Year A - Easter 3 - Luke 24:13-35
April 26, 2020
"We had hoped." It is one of the saddest statements in the Bible. Of course we know why. They had thrown in with Jesus and were there with in Jerusalem when it all went horribly wrong, when Jesus was executed like a common criminal on the cross. They had invested so much in him, that when he died their hope died with him, and without hope there was nothing to do except go away.
"We had hoped." Quite a few of us know what it is like to utter that same lament. We too have had our hope ripped away from us, lost that one person who meant the world to us, suffered that crushing defeat from which there is no return, experienced a crisis of faith.
"We had hoped." In the case of the two travelers in our gospel reading it meant that Jesus was the one they believed was going to redeem Israel, to rescue her from the intense and never ending suffering of being a subjugated people, to restore her to the near mythical glory of the days of David and Solomon. You can almost hear them continue: "He was to be the one ... but now he's ... well ... now we have no one, nothing, no hope at all. All that is left is pain and suffering and despair."
Having lost Jesus, their hope, they made a getaway from the scene of the tragedy,  taking their despair with them on the journey as they recounted to a stranger all that had happened. The suffering and death of Jesus. The women's bizarre tale of the empty tomb and the vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive ... a possibility which did not seem to them a serious consideration.
Quite a few of us can relate to taking our despair with us on the road, away from it all. Recounting again and again how it came to be that we lost all hope.
Sometimes when things seem to be not as we had hoped, it is possible that they are not really as they seem, and, in fact, are far different than we could possibly imagine. Their assumption was that Jesus was dead and gone. The reality was far different, Jesus was alive and present.
Jesus, sometimes you think he's with you and he's not. Sometimes you think he's not with you and he is.
Don't you see us in all of this? As the church that, from time to time, finds itself without hope? As individuals that, from time to time, find ourselves without hope? You see the good news in this beautiful story: Hope comes looking for us and calls us to worship.
Where is the risen Christ and what is he doing? I have learned from the Bible that the possibilities are endless and to try to limit him in any way is pointless. I am pretty sure of this: the risen Christ comes to us who have lost hope, and turns broken hearts into hearts that burn. He comes, walks with us on the way, perhaps astonished that we don't see as we ought to see, nonetheless teaches us the sacred story that we may understand, shares his presence with us in a special meal, and sets our hearts ablaze with a new hope and a new zeal for being hope for others.
In our time together, we acknowledge before God our pain, our suffering, our despair, our broken hearts. The risen Christ comes to us, realize it or not, invites and allows us to share with him all that robs us of our hope, our joy, our dreams, our love, our life, and our faith.
We encounter the risen Christ in Word and Sacrament, the means of grace. As we allow our broken hearted selves to open up to him and receive from him God's restorative means of grace, then we find that we are able to hear and receive from him the future God has created for us, and we find our hearts burn within us, burn with hope once again.
One last thing about encountering the risen Christ and discovering what he is doing in the world: He sets our hearts ablaze, not simply for our own sake, but rather for the sake of the world. As we experience this hope-filled holy heart-burn we discover that we have become the body of the risen Christ in the world. God opens our eyes to recognize that the stranger accompanying us is in fact our Savior who bids us to turn around and be on the way to the place where he leads us, to walk with those who have lost hope, and share with them our hope in the risen Christ.