Surprise! It's Jesus!
May 17, 2015
Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane

Surprise! Do you love surprise parties? Many people that I know love GIVING surprise parties… but would rather not be the one “surprised.”

Today’s Gospel has multiple surprises. 

The first surprise came On the Way.  Cleopas and his companion were surprised that the curious stranger knew nothing about what had been going on in Jerusalem. Their eyes were kept from recognizing Jesus but we, the reader, can see that they had all of the information.  The women told them of the empty tomb. Some disciples had checked it out.  There was even a report of angels proclaiming that Jesus was alive.  And yet… Cleopas and his companion were discouraged.   For none of them saw Jesus.   That’s what they were waiting for… hope against hope… they wanted to see Jesus… but they were disappointed.  Peter went home. And they were on their way, away from their hopes and dreams of a messiah.

The next surprise came in the stranger’s response. He chastises them, saying, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!”  Jesus – although they did not know it was Jesus – sounds like a high school or college professor whose entire class has failed the exam.  Didn’t you get all of the lectures that I gave? The stories that I shared?  But then, again like a teacher who goes back over everything that she has taught for the last four years so that you will be ready for that IB or AP or Final exam… Jesus patiently begins to teach, and as they walk the road he goes through the Hebrew Scriptures – what we call the Old Testament – and explains the passages about the Messiah.  His teaching was full of surprises.

Surprises even come in the ordinary breaking of the Bread.

It had been a long day when they finally got to Emmaus.  It was late.  So Cleopas and his companion do what any honorable Israelite would do – they urge the stranger to stay with them.  The roads simply were not safe after dark – and offering hospitality was the courteous thing to do.  They shared a meal.  Again, this was an ordinary event. The only thing unusual was that traditionally, since Cleopas and his companion offered the hospitality, they would be the ones to offer the blessing.  But instead, it is Jesus who becomes the host and blesses the bread. Luke writes, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”  That was a great surprise party.

It’s a holy “AHA” moment, and that changed the way that they saw everything. Jesus vanishes. But that doesn’t seem to bother them. Instead, they began to remember and reflect. They remembered that the Word took on new life and meaning as he opened scripture for them. They said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" They remembered Jesus’ presence with them on the road.   As they reflected, Cleopas and his companion realized that while their eyes were first opened to see Jesus when he broke the bread, Jesus was present with them as he taught the word and as they walked on the way.

Jesus is present for us in each of these ways too.

Jesus has promised to be with us in the breaking of the bread.  As he invited the disciples at the Last Supper, so he invites us to “take and eat” his body and drink of his blood.   We come together not as perfect people but as broken people, people who are thirsty for hope and health and healing and hungry for new life.  We come, each one with our own needs and cares and concerns. But, as we come together and receive Jesus’ body and blood… suddenly, we are no longer just us. Now we have taken into our own bodies, Christ’s body and blood.  We are no longer separated by our own cares but now Christ is in us, empowering us… and has chosen to work through us.  

Jesus has also promised to be with us in the Word. Jesus is with you as you read your devotions privately, in a Bible class, and as we come together to hear the Word of God read and proclaimed as the Community of Christ at Faith-Lilac Way.   We come together to hear God’s Word, and then to learn, grow and be transformed.

Jesus met Cleopas and his companion “on the Way.” They just didn’t know it.   That’s the way it is for us… most of the time.  We can get so focused and busy on what we are doing, our agendas, schedules, plans, that we don’t look for or recognize the presence of God in our midst.  But Jesus has promised us that He will be with us - Always.  And Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to be with us…. ALWAYS.  That’s a promise.

Just as Jesus was present for Cleopas and his companion in the breaking of the bread, in the Word, and “on the way”, so too, Jesus is present for us.  For the next three months, I will be walking on some new paths on my pilgrim journey -- some close to home and others overseas as I delve into Scripture, study Luther again, and take some extra time to reflect and pray.  I know that Jesus will be present with me and with my family as we journey on the way and as we break the bread and study the Word.  In the meantime, I know that Jesus will be present here too.  You will hear the Word proclaimed through wonderful pastors – some new to you, like Ibrahim from Nigeria and Pastor Dan from Bonfire, and Pastor John and some you will welcome back, like Pastor Eleanor and Pastor Bob and now Pastor Durk.  You will break bread here with Pastor John and Vicar Kelly.   Some of you too will be walking paths “up North,” journeying to cabins and lakes or traveling to other places.  But regardless of where you walk, People of Faith-Lilac Way, know that Jesus is walking with you on THE WAY, giving you Faith for the journey.  And that’s a promise.  Amen.

Pastor Pamela Stalheim Lane
May 17, 2015