3rd Sunday of the Resurrection: “the Return From Despair”

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

116:3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.

116:4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, save my life!”

116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.

116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Luke 24:13-35
24:13 Now on that same day (“on the first day of the week” 24:1) two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,

24:14 and talking ὁμιλέω (homileō) to be in company with, associate with; to converse with, talk with, Lk. 24:1415Acts 20:1124:26
with each other about all these things that had happened.

24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,

24:16 but their eyes ὀφθαλμός (ophthalmos) were kept from recognizing him.

24:17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, ἵστημι (histēmi) a full STOP! looking sad. σκυθρωπός (skythrōpos) of a stern, morose, sour, gloomy, or dejected countenance, Mt. 6:16Lk. 24:17

24:18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger παροικέω (paroikeō) to dwell beside; later, to reside in a place as a stranger, sojourn, be a stranger or sojourner, Lk. 24:18Heb. 11:9
in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

24:19 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,

24:20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.

24:21 But we had hoped ἐλπίζω (elpizō) to hope, expect, Lk. 23:824:21; to repose hope and confidence in, trust, confide, Mt. 12:21Jn. 5:45
that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.

24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded ἐξίστημι (existēmi)

pr. to put out of its place; to astonish, amaze, Lk. 24:22Acts 8:911; intrans. to be astonished, Mt. 12:23; to be beside one’s self, Mk. 3:212 Cor. 5:13us. They were at the tomb early this morning,

24:23 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.

24:24 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.”

24:25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish  ἀνόητος (anoētos) inconsiderate, unintelligent, unwise; Lk. 24:25Rom. 1:14Gal. 3:13Tit. 3:3; brutish, 1 Tim. 6:9
you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! λαλέω (laleō) to make vocal utterance; to babble, to talk; in NT absol. to exercise the faculty of speech, Mt. 9:33; to speak, Mt. 10:20; to hold converse with, to talk with, Mt. 12:46Mk. 6:50Rev. 1:12; to discourse, to make an address, Lk. 11:37Acts 11:2021:39; to make announcement, to make a declaration, Lk. 1:55; to make mention, Jn. 12:41Acts 2:31Heb. 4:82 Pet. 3:16; trans. to speak, address, preach, Mt. 9:18Jn. 3:11Tit. 2:1; to give utterance to, utter, Mk. 2:7Jn. 3:34; to declare, announce, reveal, Lk. 24:25 et al.; to disclose, 2 Cor. 12:4

24:26 Was it not necessary δεῖ (dei) it is binding, it is necessary, it is proper; it is inevitable, Acts 21:22
that the Messiah should suffer πάσχω (paschō) to be affected by a thing, whether good or bad, to suffer, endure evil, Mt. 16:2117:121527:19; absol. to suffer death, Lk. 22:1524:26
these things and then enter into his glory?”

24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.

24:29 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.

24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

24:31 Then their eyes ὀφθαλμός (ophthalmos) were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

24:32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts
burning καίω (kaiō) to cause to burn, kindle, light, Mt. 5:15; pass. to be kindled, burn, flame, Lk. 12:35; met. to be kindled into emotion, Lk. 24:32; to consume with fire, Jn. 15:61 Cor. 13:3
within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

24:33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.

24:34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”

24:35 Then they told ἐξηγέομαι (exēgeomai) to be a leader; to detail, to set forth in language; to tell, narrate, recount, Lk. 24:35Acts 10:8; to make known, reveal, Jn. 1:18Acts 15:121421:19
what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Although initially, apparently, upon a cursory, primary reading, of this, yet another different Resurrection appearance report, from a source (Luke) whom we have not heard from in this year of Matthew complimented by John, since Christmastide now, with an entirely fresh, hitherto unknown, set of characters (Cleopas & co.), at a unique location (Emmaus), yet remarkably with a depth of consonance usually unknown in multiple witness report incidents. Today’s assigned gospel reading uncannily echoes those we have already heard. As the Risen One unexpectedly appears, manifesting himself in characteristically reliable ways, to invite his friends to believe. And this time particularly addresses himself to their & our all consuming grief.

Truly the Lord Is Risen! (24:34), (Alleluia! 24:32, Ps. 116:19 & John 20:20)” This was simultaneously, the common experience of those his first disciples, as the Risen One met them where they were at, both still reeling in shock, in Jerusalem, & out aimlessly(?) wandering on the road, on that first Easter day (24:33-35). St Luke does not tell us why this particular duo had chosen to set out on this journey. But perhaps we might suppose, that like Peter & the other disciples in another Easter story (John 21:1,3), these two having had their hopes dashed (24:21) were going back to what was familiar, returning to old habits & occupations, to what had been before the Lord had come into their lives. Maybe they were returning to what had been their home, before him.

