3rd Sunday of Easter
14 APRIL 2002
Scriptual Reference: Acts 2:14,22-33; Psalm 16:1-2a, 5,7-11; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

Seeing the Obvious

       Sometimes, we can't see the obvious through our workaday eyes. A true story: a woman working in a business setting was given a new computer, but was struggling one day to use the WordPerfect software that came loaded on the machine. So she called the technical support line and explained her problem. "The screen in blank, and the computer won't accept anything that I type," she said. The techie at the other end of the line thought this was a hardware problem rather than a software problem, so he had her check the connection to her monitor among other things. After several failed suggestions, the techie told the woman to look behind her computer to make sure it was plugged in. "I can't see behind the computer," she said, "the lights are off in my office." When the techie suggested that she turn them on, she informed him that there was a power outage in the building. "Ah, I understand the problem now," the techie said. "Take the boxes in which your computer came and pack it back up. Then, you need to return it immediately to the store at which you purchased it." "Is it really that bad?" the woman asked. "Uh-huh," he firmly replied. "What should I tell them is wrong when I return it?" the woman asked. He replied: "tell them you are too stupid to own a computer!" The techie was subsequently fired.

       This woman clearly could not see the obvious through her workaday eyes. The disciples in today's gospel couldn't see very clearly, either. We hear the story about two of Jesus' disciples, a man named Cleopas and another companion that more than likely was the wife of Cleopas. They are walking back to their home in Emmaus, a small village about 7 miles north and east of Jerusalem. They were discussing all that had occurred while they were in Jerusalem for the Passover festivities. Jesus drew near the disciples, but "their eyes were prevented from recognizing them." Cleopas then explains to Jesus what had happened and what they were discussing. He makes it clear that he was hoping that Jesus would have been the one to redeem Israel. After all, many people had hoped that the Messiah would be the one to liberate the Jewish people from the Roman rule, among other things. Cleopas and his wife had heard about the Resurrection, but they did not understand its significance. After all, the disciples can't see the obvious through their workaday eyes.

       How many of you have seen the Harry Potter movie, or read the first book? I think that there are a lot of life lessons in these tales. One of the most significant lessons comes in the first book. Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, knew that there were some bad things going on at Hogwarts, their school. They assumed that Professor Snape, the mean, slick, and sneaky potions teacher was to blame. But by the end of the escapades, they come to learn that someone else is to blame. Harry and his friends then look back on all that had happened, and re-interpret the events of the past in the light of the present.

       Today in the gospel, the disciples that Jesus encounters had come to the wrong conclusion about just what the Christ would do. They thought he would be a great military ruler who would wipe out the Romans. They thought he would be a great King who would restore peace to the region and make the Jewish people prominent on the world stage. But Jesus was not destined to do those things. The disciples had it all wrong. So Jesus re-interprets the scriptures for them. He breaks open the Word; he talks about the Scriptures, and shows them how the Christ would be one who suffers for many before entering into glory. Jesus discusses the prophets and shows them how his offbeat ministry and the messages of his preaching fit the bill. Cleopas and his wife must have been impressed. They also knew how to extend warm hospitality to those in need. They urge Jesus to stay with them since the evening hours were coming and the shadows were growing long. Through his interpretation of scriptures, Jesus no doubt raised the flagging spirits of the disciples, upon which the shadows of doubt and disappointment had fallen. Jesus had helped his newfound friends to re-interpret the past in the light of the present.

       Recently, a sixteen-year-old girl was driving a sport-utility vehicle, or as I like to call them, a suburban assault vehicle. When she attempted to make a left turn, she ran into a vehicle and pushed it into the other lane. A friend of mine driving in that lane was unable to stop; he hit the other car head on. The seat belt and the deployed air bag saved his life. He stumbled out of his battered car able to walk but shaken up. Before he knew it, a stranger was there with him and asked him if he would like to pray. The stranger touched my friend on the head and on his chest as he prayed, and soon he was gone. My friend was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where they determined that his injuries were not serious and that he would recover fully in a just a few days with a little bit of soreness in his ribs. This friend of mine told me that looking back, he must have met the power of God himself in that dazed moment of prayer.

       The disciples, dazed and confused coming from the wreck of Jesus' death and crucifixion, offer the stranger a meal. Jesus takes the bread, says the blessing, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples. It is at that moment that Cleopas and his wife recognize just who this man is. He is Jesus, and he is risen from the dead! Their eyes are open, and at that moment, Jesus vanishes from their sight. Cleopas and his wife exclaim, "were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?" Then, they went and spread the good news to the other disciples all the way back in Jerusalem. The presence of Christ at a table open to a stranger transforms an ordinary supper into an extraordinary meal: a Eucharistic meal. They knew him in the breaking of the bread.

       Today among us are young people who are making their first communion today. They have all told me how excited they are: their hearts are burning within them, just as the hearts of the disciples were burning so many years ago. For those of us who received our first communion many moons ago, for us, we can get accustomed to receiving communion. We forget how special it is to come to this place, a place where Christ breaks open the Word for us and a place where he breaks the bread. Our young people struggle to understand how the bread and wine become his body and blood. They struggle to know how Christ comes to us when stories are read at that podium. And you know what? That is difficult for all of us to understand. But, our reading today assures us that we will know Jesus when we shares stories and break the bread together. Just showing up is the first step of faith. Being here each week provides us with an opportunity to meet Jesus at this meal. Then we can come to see him in other places: in strangers who offer prayer and assistance in a time of need, in those who reflect on their experiences, rather than jumping to hasty conclusions, and in those who offer hospitality to strangers. We meet Jesus in word and in sacrament today, and we will know him, in the breaking of the bread. +

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