Are You Listening?
May 4th 2014, Luke 24: 13-19, 25-32
By Pastor Tim Woodard
Every day, when I get out of bed in the morning, I try hard to open my eyes and find my way into my morning routine. Some days I do better than others. Of course, I make time to say at least a short prayer and ask God for a bit of help as I start my day. I suspect that most of us have some type of ritual we go through each morning as well. From shutting off the outside lights and getting the newspaper off the driveway; to opening the blinds, turning off the night light in the kitchen and turning on the coffee pot. Walking the dogs is always a major and urgent morning priority, followed by the feeding ritual. Once they have eaten, I then prepare a small breakfast for myself and head toward the office, or begin getting into my planned schedule for the day. I set expectations for my day, but I must confess I do not physically expect to walk with Jesus, as we are told that the two Disciples did in our scripture lesson this morning.
Years ago, when I was serving a big old church in Middletown, New York, I believe it was on a Tuesday evening, while I was working on setting up the lettering for my sermon title ‘eyes were opened’ to go out on our sign near the road. I was laying out all the letters and I started with the e(s); there are six of them so I put out twelve, needing a row for each side of the sign. I had a friend with me. He looked at what I was doing and said something like: I believe you have way too many of the letter e set out there. I smiled and continued to reach for the other letters starting with the y, then the w and so forth. When I put the p then the n in place he exclaimed: “Oh Now I see!” I responded joyfully, “Yes! Eyes were opened!”
That is kind of what happened as the two Disciples headed off toward the village of Emmaus. Our scripture passage this morning tells us that this was the same day, suggesting to us that this happened on Easter, soon after Mary had found the tomb of Jesus empty and reported back to the disciples that she had seen the Risen Jesus. Apparently, these two disciples set off toward Emmaus that same day when they were joined by a man they did not recognize. (These two disciples, they were probably like all of us; they had gone through their morning rituals and after the astonishing report from the women at the tomb, they had set off for one reason or another toward Emmaus and were not expecting to walk with Jesus. One could easily speculate that they just needed to get out of town, clear they minds and try to get some perspective on all that had occurred. Consequently, they did not recognize this man as such. ) It was not until after their long seven mile walk from Jerusalem was over, which one can assume took them several hours, that they invite the man to stay with them… for the evening darkness was approaching quickly. He accepted their invitation and it was during dinner when Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it, that they finally realized who he was. Their eyes were opened; their hearts and their minds were also opened.
Sometimes, when I was setting up the bold lettering for the church sign, I struggled with the spelling of the words, I still do and thus often double check myself before I give my sermon topic to John, who graciously volunteers to set up our sign each week. (I am very grateful John does this task.) I often say that my frustration has been because all the words are capitalized and they just don’t look right. This may be why my friend thought I had laid out too many e (s) that day. Either way, I always step back from my work and study the words and double check the spelling. For I do not want to be accused of doing so with my eyes shut and thus leave some word miss-spelt, creating another opportunity for someone to take a picture and post my (our) ‘blooper’ on the internet.
Speaking of church bloopers here are a few classics:
“The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.” “The audience is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession.” “Thursday night potluck supper: prayer and medication to follow.” At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be: “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice. “The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, ‘Break Forth into Joy.’” Sigh, thus, I work really hard (and I encourage others to do the same) perhaps simply ‘stepping back’ and ‘reading and proof reading’ anything we might put on our sign board or in our bulletin or newsletter. The wrong letter in a word could be a real ‘eye opener’ but could lead to a door closing, rather than the desired result.
It sure is easy to get focused on the minor issues rather than focusing on the really important stuff isn’t it? Stuff like what are the scriptures saying to us about this encounter the disciples have on their way to Emmaus?
Try to imagine yourself there on that road with the disciples. Consider what they were possibly thinking and feeling. We are being told that these two disciples are joined by a man who walks to Emmaus with them. Approximately seven miles in distance and several hours in time they walked together. Yet, we are left wondering… if perhaps they were just hearing this stranger with their ears… but had not really been listening with their hearts and minds. For surely, it seems they ought to have known they were in the presence of their Risen Lord, long before he sat down and broke bread with them!
Let us try to put this all into perspective shall we. An example of this occurred when I was together with my family in a restaurant in Kissimmee. There were six of us around the table and we had all ordered our dinners. The waitress, who was working hard to serve us, had forgotten to bring a glass of water for my wife Lois’ sister Brenda. So Nancy, our daughter, spoke up and said excuse me: “Perhaps you didn’t hear my aunt ask for a glass of water a few minutes ago.” The waitress stopped and responded “Oh I heard her;” she paused slightly (blushed a bit and half smiled) then continued on “but I wasn’t listening.” She then quickly got the glass of water for Brenda.
As the disciples heard all of which the stranger said to them that day, they did acknowledge later that their very hearts had burned with the words he spoke. Yet, they didn’t listen to their hearts until much later – when Jesus sat down at the table to break bread with them. It makes me wonder how many of us are hearing the voices of those who are around us but we are not listening to what they are saying. This is more than just a play on words, just like the phrase ‘their eyes were opened’ or ‘Are you Listening’ are more than just some spicy little buzz lines to get your attention. This is about our focus and priorities as we go about our routine daily lives. It is about what’s important and what is not. It is about our ability or willingness to stay centered in the ‘living’ moment to moment wonder of our lives.
Like that old saying “take time to smell the roses,” I am saying we need to take time to fully experience the fullness of every moment we live. Sounds too mystical or philosophical to you? Well, I don’t mean it to be. I simply think that it is exciting to think that the disciples, these two that headed out to Emmaus that first Easter, it’s exciting that they had the opportunity to be in the company of the Risen Christ for a meaning period of time. That’s exciting! This is yet another confirmation, another accounting from more witnesses whom testify that they had been in the presence of the risen Christ, after he was crucified and buried in the tomb. This is important stuff for us to grasp and wrestle with. To think that they might not have ever realized it was Jesus, for they looked at him bodily and did not recognize him as Jesus, and possibly would have never shared this with others, means we could have been deprived of their testimonial of its occurrence! What a loss that would have been!
So what really occurred on the road that day? What ultimately caused them to believe they had been with Jesus!
The disciples walked with Jesus, the living Jesus; the resurrected Jesus. Before the day was done their eyes and their hearts were opened. They knew that the Living God had been present with them that day. Don’t you want to feel the presence of the Living God in your life today? I sure do. The challenge in front of us today is quite clear. The challenge for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was clear as well. They were lonely and confused after all the goings on in Jerusalem over the proceeding days. They needed to be in the presence of God. We need to be in the presence of God! We need to feel that burning sensation within our very hearts, just like the disciples did that day. We need to know that we are not alone for our God is truly with us today!
If we, if you and I, keep looking for the man Jesus to walk into our lives we are going to be discouraged, just like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. However, if we open our ears to the voice of the still speaking God, the voice of the Risen Christ, then we shall be raised up! Our hearts will burn with the joy of God’s Living Presence! Our minds will be opened to the words of the scriptures! We will hear the words of God from the mouths of stranger’s at the most surprising moments of our lives! Are you listening to what is being said? Are you willing to believe in God’s eternal Love and presence without seeing the crucified body of the man from Nazareth?
“Peace Be With You!”
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven milesfrom 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.
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?”