In the first verse of today’s reading Luke reports this appearance occurred on “that day” (24:13), “on that (very) same day” (“on the first day of the week” (24:1) -& now, ever henceforth after, “the Lord’s day!”) in which Jesus had originally appeared to the street cred-less, myrrh-bearing women coming to attend to his corpse at the tomb. “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.” (24:22-24).  And earlier, in this same chapter, “and the women told the apostles. But these words seemed to the (male) apostles an idle tale, and they did not believe the women. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened” (24:10-12). All this in one day! So much to absorb! Leaving the disciples reeling in incredulity. Especially as it was unreliable (hysterical) women who were the first witnesses (& commissioned apostles! John 20:17,18). Enough to send one bewildered out stunned, aimlessly wandering. “Lets get out of here, get outside, perhaps a walk…” a feeling many of us  can currently relate to, in our cooped up shock & grief.

And this is exactly where (location, location, location!) in their bewilderment, the Risen Lord comes to meet them. “While they were talking and discussing about all these things that had happened, Jesus himself came near and went with them, (24:14,15). He seeks us out where we are at, not necessarily in our ability but precisely in our in(& dis)ability! 

And it is especially noteworthy the state in which the Risen One finds them, not just disbelieving (like Thomas), disbelieving the testimony of scripture (24:25), disbelieving (of the women-witnesses), not merely “astounded”, nor “amazed”, but having given up, hopeless (24:21). This is a descent beyond mere wonder. “But we had hoped ” they tell their as yet unrecognized companion. Hopes were now dashed. They didn’t even dare hope anymore. Death (this particular death) had crushed every glimmering spark from them. Leaving only listless Despair. They had given up. Their fuel reserves tank was not merely on red light warning low, they had crossed a line, they had passed over to empty. They had passed over into the place of the dead. Their world had unravelled, their world collapsed. No more hope. And there, the Risen One comes to meet them. They have not been abandoned. (John 14:1,18)

And we are acquainted with this grief.

Debilitating grief is no strange foreigner amongst us; to name but an obvious few of our griefs…

Our Heather’s “ex” since age 14.

Our Pamela’s 90 year-old aunt.

Our Susan’s life long best friend Linda.

Our John Roper’s lifetime hero Stirling.
Our Judi & Pamela’s husbands.

Our Alan’s wife.
Our Helen & Joan husband’s (& Norm’s in-law).

Our Sheila & Jack’s lingering grief over a daughter’s premature death.
Our Nova Scotia’s, Maritimes & all of Canada’s 23 tragic deaths of the week.

The still global accelerating mounting corpses of COVID -19 dead an underestimated 202,976.

Only this week a female disciple from our midst, Judi has testified;
I would like to share a bit of my perspective.  In late summer of 2015, my world fell apart.  My husband was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancers, and for the next 11 weeks, I watched him drastically deteriorate daily.  At that time, the only thing that kept me sane was remembering the words someone shared from a seminar that I had taken in the 80s’. This person quoted the biblical phrase “In ALL things give thanks”  and went on to say that it was easy to be thankful when things were going our way – but we needed to learn how to truly give thanks when things go awry.  Each morning as I got ready to face the day – with tears pouring down my face – I would face the mirror and affirm “I WILL give thanks for today – for it is one more day that I get to spend with my husband…”  And in the final analysis – we are each only given this day –  this NOW – to live.  Covid 19 has taught us that we truly do not know what tomorrow will bring – we only have today, and so I am learning to be thankful – for the phone calls from friends, for the sunshine, for my health, for so many things…
The (because our English lacks the refinement of this distinction I must particularly name it) female apostle Judi has recognized it/Him! It is, as the Risen One reminds us. It is right there in the historic witness of “all the scriptures, in Moses and all the prophets” (24:25,27). It is right there in today’s Psalm. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol (the place of the dead) laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.” (116:3) & again (116:15) “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.” Therefore, “I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” (116:17-19) & “What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, (116:12,13). The Risen One does not evade suffering & death. He is fully, personally, acquainted with our griefs. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.” (116:3). No, it isn’t easy. But the Risen One has fully embraced sacrifice (And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.Again he for the second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ … again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Matthew 26:39,42,44). Indeed, as the apostle today reminds us, he became the/our sacrifice (1 Peter 1:19). It isn’t easy. It isn’t easy, to, in the face of overwhelming suffering nor the hopeless despair of death, to embrace giving thanks. But this has become his sign, as surely as his wounded hands & side, this is how we recognize him “in the breaking of the bread” (24:30,31). In the very brokenness of the bread & in the cup of his suffering, the very cup of salvation.

