April 23, 2023, 3rd Sunday after Easter. Sermon preached by Rev. Katie Holicky

Year A, Luke 24:13-35, 4/23/23 The Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector 

This week I spent a lot of time thinking about the roads that we journey. As I pondered the gift of creation in celebration of Earth Day yesterday, I noticed that when I tend to think of roads that I have taken I often reflect on how nature influences my experience of the road or path. 

So, let’s all take a moment to ponder a road, path, trail you have taken. See it in your mind’s eye. What’s around you? Flora and fauna? Is the air crisp and cool? Perhaps it is humid and warm? Is there stark or dappled light, or maybe a gentle darkness? Are you walking, riding a bike or in a car? Who are you with? Do you traverse alone or take the journey with companionship?  

I have been on some rather lovely roads before. I especially enjoy roads with beautiful trees creating a canopy of dancing light. I long for paths where I can notice signs of wildlife around me with maybe even a darting chipmunk or two. A waterside hike that reflects the stillness and the might of the power of creation quenches my soul. 

Over the last three years as I have commuted from Portland to Brunswick and back, I have come to really appreciate the journey down 295. Creation comes forth with changing trees over the seasons, bald eagles hunting the tidal wetlands and rivers, the shades of gray on those quintessential misty New England days, and the occasional gofer, turkey, or deer. This week, following the horrific events of Tuesday, the trip up and down 295 has felt different, though still grounded in the gift of creation.  

I am left wondering what the road to Emmaus was like? Was it really hot that day when Jesus’ friends left Jerusalem following those horrific events? Was it cloudy or sunny? How dusty was the road? I wonder if I have ever traveled a road like the one they were on? And, I wonder if you could see yourself as the unnamed companion of Cleopas. 

This section of Luke comes during those forty days between resurrection and ascension, Jesus is using this time to help his followers understand scripture and how they are to embody their faith (FOTW, 418). 

The end of Luke is also getting us ready for the book of Acts. This story, that is a throughline for these books, is helping followers understand the relationship of Christ and the Spirit and that it is reciprocal (FOTW, 418). Part of that reciprocity is reflected in hospitality. 

As Cleopas and his companion journeyed the seven miles to Emmaus, they were terrified by the violence they had just seen in Jerusalem and were scared for their own lives. And yet, when a stranger came upon them, all of the lessons about the welcome of Jesus and the hospitality of their culture brought them beyond their fear and towards transformation; “The hospitality of the traveling companions becomes a doorway to grace” (FOTW, 422). In this moment of welcoming in, “…the story moves from isolation to community”, and reminds us that, “God always creates space for the ‘other’ in order that true community might be formed” (FOTW, 422). It is through that hospitality, that Jesus is revealed to them in a new way. 

While the recognition at the end of the scene was a common literary tool used by the ancient Greeks and Romans  (JANT, 150) , we also acknowledge that, “The church’s meal is a place where Jesus is continually revealed” (TBC,332). This moment when “the stranger”, Jesus, reminds them of their call to the meal remembering him, they not only see him, they understand more deeply every lesson and every moment with Jesus that they had had before his crucifixion.  

As one writer puts it, “The risen Christ present within the community enables them gradually to understand the full meaning of the paschal mystery” (FOTW, 423). For us as modern followers, the revelation of Christ to disciples in the breaking of the bread is a reminder that, “Broken bread nurses our broken faith and can nourish the courage we need to leave our graveclothes behind and vacate the vault of our defeated dreams” (FOTW, 422). In the breaking of the bread, they see clearly, take heart, and get moving. How might your eyes be opened to Christ at this table? When this bread is broken how will you see Jesus, be transformed and inspired to right action that shows the good news to others? 

On Tuesday as the news alerts came in and those of us in the office who live in Portland started to realize we had to find a new way home, take another road, not knowing what to expect or how long it might take. 

I sat in gridlock with everyone else detouring and finding alternative ways to travel south and I thought about how eerie it was. How strange that all of these people were sitting here unexpectedly traveling down different roads in the wake of gun violence. My mind and heart wandered and I put on Hall and Oats to try and distract myself. Then, I came upon the news trucks, police and their k-9s and I thought…this must stop being normal. I don’t have all the answers, though, I do know that we are all people on the road to Emmaus. We are people who are wondering and wandering as we try to find a way forward. 

It was in that moment of seeing the remnants of gun violence first hand that I felt a deeper connection to those on the road to Emmaus and the way Jesus showed up for his friends and community on that journey and in what came after. I give thanks that we walk that road together, in the unexpectedness of Jesus, and am in awe of our Lord who will go to great lengths to help us, to teach us, so that we might find our way. I am galvanized as a disciple to do what I can to bring more of God’s justice to the world by addressing gun violence. 

Even in feeling the simplicity of some of our ideas of how to improve the dire situation we are in in regards to gun violence, I also want to acknowledge that this issue also contains a lot of complexity and nuance. AND it is still an incredibly egregious injustice that the people of this nation, and this very community, our neighborhoods, continue to suffer because of gun violence. It is startlingly clear that something must be done. Those who proclaim God’s love, justice, peace, and grace must be part of tending to the wounds of the world, and this is a communal wound that festers in sin and demands our attention. 

You might have noticed the P.S. section in the Bishop’s letter to our congregation and St. Bart’s, Yarmouth that we included in this past Friday’s parish email. There are multiple bills regarding guns in this legislative session that we will draw our attention and action to. We as a Diocese and as a church are being invited to speak truth to power, to shine the light of justice into the depth of the sins done on our behalf, to say no to more pain and suffering and yes to striving for justice that can bring us all a better tomorrow. 

The promise of hope and new life that I can hold fast to today is that as followers of Jesus we open our hearts and companionship to those we come to along the way. We trust that we see Christ in all persons and that we get to choose how to honor that. We get to choose the radical hospitality that Christ taught us and in doing so be part of the revelation of the incarnation of God walking among us. We remember that call to hospitality in action when we come to the table together. The very place where Jesus reveals himself to us time and time again. 

And I find hope in knowing that we will turn to go and tell the good news. To make our voices heard and proclaim the possibility of a new way of a life. New ways to live more safely in community together. We must buoy our spirits with the call to be people who help to bring God’s justice into the world and get to work doing so. Are our hearts not burning?! Let us turn and run back to Jerusalem and tell them all the Lord is risen and God’s justice prevails.  

Resources: Feasting on the Word, Jewish Annotated New Testament, Theological Bible Commentary