Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone.

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter 2017

S. Easter 3.17 “All Roads Lead…” Luke 24:13-35

They say that all roads lead to Rome. I think all roads lead to Emmaus. At least, I think that’s the point of one of the greatest stories in all the Gospels, Cleopas and his friend walking the road to Emmaus the first Easter evening, talking with each other as they walk and are sad. Walking most of the way with Jesus Himself, witnessing (badly!) to Jesus about Jesus (irony alert!) yet not recognizing Jesus on the way, even as their heart burned within each of them.

All roads lead to Emmaus. That is to say, all of our paths, that twist and wind through this old world, lead us to the place where we walk along with Jesus, sad and clueless most of the time, confused about all kinds of things, down about our prospects, and only at the end of the road, in Emmaus, at evening, at table, in the breaking of the bread, are our eyes finally opened so that we see… All roads lead here—to Emmaus, and this encounter with Jesus that changes lives forever (and in a good way)…

This is not just my fanciful opinion from too many conversations with my friend Art Just about table fellowship in Luke’s Gospel. This is the clear teaching of Holy Scriptures. In probably the most overlooked verse in all the Bible, St. Paul tells the Colossians (1:23) that “the gospel which you heard was preached to every creature under heaven.” I would nominate this verse as the most “unbelieved” verse in all the Bible by modern Christians. Almost no one thinks this is actually the case as our mania for missions and outreach and maps of unreached places in the world proves again and again. And yet, there it is!

The gospel which you heard was preached to every creature under heaven. To me, this proves that all roads lead to Emmaus and that every single human being at some point in his or her life walks precisely this road, exactly as Cleopas and friend: with Jesus, clueless, sad and uncomprehending, having their hearts shaken, not stirred, by the Gospel of the cross until they constrain this mysterious Stranger and force Him to abide with them and have their eyes opened (or not, for some people) in the breaking of the bread as Jesus vanishes again from sight. All roads lead here, to this encounter, sooner or later, for every creature under heaven. Because the Gospel is preached to every creature under heaven, and the very fact that so many of these creatures insist they and their friends and neighbors have not heard, not walked and talked with Jesus on the Way, proves that all roads lead to this encounter with the unrecognized and un-comprehended Christ. If you skip the Sacrament of the Table part, as so many do these days, you miss Jesus.

The Road to Emmaus is not a happy one. Maybe this is another reason so many people fail to recognize they’ve been on this ride, themselves. I think most imagine the encounter with Christ is always a happy one, in the midst of prosperity and success and the warm glow of religious feeling. But, uh, no. That’s not how the walk and the talk go down, when you’re on the road to Emmaus. It’s not how it happened then, to Cleopas and friend. It’s not how it happens for any of us…

Christ encounters us when we’re running away from our problems and our troubles. When it all seems too overwhelming and we just have to escape. Emmaus is a nowhere place for nobodies to hide out from life and its troubles, when it all seems too overwhelming, pointless, and hopeless. The Road to Emmaus is traversed by losers. And we tend to think Christianity is only for winners. So we don’t see that all roads lead here, this way, that this is the only way any of us ever get Jesus…

Now behold, as the King James says (I hate it when the ESV cuts out the “Beholds!” as it does here, again). Behold! Look and see: Two of them were traveling that same day (The Day of the Resurrection) to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. A good walk, spoiled. And why were they going there? Because all roads lead to Emmaus, sooner or later. Because they were sad. Because Jesus was dead and gone and they’d unwisely pinned all their hopes and dreams on Him, and now those are all gone and dead like Him. And they are severely bummed. They just have to get out of Jerusalem, because everything there reminds them of Jesus and His terrible failure, the huge let-down He’s caused us. Jesus is like a snowmobile racing across the frozen tundra. Suddenly, it flips, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come…

To say all roads lead to Emmaus is to say Christianity always begins with defeat and despair and brokenness and loss and dashed dreams. Until you have walked this road, sad and lonely and confused, you have not found the road to Emmaus, the road that leads to faith in Christ the King. You haven’t met Him, really, until you’ve met Him here, like this! Fortunately, we all find that road sooner or later in life. Our hopes and dreams for the Church sooner or later get dashed. It all seems a dismal failure, a huge disappointment. You put so much hope in this Christian thing, and you end up leaving town with Cleopas because it all has gone so wrong

As you walk along, you and Cleopas talk about how it all went awry. And a Stranger joins you, who looks oddly familiar, but you can’t quite place Him. And He asks “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” And He says it with a wry smile, like He’s happy and puzzled that you aren’t. And you snap back at Him, “Are you the only Stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He goes, with that annoying smile, “What things?” And so you tell Him about Jesus, how He was a mighty prophet, a great Teacher, with a message of peace and love and hope and you are pretty annoyed with Him right now because it’s all bosh—peace, hope, love. Yeah, right!

Because they killed Jesus, crucified Him, and so there goes the hope of Israel! Christianity is a beautiful dream, but like all beautiful dreams, it will let you down bad, man! The world will always win. Marketing, power politics, and capital will always triumph over the true, beautiful, and good; and you and Cleopas were saps for ever thinking otherwise! Though, some women came and told you that morning how they’d seen a vision of angels who said He was alive, but going to the tomb, no one found anything except this burial shroud which is never going to convince anyone of anything and has been chucked in a closet.

And Jesus says “Foolish ones, slow of heart to believe! Have you never been to Sunday School? Oh, and I might hang onto that shroud: there might be more there than meets the eye…”

You’ll get to Emmaus, because all roads lead there. He indicates that He’s going farther. You constrain Him. “Abide with us, for it is towards evening.” You think that could be a hymn. Or not. And in the breaking of the bread, you recognize Him and He vanishes from your sight; and our burning heart testifies Jesus has been here! And you know it’s true. All of it. You have walked the road to Emmaus ‘cause all roads lead there. And in your defeats and disappointments, in the failure and sadness, in the loss of cherished dreams, the power of the Cross still convinces; and the Peace surpassing understanding guards your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Services

Advent Vespers –

Wednesday, 15 December 7:00 p.m.

17  December 2017

3rd Sunday Advent

8:30 Matins

11:00 Divine Service with Communion

9:45 – Sunday School and Adult Bible class

Classes for ages 3 and up

Advent Vespers – Wednesdays – 7:00 p.m.

December 6, 13, 20

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service – DS w/Comm

7:00 p.m  24 December 2017

Christmas Day Service – DS w/Communion

11:00 a.m.  25 Christmas 2017

Location

Our Savior Lutheran Church is a confessional Lutheran church in Raleigh, North Carolina, belonging to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We are located at: 1500 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608.

For directions, use 742 Nash Street, Raleigh.