Easter 3 A - Journey to Emmaus



Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the celebration


The Eucharistic assembly has a very definite identity: those who have become one in the risen Christ through baptism, now celebrate that holy union with him in sharing a single loaf and cup — yet this is not how most people think of what they are doing on Sunday morning. 
Michel de Verteuil
General comments
 

It is Easter morning, and Jesus leads the two disciples along the slow, painful journey to wisdom. God is inviting us to remember with gratitude times when he led us along a similar journey to the stage where we understood what was happening in our lives. We celebrate the teachers who did for us what Jesus did for the two disciples.

The story unfolds in several stages:
- Verses 13 to 16 : The disciples walk aimlessly along, unable to make sense of the events of Good Friday. Jesus the teacher is discreet, patient and content to walk silently alongside them.
- Verses 18 to 24 : Jesus invites them to tell their story, a long one, with many ups and downs, great hopes all dashed. Jesus listens in respectful silence. What a teacher!
- Verses 25 to 27 : Jesus’ long silence bears rich fruit – as always happens with great teachers. Now fully in tune with the experience of the disciples, he takes up the dialogue, showing that the teaching of the scriptures is not complete until it is experienced in the reality of their lives. As he teaches, what had seemed senseless to the disciples now appears not only meaningful, but in accordance with age-old laws of life.
- Verses 28 to 32 : What Jesus taught them on the road now becomes a reality in the context of a community meal.
- Verses 33 to 35 : This is a crucial part of the story: as a result of the encounter with Jesus and the wisdom they have gained, the disciples are able to return to their community with a new heart.

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Homily notes

There is a very strong element of self-reference in today’s gospel which carries on into the homily. Here we are now gathered for the Eucharist (which we understand as the weekly encounter of our community with the Risen Lord which takes place in the breaking and sharing of a loaf) reading an early Christian text (the Emmaus story) intended by its author to help his audience understand their gathering for the Eucharist by telling a story of another Sunday gathering around a loaf, except that that gathering at Emmaus is presented as the archetype and explanation of all later gatherings. Luke supposes that all his readers already have this Sunday gathering as part of their practical experience — in our terms, they take ‘going to Sunday Mass’ as a normal part Christian life — and then he wants to interpret that ritual using the medium of an ‘historical’ example, his logic being ‘look what happened on the first Sunday, therefore that is what is happening now today.’

So the gospel poses us who are actually gathered for the Eucharist with a number of questions to see have we appropriated Luke’s vision of what our eucharistic assembly should be:
Do we see our weekly meeting as a moment when we hear the Word?
Do we see our gathering as gathered around the Lord’s table? Do we see our eating together as having a share in the Lord’s body?

Do we see our group as one Christian body (a unity formed from individual people) symbolised in the one loaf (a unity from individual grains)?
Do we see this as meeting with the Risen Jesus?
Do we see this as empowering us to go from this meal to proclaim the good news?
These are the question the Emmaus story poses to us at our gathering — they are probably different questions from those it posed to those who were its initial audience — but in answering them we come not only to a deeper appreciation of today’s gospel, but to a realisation of its object: a deeper appreciation of the Sunday Eucharist.

It would be an interesting exercise to pose the above questions as one set of poles on a questionnaire scale. The opposite poles would be something like ‘I get communion each week at Mass because it makes me holy.’ If we compared the Emmaus vision of the Eucharist with the actual perceptions of those who are celebrating with us, we might be rather shocked at the task of evangelisation facing us! One loaf and one cup shared has become the distribution of pre-cut ready-made individualistic roundels — and the cup which we say all should drink from is reserved to the just one person — that hardly speak at all as sacramental signs, much less challenge us to recognise our unity in Christ. Lastly, we might ask ourselves as priests whether we see ourselves as those who preside over the community’s breaking of the loaf or those who ‘say Mass “with a congregation”? And whether from the way we act, anyone might see a difference.

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 John Litteton
Gospel Reflection


The story about the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus and how they recognised him at ‘the breaking of the bread’ (Lk 24:35) teaches us much about the Eucharist and, in particular, the way in which it provides food for eternal life.

Food satisfies our physical hunger. However, sharing a meal also satisfies a greater hunger, the hunger for the deeper human need of companionship. Sharing a meal facilitates interpersonal exchange and, in so doing, promotes important human values. It symbolises and brings about unity among people.

Similarly, the Eucharist provides food and deeper nourishment for our spiritual lives because it is the Bread of Life. Throughout the gospels we read that Jesus enjoyed gatherings and meals. He often sought companionship with other people, that resulted in him sharing something of himself and, ultimately, at the Last Supper, all of himself, with them. He used such occasions to teach the truth about himself.

The love and generosity of Jesus in responding to the confusion and hopelessness of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and his teaching them the fuller meaning of his actions, offer us an insight into his own total self-giving for others at the Last Supper and in his suffering and death.

