Sunday, May 8, 2011

Easter 3 - In the midst of us

Easter 3 Sermon
8 May 2011
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Greenwood, VA in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia


Life is short,
And we do not have much time
To gladden the hearts of those
Who travel the way with us.
So be swift to be kind,
And as we go,
May the blessing, the love,
the joy, and the peace
Of the Holy One
Who is in the midst of us
Be among you and remain with you
Always. Amen.


After a significant and and scary and strange sequence of events, the two followers of Jesus were walking and talking along the way – and there they were surprised again to find a treasure in their midst.

What do we find when walking along the way? These followers of Jesus were on the way, on the way back to Emmaus, after witnessing “all that had happened” in Jerusalem. Were they going home, were they trying to return to their old lives, were they forgetting the things that Jesus had said and done. Or, were they in need of some time, some time to allow what hat happened to penetrate their lives, to penetrate their souls, to become assimilated with their beings? Were they open to the treasure in their midst?

We don’t really know, but what we do know is that they were walking together. Not alone, not huddled in a prayer cell or a cave. We know that they were walking; they were on the way. And there, on the way, they were talking. Our language does not fully capture the style of their talking. Literally, when Jesus approaches, he says, “what words have you been throwing back and forth?” Words throwing back and forth. These followers of Jesus were most likely arguing, discussing, discoursing, and literally “tossing words” one to another. Like kids with a ball throwing back and forth as they walk home from school. “What shall we make of the events of the last few days?” “Could Jesus really be alive?” “What do we do with this information?” “How must we go on?” 

Perhaps one was the more timid and critical, even cynical about what they had heard from the women. Perhaps the other was full of joy and peace and the other’s sarcasm and criticism was getting him down. They were throwing words back and forth. This “throwing of words” is not everyone’s style of discourse, but it was and is common among Jewish rabbis who study the scriptures. There is a playfulness in the argument, there is joy in finding holes in the other’s assertions. There are heated words, but the heat is creative fire, not fire that burns. These heated words are followed by laughter, and later, feasting and joy. These two friends are ok with disagreement, are ok with argument, are ok with different “takes” on the world. They have a level of passion for their approach, mixed in with epistemic humility.

The humility of being able to say at the end, “or I could be wrong.” In the midst of this argument, words arise about God, about the incarnation, about the life and work of Jesus, about his death and supposed resurrection. Do you believe? How do we understand Jesus in the story of Yahweh? How do we understand what Jesus said and did, when his time was ended in such a manner? How do we make sense of his brutal death? How can we make sense of his resurrection and appearance to our friends, these women?

These words and questions and propositions and assertions and claims and all the rest are the questions and propositions and assertions and claims of us as well. Perhaps. We wonder about the life of Jesus as it relates to God’s life. We wonder about his life and times. We wonder about his brutal death and his resurrection. And we would do well to ponder, but not only ponder in private on the back porches of our lives, but also along the road. We would do well to ponder out loud, to share our belief, and our doubt, to share our questioning and our answering. We would do well to even (even!) debate and disagree! Even these may bring us closer to true awareness.

In the midst of my time here at Emmanuel, some of the greatest time has been when I have had the opportunity to “throw words” with you – be it at the back door of the church, in the hospital room, at a Bible Study, or just around town. Throwing theological words with you is joyful.

And so, HERE, here in the mist of the throwing of words, there is where Jesus appears.  Here is where treasure is found in the midst.  The holy God in the midst of us. The Immanent, tangible, earthy, present God. Here even in the mist of disagreement, discussion, the jostling of ideas. Here, in the midst of belief and doubt, of presence and absence, of joy and pain, of sorrow and hope. Here, here in the midst. Here, here in the middle. In the middle is where Jesus comes in. Here is where Jesus is at all times, but here is where Jesus makes himself known. Here in the jostling, and later in the breaking of bread. Not unlike our service. Here, we hear the words of scripture. And here we reflect on them, and then later we will break bread together.

In breaking bread with the stranger, these two individuals offered hospitality and welcome, and in breaking bread with the stranger, the stranger in their midst became the holy one in their midst.  Offering hospitality, they receive the treasure in the midst of them.  When they offered hospitality, they also received blessing.  In breaking bread with them, Jesus used the four elements which are at the center of our own Eucharistic Feast.  He “took” bread, he “blessed” it, he “broke” it, and he “gave” it. 


Take
Bless
Break
Give

We recount the story of Jesus every Sunday… “on the night before he died, he took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it” …. “take”…. “bless” … “break” … “give.”  And we pray that we might recognize the treasure of God’s presence in the midst of us.

Here too, we offer hospitality, we offer love and care to people at Mountainside in our monthly tea party for the residents there.  Here too, we offer hospitality as we break bread with those in Waynesboro who come to the Disciple’s Kitchen.  Here too, we offer hospitality in the tangible treasure of food at the Bread Fund down in Batesville.  Here too, we offer hospitality to those who “are here often, and those who have not been here long.”  We offer hospitality to the stranger in the breaking and sharing of bread.

A Prayer of St. Chrysostom

Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well‑beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them:  Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.  Amen.

Ubuntu
 'A person is a person through other persons.' ~ Desmond Tutu

Life is short,
And we do not have much time
To gladden the hearts of those
Who travel the way with us.
So be swift to be kind,
And as we go,
May the blessing, the love,
the joy, and the peace
Of the Holy One
Who is in the midst of us
Be among you and remain with you
Always. Amen.

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