Union Avenue United Methodist Church that closed its doors in Memphis, TN back in 2010. Every time a church closes, it’s an occasion packed full of disappointment, of ministry that never occurred and buildings that no longer resonate with the laughter of children. Can’t you hear lines like this? ‘We had hoped that a younger pastor would bring in families with children’ or ‘we had hoped that we would watch our children and grandchildren grow up here but the neighborhood changed so quickly.’ I hope none of you ever walk that journey of a church moving toward closure; among the body of Christ, there are brothers and sisters who know these dashed hopes when they speak of their beloved church.

As present as those dashed hopes are in churches or business ventures that didn’t survive, dashed hopes and unmet expectations are far too present in marriages and relationships with family. I’ve been counseling a young couple the past few weeks as they prepare to celebrate their wedding in this sanctuary in a June. We’ve spoken extensively about family relationships, the marriages of those around us, the marriages we’ve seen flourish over decades, and marriages that became deeply fractured. My highest hope for all of you who are married is that each day you seek to fulfill the vows you made to your spouse: to love in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer, forsaking all others until parted by death. The fullness of these vows can point past the married couple to God’s love at work in the world. Marriage can be a visible sign of growth in Gods grace.

I long for every couple that meets at this altar to vow love to God and one another to last for the long haul. The stark reality is that many couples who marry will divorce and this is heartbreak for the family and surrounding friends. Divorce shatters dreams of what a relationship could have been and there is an inherent sadness and grief that accompanies this disillusionment. You can imagine the lines: ‘I had hoped we could make it work’ or ‘I had hoped it would be amicable at least until the kids graduated from school.’

And so many know the torturous ways of hope like a family I met at the children’s hospital as hours turned into days as they waited and watched monitors for a miracle. Their loved one had suffered head injuries from a motorcycle accident and was in a most critical condition. Over weeks worth of visits, I saw spirits of family at the bedside lose tenacity as they voiced their disappointment that God hadn’t reversed the child’s brain damage. Hope for a full recovery turned into coping with the extensive suffering and impairment that resulted from the accident. Their grief was made heavier as they began recognizing the ways in which their beloved could no longer engage the world in sports, riding four wheelers, and chasing cousins around the yard. They had hoped for so much more than they had.

We know these dashed hopes in one form or another and often they are terrible to experience. The end of Jesus’ ministry is one of those experiences for his followers. It disrupts their understanding of the world. Then Jesus begins recalling the law and the prophets to his co travelers so they might understand the disillusioning events. When it’s time to part, Jesus is invited to share in the evening meal. Unexpectedly, he takes bread, gives thanks, breaks and gives it. The veil is lifted and now Cleopas and the unnamed know they are in the presence of the Christ who others had already declared as free from death.

“And it is to these heartbroken disciples that the Risen Christ comes, walking along with us on the road, astonished that we don’t see as we ought, teaching us the Scriptures that we may understand, sharing his presence through bread and wine, and granting burning hearts that prompt us back into the world.” (David Lose, ‘Broken Before Burning’)

It’s not that Christ erases all suffering and disappointment in the lives of disciples or even makes their suffering redemptive. On the road to Emmaus we do see Christ coming alongside his followers and taking time to be present to them heavy in grief. Wherever you are on your journey, Christ will meet your broken spirit, fractured heart, or hurting body just as it is. He may not heal it the way you want but he will invite you into a deeper love and understanding of Gods ways every time you come to experience his presence in the meal we are about to celebrate.

Bless you in the name of Almighty God. Amen.