What strikes me from this text is not the magic like quality of Jesus to appear and disappear at any moment, but rather the places in this text that a risen Jesus becomes visible. Those moments that Jesus appears before the confused and saddened disciples.
First, Jesus meets them on the way. He doesn’t come to them in Jerusalem. He doesn’t wait for them at home. He doesn’t bid them make some holy pilgrimage or undertake some pious feat. Rather, Jesus meets them where they are – on the road, amid their journey, right smack in the middle of all the pain, frustration, and misery that threatens to overwhelm them. Even though they don’t recognize him. When this stranger is welcomed into the disciples home, he is recognized for who he is when he breaks bread with them. The disciples had witnessed this event. They must have remembered that time in the upper room when all the disciples and Jesus were gathered together sharing a meal together. So many memories must have flooded back to these two disciples, so many times that Jesus broke bread with them. These are great images of Jesus. He meets the disciples in their sadness and they recognize him over a conversation and meal. In these simple acts Jesus gives a framework for the disciples to live by.
I would imagine that many of us have had those Emmaus events in our lives. Maybe we literally saw Jesus before us, or maybe a friend, a family member, or even a stranger that was Jesus to us. Someone that met us in our sadness, or loneliness, or times when we were lost and broke bread with us. Someone that was willing to spend time getting to know us. A couple of people that were there for me during a time of uncertainty were two of my college roommates. I had just finished my first semester at Valparaiso University. I transferred to Valpo after 2 years of school in the cornfields of Southern Illinois (not quite the cornfields, but it sure felt like it). I had joined a fraternity after my first semester and moved in the fraternity house before the start of my second semester. I didn’t get to pick my roommates because I was moving into the fraternity house in the middle of the year, so I wasn’t able to live with the people I knew best. Our fraternity was big enough that I didn’t know everyone all that well before I moved into the house. That was true for my two roommates. I should I have know that things would be interesting when I was moving my stuff into the room and they were fighting like an old married couple. They were debating where our 1970’s style (heck it was 1970’s style because it had probably been in the house since then) couch should go in the room. Mike was a pre-med student from Oregon (he made sure I said Oregon not OreGON) who was disappointed when he missed one question on test and I still don’t think Ryan has ever admitted he was wrong in his life. As you might guess Ryan had aspiration of being a law school. After witnessing their general bickering, I wondered what I was in store for during the next semester. What I soon realized (maybe it was living in cramped quarters together) was that these guys were ok. Sure they fought more than just about anyone I had every seen. In fact, they would often tell me that they done something such as not clean their part of the room just to make the other person mad. But in the midst of their often hilarious bickering, they encouraged me when I wasn’t sure what I would major in, they helped me get to class after I broke my collarbone the day before classes started, they would make time. They broke bread with me. It was a two way street, I listened to their girl problems, the greatness of Oregon, and why Medical school was better than Law school (or the other way around depending on who was talking). Those conversations, that give and take, many of them happening around the 2 am hour on that 1970’s couch, were so encouraging. This relationship building was so helpful for me during a time of great change and uncertainty in my life. I am so grateful for Mike and Ryan being that Jesus made visible in my life.
Those moments don’t last forever, just like for the two disciples in the text. I was only roommates with Ryan and Mike for that one semester, but they were able to strengthen me and encourage me. Those Emmaus moments are able to encourage us and sustain us until we see Jesus standing before us again.
This morning we celebrate 10 youth affirming their faith. Their parents, sponsors, godparents, and church members (if they were baptized here, I would imagine that you were probably in the pews responding to these promises) made promises for each of them in their baptism to bring them to church, teach them about the faith that they are affirming, and be examples of Christ in their lives. Essentially what each of us was asked to do was to make Jesus visible to Liz, Willie, Katie, Ashley, Emily, Seth, Kayla, Amara, Dillion, and Alyson. Maybe you taught them in Sunday school, or brought them on trip during confirmation, or maybe you say hello to them every Sunday with a smile and warm welcome. Whatever you have done to encourage them in the faith has been a blessing because that is part of the reason they are affirming their faith this morning. You have made Christ something they can touch, feel, smell, and taste instead of just something they have read about.
Today is the day when these put their faith claim on their life and show how Jesus is visible in their lives. Throughout their time the past couple of years they have had many opportunities to make Jesus visible to those around them. They went on an overnight to Caldwell, Ohio to work in a warehouse at Lutheran Social Services to help thousands of families celebrate Christmas. They were so energetic and excited about helping. I was so proud of them as I walked around that morning not complaining but rather trying to figure out where they could help. They went to Lutheran Memorial Camp to interact with other people their age and work through difficult questions of faith. Throughout the year on Sunday nights they constantly amazed me with the questions they ask (most of the time they were not what are we having for snack and can we keep playing this game the whole time). When we started last fall I told them that they would be sharing a creed on their day of confirmation. If they were truly were going to make this faith their own. If they were going to live into the promises their parents made in baptism, I wanted to see these young men and women articulate what their faith was all about. I wanted them to write about where they saw the risen Jesus visible in their lives. After they stopped asking me is they seriously had to share them in front of the whole congregation, they took their task very seriously. I am proud of them and you should be too.
The text this morning is great for confirmation because these youth embody those disciples so well. Like I said before, you should have seen their fear when I told them they would be sharing creeds in front of the whole congregation. So they have the fear thing down. Throughout the last couple of years they have been on their own journey trying to figure out what it means to be a Lutheran, a Christian, a member of the body of Christ. Where does God fit into their everyday life? They have wrestled with this and I know they (like each of us) will continue to do so. Also, like the disciples when they have seen Jesus in those moments I have seen their excitement. I have seen the joy on their face when they help those in need in the name of Jesus, I have seen their joy when they answer a question or something else makes sense that didn’t before.
These youth know that this is not the final stepping-stone. Those last as long as we are on this earth. They don’t have all the answers (although their parents may attest that they think so sometimes) But they have a begun a solid foundation in which to grow. Just like the disciples in our text they were so excited about their encounter with Jesus that they venture back onto that dangerous evening road back to Jerusalem to tell everyone what they have seen. They can’t wait until morning.
My hope is that we are able to have the same excitement as our 10 youth and these disciples. May we share with a confused and scared world the visible and risen Christ. Amen.