Third Sunday of Easter (April 30, 2017)

April 11, 2017 | by Bruce Epperly

Reading 1 Reading 2 Reading 3 Reading 4 Reading 1 Alt Reading 2 Alt
Acts 2:14a, 36-41 Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 I Peter 1:17-23 Luke 24:13-35

A favorite saying of mine is “solvitur ambulando,” it will be solved in the walking. This is certainly the case for two men who encounter Jesus on the way to Emmaus, and it is also the case for us as well. In the midst of our daily peregrinations, God shows up and every so often we notice. Or perhaps God is always there with us, and we need to open our senses to God’s presence. Like Jacob, awakening from a dream of a ladder of angels, we wake up and exclaim “God was in this place and I did not know it.” But, when we do, everything changes.

Luke gives us the picture of two men, confused and troubled by the events of the past few days. They have lived through, we might suspect, the celebrations of Palm Sunday, the conflicts of Holy Week, the violence of Good Friday, and the utter meaninglessness of Holy Saturday. Now, they hear that Jesus is alive and that death, even death on a cross, cannot defeat his mission. But, they wonder as they wander, if all this news is true, or merely wishful thinking. They are joined by an unknown stranger, who appears to have great insight into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Despite their fatigue and confusion, they invite him for supper, and when he breaks the bread, they know who he is!

Marcus Borg notes that there are several towns in the area surrounding Jerusalem that claim to be Emmaus. All claim to be the site of the Easter night story, but none can make a definitive and unchallenged claim, which led Borg to assert that Emmaus is both everywhere and nowhere. Divine revelation can appear to anyone at any time, but is never restricted to a particular time or place.

The Emmaus passage is profoundly Eucharistic. Jesus is known in the breaking of the bread. Reality is sacramental and some acts or rituals more fully awaken us to the divine than others. As a focal point of our worship, the celebration of communion joins both divine intentionality and human response and creates a “thin place,” where divine presence is translucent.

Acts 2 describes an early Christian evangelistic meeting in which Peter proclaims the message of salvation. God has extended the invitation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In response, our calling is to repent, to change course, and embrace resurrection. Embracing resurrection opens us to new life today and life everlasting in the future.

Acts 2 focuses on baptism as a rite of passage from death to life. In the Acts passage, Luke emphasizes adult baptism as an invitation to experience God’s grace. As adults, we can experience the power of baptism as a rite of creative transformation, new life, and forgiveness. In contrast, the baptism of infants becomes a reminder that God’s grace accepted us before we could offer God anything. God loves us and there’s nothing we can do about it! While adult baptism involves a conscious and intentional commitment to new life, adult baptism remains, like infant baptism, a response to grace, first and foremost. God presents lively possibilities for new life. God calls and the sacraments become for us vehicles of response, enabling God to offer expanded and more energetic possibilities.

While many progressives will find I Peter’s connection of shed blood with salvation problematic, the deeper meaning of this passage is that the cross reveals God’s sacrificial love, which invites us to live gracefully and sacrificially. In Christ’s sacrificial love, we are born anew. We can begin again, and incarnate God’s grace in our own relationships. Process thinkers can connect this passage with what Abraham Joshua describes as the divine pathos, God’s empathy with the world. Divine empathy – the suffering and joy of God at our world – invites us to share in God’s love for the world and share the love we’ve received with others.

We are all on the road to Emmaus. In fact, every day is Emmaus, an opening to God’s presence in our daily lives and in the ordinary events of eating and drinking. It will be solved in the walking!