That this is a Eucharistic story is evident by the language Luke uses; “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” (24:30). These are the very words that Luke elsewhere uses to describe the Eucharistic action; (Luke 22:19 & 24:30,Acts 27:35 & 1 Corinthians 11:23ff). In this time, in this time of our prohibition, in this time of our enforced fasting from the Eucharist, in this time of the absence of our Eucharistic celebrations, as we long for the Eucharist, literally “The Thanksgiving”.  We, the church, even daringly identify it as “THE GREAT THANKSGIVING”; the priest invites: “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God!”The Faithful echo affirmingly, (Amen-ing-ly!): “It is the right (the appropriate thing to do!) to give our thanks & praise”. (& thereby tell her/him to go for it! “Make thanksgiving!”) & thus s/he proceeds…”It is truly, meet, right, & our bounden duty, ALWAYS & EVERYWHERE to give thanks & praise to You Lord our God…” & thus the Eucharistic prayer, our greatest act of Thanksgiving evolves. And we are invited by the Risen One into another, unexpected thanksgiving, the thanksgiving of sacrifice, of rendering to the Lord, “not what I want, but your will be done”. It is by no means easy. But it is the mark of his Risen Life.

How might we people of privilege participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice of our Risen Lord? Can it be God’s will here on earth that we should take the precious gift of water so for granted while our sisters & brothers in countries like India or in Africa do not have adequate clean potable water to drink nor wash their hands to better protect their & their children’s health? Are we willing to pay the true price of products such as coffee or bananas so that our sisters & brothers of the south might have a just living wage to sustain their families? Are we willing to take immediate life style changes now so that our mother the earth can heal & all life on this our island planet home might be available for future generations & those other of God’s creatures with whom we share her? Is it God’s will that a few, the 1% hold an overwhelming majority of the world’s common resources while the many struggle to survive in poverty? Will only some, the few, get quality health care or are we all in this together? Can it be God’s will that some suffer, while we could prevent it? Will we continue to consume the best while our siblings starve? Dare we feast while others starve in famine? (James 2:1-13 & 5:1-6 & 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 & 33-34). Few amongst still remember the rationing that followed the second world war, or the deprivation of the great depression, nor the crippling threat of polio before modern inoculations, but such as these are still every day realities for many of our sisters & brothers around the globe. We must frankly ask ourselves, are we as people of privilege willing to have less so that others may simply live? It is imperative that we begin to consider how will we live thankfully, eucharistically in the face of the demanding death of COVID-19? Will we people of faith share in our Lord’s paschal sacrifice? “It would be a mistake to shore up the old structures and practices as things get ‘back to normal.’ We need to take advantage of this moment to let old things die, to experiment, to take risks and learn. Letting go of what once was, we let ourselves be led by God who is drawing us forward and into our future.”

And the Risen Lord is assuredly with us! “Stay with us, because it is night and the day is now over.” So he went in to stay with them.” (24:29). And while we may not, as yet, feast on his bread & cup, The Risen Lord also gives us something else; “believe all that the prophets have declared.It was necessary that Messiah should suffer these things and thereby enter into his glory!’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (24:25-27) & “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?’ “(24:32). In temporary lieu of his thanksgiving meal we have the feast of the Word. Let us participate in His thanksgiving sacrifice, confident our Father is in control despite surface appearances & relish what the Living One offers, His inSpiring, quickening Word. And longingly, yearningly, let us sing/pray, “Stay with us Lord, for the Day is done; Alleluia! Alleluia! Stay with us Lord, for the night has come; Maranatha! (“Our Lord Come!” -both invocation & acclamation, 1 Cortinthian 16:22), Be with us Lord in the death of night & make us rise with the morning light; Stay with us Lord, for the Day is done; Alleluia! Alleluia! Stay with us Lord, for the night has come; Maranatha! And in our dreams let us see Your face, that we may behold Your Amazing grace; Stay with us Lord, for the Day is done; Alleluia! Alleluia! Stay with us Lord, for the night has come; Maranatha! And may the virgin mother’s Son, be the star of the new Zion; Stay with us Lord, for the Day is done; Alleluia! Alleluia! Stay with us Lord, for the night has come; Maranatha! All glory be unto the Lord, the Father, the Spirit & the Word; Stay with us Lord, for the Day is done; Alleluia! Alleluia! Stay with us Lord, for the night has come; Maranatha!

In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

the Reverend Brian Heinrich