Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19; I Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

Readings for Third Sunday of Easter 4 April 2008 Vanderbilt Divinity Library Lectionary

For the Lectionary and other reflections, check out Easter 3 , 4 April 2008 Textweek


The readings today give us an image of being Church, an opportunity to look at our being ourselves. They provide a purpose and a direction for ourselves as the church and they also provide a process for our becoming who we claim and are called to be. Not unexpectedly, you’ll notice that we’ve replaced the Old Testament readings; after Easter we have the Acts of the Apostles instead of the Old Testament to take us through to Pentecost. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the experience of the early church and so to reflect on our experience. How do we find ourselves in the light of Easter?

Peter is calling all of Judea and Jerusalem into the church and in these early days the church is very much a reforming group within the Jewish or the Hebrew church. It is not a separate community – this isn’t Peter calling people to be Anglicans, rather from within the faith community in which he lives and has his being, he is calling for new sight, new movement, and in verse 40 we find him exhorting a purpose or an orientation: "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." It’s not a sort of ‘man the lifeboats’ type call, and it’s not an appeal to individuality. Save yourselves from this corrupt generation - it’s an appeal to each individual, knowing each as a part of the whole. It makes no sense to hear that as Peter talking to one other – save yourself; it only makes sense if we can appreciate that Peter sees every other as part of a whole, because then the call to save yourself from this corrupt generation is a call to for each and everyone to participate in renewal. And just hearing that, if we take out the very beginning – ‘Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea….”’ - if we can overcome that and hear this as a call to those who were gathered, then it’s a call that echoes with the same sense of urgency and the same sense of promise today. We too can hear Peter calling to each one of us as a part of all of us: Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. And right in the middle of that first reading we have the process that gives shape and form to this calling to a new way of being: verse 38 says, "Repent, and be baptised every one of you, so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

So there are just four very simple parts to it. Repent - turn toward the divine, to newness of life, and it’s a complete orientation: turn towards the Divine to newness in life. Be baptised - own and live, live out the promises of faith, be aware of the promises that are inherent in our baptism, in our accepting the grace and the gift of the divine. Be forgiven – I would imagine if you took the total amount of dollars spent on psychoanalysis as people try to discover where they’re held in the past, you could rebuild the Vatican and every church in the land over and over again. Be forgiven; do not be held in the past, reconcile that, allow the grace of God to bring you into a wholeness, past and present, so that all of you, all of you, may orientate toward the future. And then there’s that delightful ‘and’: ‘and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. For those of us who’ve tried – ‘yep, I’ve repented, tick the box; been baptised, yep; been forgiven, my guilt box is totally empty, it’s all good. So, where’s the Holy Spirit?’ One has to then open oneself to receive it, doesn’t come in the mail, it’s an active receiving.

So with all of that as the backdrop, we then have that familiar story of the road to Emmaus and it’s one of those delightfully contemplative stories. It’s not too busy to be distracting, but rather it’s a narrative for us to imagine ourselves in, not in a way that actors imagine themselves in a play, but rather as we contemplate that story of the road to Emmaus, and we picture the movement – those with great imaginations you can pad out all the scenery and everything. Picture the movement, but as we contemplate the story be aware of your own life and its movement, because they parallel, they mirror. Rather than ‘this is me in the story going to….’, see it rather as a poetic telling of your life. This is not the story of two people trekking off to Emmaus, this is my story being told poetically so that I might hear it and look at it in another way. The two walking to Emmaus – is it representative of the post-Easter church? We’ve all seen Easter; even those that didn’t come to church saw Easter – saw the Pope on telly, saw the Archbishop on telly. But do we now just turn our back on all of that and go back to our own journey, going back to where we came from before Easter, or do the two on the road to Emmaus represent the way of the world, the way of avoidance – ‘yep, I can see, I have seen, I am aware, but now I choose to walk away’? Do they represent the eternal drift of humanity impelled by the forces of worldly gravity – is that road to Emmaus actually the non-choosing way, is that the way of drift? Is that the way that I will continue to walk if I don’t actively attend and participate?

There were other options available to those two; they could have stayed, they could have stayed with it in Jerusalem or they could have walked toward something that was revealed by what they saw in Jerusalem. But there is a change in the story and I think when we read about the revelation that occurred in the breaking of the bread, I actually think there’s a part of us that goes, “I know that, I was there; I’ve experienced that moment, that moment of communion, the moment that brings us back together week by week. We know ‘he was revealed in the breaking of the bread’ and I have seen that and lived that moment. It’s a moment that keeps us alive; it gives us an orientation, an opportunity to encounter the Divine; it’s a moment of promise. From that moment the two travellers turn – repent. They re-turned to Jerusalem, they found their companions, they found themselves once again with those with whom they were baptised and then they shared the experience of Christ being made known to them. There’s a story of sharing, of journeying, of movement, of changes, of companions, of hospitality. These are stories of the Church, a story of being; it’s story of encounter and of being in the divine presence.

How does that then parallel my story, my life? Are we walking on our own way, on our own road, hoping now and again that Jesus will come and walk with us? Or are we called to walk alongside humanity and to reveal the Divine, so that changes and new directions are made possible? Let’s not let ourselves off the hook, let us not short-change ourselves - perhaps in that story the call of us, the call of each and everyone who has known Easter is to be the Christ in that story, to be the revealer.

The second reading finishes with an amazing line: ‘You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.’ It is a change that is revealed at Easter; it is a movement out of this world. If you stay in this world there is absolutely no doubt that we will die. There’s a movement that is revealed at Easter that takes us out of that place, to the place of the imperishable seed. Seek that place, find that place and then encounter others on the road and reveal that place. The world then changes - the world looks different and if the world looks different the world will become different.

Rejoice and be glad for the Lord is truly risen in each and every one of us.