This is the sermon the Rev. Karen Calafat, rector of St. Luke’s in the Meadow, Fort Worth, preached at the diocesan online worship service on the Third Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2020.
April 26, 2020
Barbara Brown Taylor, a wonderful theologian and author, reminds us Jesus gravitates toward those whose lives are split open, either by sickness or loss or disappointment. It is in the cracks of our humanity that divine, resurrected life shines brightest.
On this Third Sunday of Easter, we need that ‘divine, resurrected life to shine’ through, perhaps like never before, into this weary, worrisome world experience. Our lives have been split open to a new way of living, to a new way of being, in which we really do not know how long it will last nor what the lasting results will be.
Stay with me now as we take this journey down the Emmaus Road. I want to address our real-life experiences, current and past, but will not leave you without a word of hope, a word of Alleluia!
Dreams have been dashed for graduates at every level of education – high school seniors likely hurting the most, missing proms, senior events, graduation ceremonies and parties. For all graduates missing pinning ceremonies, degrees being conferred and celebrations with loved ones – the disappointment is real. May the light of that divine, resurrected life shine into those disappointed spaces. As well as into the disappointed spaces of weddings postponed, funerals delayed and any other life events on hold. And may it shine powerfully for all who are grieving the immeasurable losses of these days when we find ourselves on an Emmaus Road.
We are not unlike Cleopas and his companion, followers of Jesus, walking along the road to Emmaus the day Jesus tomb was found empty. Their hopes in who they thought was the Messiah had been crushed by crucifixion. Their despair even greater when Jesus’ tomb was found unexplainably empty. They were likely discussing this news – THE news of the land – that Jesus, their Rabbi, their leader, their friend – who threw open wide his arms of love and acceptance to all, even reaching to the farthest fringes, had been brutally taken from them and now had even been taken from the tomb. It was the news of the day, the talk of the town, even along the road to Emmaus.
And we all know that Emmaus road because we have walked it at some point in our lives, even as we are walking it now in this pandemic. The Road to Emmaus, the one with potholes of pain and disappoint.
The Road of scary diagnoses, defeat, divorce, even death.
The Road of loneliness, depression and grief.
This is the very road on which Jesus met his friends. Where Jesus met them in their confusion and dashed dreams. Where Jesus met them and walked with them.
Imagine today that you are taking a walk with a friend, socially distanced and wearing masks, discussing the harrowing experience of living in a pandemic. How this far reaching, highly contagious, unknown virus has affected every aspect of our lives. How we are stripped of life as we have known it and removed from the freedoms we love and enjoy, (and perhaps take for granted.) You discuss how there is no level of life that has not been impacted to some degree. Imagine you are sharing this conversation as you walk along and then a stranger approaches and asks what you are talking about, why your are wearing masks, why you are walking 6 feet apart from each other. Your response would likely mirror the disciples: How in the world do you not know what is going on? Have you not listened to the news? How is it even possible that you have not heard?
And then you tell this stranger about your experience with this all-consuming pandemic – how it has impacted you, what hopes it has dashed, what your fears about it are and about how you are managing day by day as you continue your walk on this Emmaus road.
And this stranger listens – Jesus listens. Jesus is present to them in their disbelief and dismay. Jesus remains with them. Stays with them in their bewilderment and heartache. Jesus stays with them in the unknown, in the darkness. Jesus stays with them until they recognize him, until the divine, resurrected life shines through – until they see the light break in through the cracks of their humanity.
Therein is our hope in this season of challenge and change – this season of disappointment and difficulty. Through these cracks in our humanity, the Divine, resurrected light will shine. We may not recognize it for a while, but based on Cleopas and his friend’s experience, we can trust that the resurrected Jesus is with us in the darkness and will stay with us until we recognize his presence to sustain us and to empower us to carry on.
We may recognize this divine, resurrected life in listening to the birds who bring music to our days, or in the flutter of a hummingbird’s wings. Perhaps it will shine in through reconnecting with friends who we have not talk to in a while, or even making new friends in a virtual way. You may come to recognize this divine resurrected life in the sacrifices of healthcare workers and doctors. Perhaps you will see that divine life shine through researchers and scientists who are diligently working for our good. And we know they are because they have in the past – this month is the 60th the anniversary of the polio vaccine, now a disease that is prevented. Some day we will say the same of this dreaded coronavirus, because the divine, resurrected life will break through the cracks and remain with the professionals until a prevention is discovered.
In this unusual Easter season, Embrace your Emmaus Road experience and hold tight, Jesus is with you whether you recognize it or not. ‘Jesus gravitates toward those whose lives are split open; and through those cracks divine, resurrected life will shine!’ Alleluia!