Hiding in Plain Sight

Easter 3A’20 (Emmaus)

26 April 2020

Luke 24 13-25

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

(Facebook “Live”)

North Little Rock, Arkansas

The Rev. Carey Stone

 

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work. Amen.

– From Collect for 3rd Sunday of Easter, The Book of Common Prayer

 

What is it that causes us not to recognize something or someone that we know well?  Particularly, how can we fail to recognize someone that we know like in the case of the disciples on the Emmaus road who didn’t recognize Jesus.

One of the reasons can be when that person is out of context. As a priest this has happened to me a number of times, particularly if I wasn’t wearing my clergy shirt and collar.  I would be in a store or restaurant and someone who knows me well would literally stare right through me walk right past me, or be standing right next to me (and it wasn’t because they were embarrassed to be seen with me – ha!)

One of the more poignant of these experiences happened while I was in a bookstore. I was standing in front of the magazine rack and a parishioner walked right up beside me and started looking for a magazine. It was a very familiar context, and a very familiar person, but they didn’t recognize me until I called their name, when I did they said with great surprise – “Father Carey!” They weren’t used to seeing me out of place (in a store instead of the church building), and out of uniform (not wearing my collar).

Another reason we don’t recognize something or someone that’s familiar, can be our mind set. To say that the disciples on the road to Emmaus that first Easter morning, were ‘Down in the dumps’ would be an understatement. Their disappointment was palpable. They had loved Jesus, they had followed Jesus for three years but, now he was dead. This man who had claimed to be the Messiah, whom they had thought was the Son of God, evidently was a case of mistaken identity. For these two disciples on the road, Jesus had turned out to be just a really nice guy that had died a tragic and tortured death, but turned out not to be God after all. “But we had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel” they said wistfully.

When our mindset is the problem there are the many “buts” that get in our way of recognizing the truth, “but this, but that” the many reasons, and arguments that race through our minds and stall our progress. Jesus was right there walking right next to them seven miles outside Jerusalem.

A very familiar place, and what should have been a familiar face, but Jesus was out of context, and faith and hope had left, leaving only disappointment and despair in their place.

But this “stranger” began teaching the disciples from the scriptures, from the writings, from the prophecies, and the Psalms, this strange person on the road was showing them how all of these passages of scripture were pointing towards Jesus, that he was indeed the Messiah. This disciple’s hearts began to burn within them, as they were given a case of ‘Holy heartburn,’ like John Wesley said, their hearts “were strangely warmed.”

But it took more than words to awaken these disciples on the road – it would take something outward and visible to bring them to a place of recognizing who the strange traveler was.

As they were approaching their house, they invited the stranger to stay the night, he did and as they were sitting at the table for dinner it happened! Jesus took the bread as he had done so many times before, he held it up and broke it, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples. Four simple words, four simple actions: Take, Bless, Break, Give: “Then their eyes were open, and they recognized him, and he vanished.”

In this simple meal of bread and wine God has embedded the central truth of faith. Jesus was taken, blessed by the Father, broken by the sins of the world, and his risen body would give eternal life: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever,” says Jesus. Hidden in plain sight, in the bread and wine was the real presence of Jesus revealed.  The Blessed sacrament instituted by Christ at the last supper had revealed to those in despair the Good News to which they exclaimed: “The Lord has risen indeed!” From that point forward for anyone with the eyes to see, Christ is revealed in that familiar four-fold pattern: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.

After the resurrection Jesus would begin “showing up” in all kinds of ways, through a simple meal, through strangers, through poems, through uplifting music, through grace filled acts of kindness. I love a phrase from one of the lesser known Christmas carols written by Alfred Burt, “Christ in the Strangers Guise”: “Often, often comes Christ in the strangers’ guise…” In disguise, incognito, Jesus is showing up! As one of our vestry members said last week in our first ZOOM meeting: “We never know when something spiritual is coming in to our lives.” I love that, for it points to the mindset that we modern day disciples need, one of expectation, and readiness, to be awake to the possibility that Jesus is all around us, out of context, out of uniform, in spite of our disappointment or despair, through ordinary things, and in people of all kinds, especially strangers! The four-fold pattern that Jesus left us is continued in the Holy Eucharist, in Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper: “we remember his death, we proclaim his resurrection, we await his coming again!” ( and again and again – before he comes again)!

In this four-fold pattern, our lives as disciples are revealed as well: As  disciples, as followers, we offer our lives to Christ, who takes us, who blesses us, who uses the brokenness of our humanity, and who then gives us as food for the world’s hunger as we go out into the world to love and serve the Lord! In these pandemic days let us stay awake and alert, strangely finding peace through this pathway of hardship, expecting to see Jesus and to meet Jesus on the road, through simple things, and in the actions of simple people, who are walking, talking, and blessing!  What a Love! What a Life! Why, it’s enough to give someone Holy Heartburn! Let it be Lord, let it be!



Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

 

 

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