First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Pastor: Rev. Kent H. Little
Date: April 26, 2020
Wisdom Readings: Quran 49:13, Luke 24:13-35
Message: “Stay with Us!”
O mankind, indeed We have created you from a male and a female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the Sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.
Now on that same day two of them 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.
Message – “Stay with Us”
It happens often at a birth of a little one into a family. It happens as we celebrate subsequent birthdays. It happens when promotions, milestones, and goals are realized. It happens on holidays… Easter, Saint Patrick’s Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving Christmas, Super Bowl. It happens when we are sick, and people come to visit. It happens at weddings. It happens when we are mourning the death of a loved one, and it happens at funerals. It is the center piece of religious practice for many.
It happens in the midst of the most joyous of times in our lives and the most devastating times in our lives. It has been going on for millennia… the gathering around the table, whether literally or symbolically and metaphorically. Sharing a meal, breaking bread, sitting down and eating together has been a staple, a marker for the building of relationship and community.
What I remember was that it was a summer night. TruDee and I had just driven in from far northwest Kansas for a family gathering. We arrived at my grandma and grandpa’s house late, I do not recall how late, it must have been midnight at least. And, I think especially of that generation, we walked in the back door and into the kitchen and there on the table was a meal. Not just a snack… but a meal. For some, such as my grandma, it is just what you did when someone came to visit, you fed them. My 19-year-old mind did not think of it at the time, however, in hindsight, somewhere in the meal there was the presence of Love, the Presence of Christ.
It was some years ago as I was driving to a meeting and came up upon a bicycler. On the back of his bicycle seat was a small handmade cardboard sign, with a single word… “Hungry.” I passed him and drove into the next town and found a Sonic drive-in, purchased a meal and went back to find him. When I did, I pulled around behind him and honked. He stopped, I got out and handed him a sack with a burger and fries and a cold drink. He thanked me profusely as I leaned on the front of my vehicle and stayed for just a bit watching him ravage the meal. We did not talk much, he was obviously very hungry, and then I went on my way and he on his. I did not think of it at the time, however, in hindsight, somewhere in the meal, there was the presence of Love, the Presence of Christ.
The other evening, we delivered some items back to some friends who had shared a meal with us. They invited us in, we were all masked, and kept our 6-foot distance, they only had about 20 minutes notice that we were coming. We spent some time and enjoyed conversation and laughter, and though I did not partake, except for a cookie, as we had literally just eaten, on the table was food for the sharing. I did not think of it at the time, however, in hindsight, somewhere in the meal there was the presence of Love, the Presence of Christ.
And in the story we just read from Luke… in the chaos of the aftermath of the crucifixion as these two disciples traveled back to their home, a third person joined them on the road and there was conversation and teaching. As they approached their home they invited the stranger to stay with them. They were joined around a table, and when he broke the bread… they realized. And though they did not think of it immediately, in hindsight, somewhere in the meal there was Love, the Presence of Christ.
Our world, our country, our state, our city, our church is in the throes of uncertainty, the unknown, there is anxiety and it feels chaotic and strangely quiet all at the same time. Not unlike that day the disciples were on the road, there is fear, anger, grief, surprise, sadness, and heartache washing over us in waves. Perhaps, not unlike the disciples on the road we are feeling the questions of “What now?”, “What’s next?”. Trying to think of a plan when restrictions loosen. Looking toward the roads ahead and wondering which one we should take. Trying to put one foot in front of the other and sometimes not being able to see where our foot will land.
There is a reality on which the meal rests. The reality of sharing together our resources, our food staples, our vulnerability, our being together around a table that feeds our hearts and souls, that gives us hope as a community. There is a reality to community and relationship building that encourages, strengthens, nourishes, prepares us for the journey… even if it feels chaotic and uncertain. The tangible sharing of a meal is food for the journey.
There is a mystery on which the meal rests. The mystery of this table gathering, a Presence we trust and believe is present. It is a Presence we can often see and feel as we gather with others, whether physically or virtually. It is a Presence we experience though often have no words to describe. And yet as present as real as we are.
The reality and mystery of community is about sharing what we have, being vulnerable to one another, being present to one another and to the Presence of the Spirit. The reality of the mystery of community is continuing to nurture connection and relationship in the most joyous of times, and in the most difficult of times. It is what community does in and with the guidance and grace of the Spirit… it remains present in the Divine and to one another as it carries on its work of connection, struggle, grace, compassion, and love. May we all…
And the knowledge and presence of the Spirit of community gives us hope and strength. For along the journey here on this good green earth, we are invited to live, laugh together, weep together, persevere, and love. For we are immersed in a sea of love, filled within, surrounded without, buoyed in an eternal connection one to another. And whether it is a few blocks, a few towns, a State or States, miles upon miles that stand between us, or even that expansive mystery we call death, we are connected as surely as if we stand side by side. We know the Presence is here to “Stay with Us,” in and through those who love us and whom we love. For as the poet Rumi writes, Love is the Whole and we are but a part, and in the Spirit of the Divine, there is nothing, nothing that can separate us from Love. This, will continue to be so. AMEN.