The Third Sunday of Easter, 30 April 2017

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
I Peter 1:17-23
Saint Luke 24:13-35

Background: Bread
Wild grains soaked in water, mixed and mashed, then cooked on a hot stone became the touchstone for bread and the families and religious groups that gathered around it. The oldest oven that we know of is in Croatia, dated to some 6500 years ago. The mystery of bread is two-fold. It is literally the staff of life, providing proteins and starches for the human diet, and with the addition of other yeasts has provided liquid bread – beer. Alcohol as well has been used not only as a social lubricant, but as a religious food as well. We know bread from all the references in the Bible as to its use especially in the ceremonies surrounding the Passover, and for Christians in the Eucharist. Thus when Jesus goes home with the disciples at Emmaus, it is bread that is broken, and it is bread that reveals.

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd, “Let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

This reading is a continuation of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, which we began to read last Sunday.  In this sermon, Peter rehearses the history of Jesus’ presence with Israel and with the people, and now makes several witnesses about who and what Jesus is after the Resurrection. Two titles are used. One has a religious significance, with a political overtone, Messiah, and the other is a political term that is now given a religious cast, Lord. Peter is aware of the consternation of the crowd and of their question, “Brothers, what should we do?” The resulting answer is straight from the mouths of John the Baptist and Jesus – repent and be baptized! Peter urges a reorientation of people’s minds to not only face God, but also see God as present in a new way in their lives and in their society. The community that has gathered in Jerusalem, and to which Peter addresses his words are sign and reality of what the Spirit will bring.

Breaking open Acts:
1.          For what was Jesus anointed as Messiah?
2.          How is Jesus Lord?
3.         Who are our lords today?

Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17 Dilexi, quoniam

     I love the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplication, *
because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.
2      The cords of death entangled me;
the grip of the grave took hold of me; *
I came to grief and sorrow.
3      Then I called upon the Name of the Lord: *
"O Lord, I pray you, save my life."
10    How shall I repay the Lord *
for all the good things he has done for me?
11    I will lift up the cup of salvation *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
12    I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people.
13    Precious in the sight of the Lord *
is the death of his servants.
14    Lord, I am your servant; *
I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;
you have freed me from my bonds.
15    I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
16    I will fulfill my vows to the Lord *
in the presence of all his people,
17    In the courts of the Lord'S house, *
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

We last encountered and sang this psalm on Maundy Thursday. Now we are on the other side of the tomb, and the insights of Easter and of the resurrection may alter our perception of the thoughts in this poem. In this psalm of thanksgiving we are first made aware of the straits in which the psalmist finds himself, ringed about by death and the grave, hindered by grief and sorrow. The liturgical reading continues at the 10th verse where the thanksgiving theme is quite pronounced, and we find ourselves in the Temple where vows and prayers have been made. Important attitudes are modeled for us here: trust, and return. The psalmist has learned through experience to trust in the Lord, and now he must learn how to give back, to return the favor. The salvation given to him is symbolized in a cup of libation, which is not drunk but rather returned to the Lord by pouring it upon the altar. Here the prayer is not private, nor secluded, but rather public. The psalm announces to the community one individual’s rescue by God’s hand.

Breaking open the Psalm 116:
1.         Whom do you trust in your life?
2.         To whom do you need to give back?
3.        How does your faith help you with these questions?

The Second Reading: I Peter 1:17-23

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

One crucial aspect to Easter mystagogy is the realization that Easter makes of us a new creation – that we indeed have a new identity before God and humankind. Thus the author takes on the task of convincing his readers of this new reality. In it he compares the new people of God, with those people of old who were in exile. They returned, and now God’s new people are called to a similar return. The treasure that is given is not the stuff of this world, but rather the treasures of the next – “the precious blood of Christ.” It is all a part of the plan, the on-going story that began with the people of old, and continues now with the people of the resurrection. “You have been born anew.” What shall we make of that?

Breaking open I Peter
  1. How and where do you see God.
  2. What do you think that God sees in you?
  3. Do you perceive that as well?

The Gospel: St. Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

One commentator termed this pericope as “charming”, and indeed it is. It is very much a part of Luke’s holding in common both rich and poor, with an emphasis on the poor, “the anawim”. So whom do we meet on the road to Emmaus? It is not apostle, nor one of the women. In a manner of speaking it is everyone who walks this road, finding Jesus beside them. There is much in their attitude with which we can identify. They are troubled. They do not understand. They sense Jesus’ absence from them. They do not recognize Jesus.

So on this day of days, Easter Day, the two of them are instructed by Jesus, who rehearses for them the truths that the days of Holy Week continue to teach us. Jesus reminds them “it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer.” And that is the point at which they and perhaps we are caught. We need to continue with Luke’s insight, “and then enter into glory.” The trouble now is understanding what that “glory” might be and how we might be able to recognize it. Luke uses a device that was already available to the early Christian community, and surely is available to us as well – the Eucharist. It is in the breaking of the Bread that the Presence is realized and made known. And with that being enough, Jesus vanishes. How timely to be in the period of waiting and to know that Christ is with us in such humble means, represented and announced as well by a humble people.

Breaking open the Gospel:
1.     How are you ordinary in your faith?
2.     How are you extraordinary in your faith?
3.    Where do you recognize Jesus?

After breaking open the Word, you might want to pray the Collect for Sunday. 

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Questions and comments copyright © 2017, Michael T. Hiller


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