Jesus wants his followers to imitate his example. The challenging question for all of us who are Jesus’ disciples is: Do we live in memory of him when we gather to share the Eucharist? In other words, how do we remember all that he said and in what ways do we practise what he did? Just as Jesus gave his life for the life of the world, so we are being challenged to follow his example, while acknowledging that it can be extremely difficult to put the interests of other people before our own.

Therefore, the challenge of celebrating the Eucharist is: Can we respond to people as Jesus did? In effect, can we, in and through our own convictions and lifestyles that are nourished by the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Christ received when we celebrate the Eucharist, join with him in satisfying the spiritual hunger in other people’s lives? If we can, then we are living Eucharistic lives that flow from the selfless and self-giving life of Jesus Christ.

Meal times often degenerate into a hastily-eaten snack or a quick take-away. Similarly, the celebration of the Eucharist can become just another hastily-observed obligation or a meaningless ritual. But the Mass is much more than a meal.

So let us try to make meal times at home and our participation in the Eucharist a time of genuine sharing and enrichment. In doing so, we acknowledge our gratitude for Christ’s abiding presence and nourishment in the form of bread and wine that have become his Body and Blood providing us with food for eternal life.
 
Prayer Reflection

Lord, there have been times when we were totally discouraged.  We walked aimlessly along the road, our faces downcast,
  as we remembered the sad events of previous days:
  – a project which we thought would change our country had failed;
       – we were disappointed in a relationship that had seemed destined to fulfill all our longing;
       – a Church community we had hoped would be a true body of Christ
         was torn apart by conflict.
       Then, quite suddenly, unexpectedly, you sent your son Jesus to walk with us,
       even though we did not recognise him.
       He came in the guise of a friend, a spiritual guide, a grandparent,
       who listened in silence as we told our story once more.
       Then, when the moment was right,
       that Jesus whom you sent showed us how foolish we were,
       how slow to believe the full message of the prophets;
       he explained the passages throughout the scriptures that were about ourselves
       while we listened in silence, our hearts burning within us.
       We remember with gratitude how we were able to set out that instant and return to Jerusalem.

Lord, our contemporaries are walking the road, their faces downcast, unable to make sense of their lives.
       Forgive us, Church people, that we come arrogantly to them
       labeling them materialistic, or unbelievers, or atheists,
       and telling them our own stories.
       Help us rather to be like Jesus,
       to walk alongside them so discreetly they don’t even recognize who we are;
       to ask them what matters they are discussing as they walk along;
       to invite them to relate their stories, even if they are impatient with our questions;
       to listen respectfully for as long as their stories last.
       How else will we be able to explain the scriptures at work in their lives
       so that they can return to Jerusalem, their hearts burning within them?

       Lord, send us bible teachers like Jesus
       who will make our hearts burn within us as they talk to us on the road
       and, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets,
       explain the passages throughout the scriptures that are about ourselves.

       We thank you for those special Eucharists that we experience from time to time,
       when we recognise your presence in the breaking of bread
       and feel no need to linger there,
       but return to the Jerusalem of our daily occupations,
       our hearts burning within us.

       Lord, we would prefer to grow in wisdom quickly and painlessly
       by taking courses or reading many books.
       But there is no way to wisdom
       except by going through times when we cannot understand what has happened to us;
       only when we have told our story many times over,
       experiencing again and again how senseless it is
       will we reach down into the roots of our traditions and discover with surprise
       that what we have gone through is nothing new
       but the fulfillment of ancient prophecies.

       Lord, we get to know you through teachers and preachers,
       and we thank you for them.

       But it is only in a community of sharing and trust
       that we can experience your presence in the world.

       How true it is that we recognise you in the breaking of bread.

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REFLECTIONS: 

1.     Fr. David Vincent Meconi, SJ  

Stay with Us 

Purpose: The Road to Emmaus is one of the most popular post-Resurrection stories and it offers    today’s world a hopeful image that even in our confusion and disillusionment, the Lord will appear when he knows we are ready to receive him fully.  Still basking in the beauty of the paschal light, this might be the right Sunday to ask how we deal with the long  journey of life when we feel the Lord is not accompanying us.  This Sunday’s homily could very well then explain (1) the gift of time in being recollected and given the ability  to see anew, (2) the Road to Emmaus as the place where many contemporary Catholics     find themselves—desirous of truth but wondering how to make sense of all that the Church proclaims, and (3) the gift of seeing Christ in places we never imagined,  especially “in the breaking of the bread.”

 What a difference the gift of time can make in the lives of us creatures.  Last week Jesus’ followers locked themselves behind protective doors “for fear of the Jews”, but now that they have witnessed the resurrected Christ at work in the world, they are out in public asking a fellow pilgrim if he is “the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place”?  It seems from this account that there are times it is right that God keeps us from seeing fully and understanding completely.  Back in the 3rd century, Origen contended that Scripture is full of enigmatic statements and hidden truths because it is God’s way of inviting us to go deeper, to wrestle and finally to own something for ourselves.  How many of our parishioners can relate to a God whom they wish were louder, more directive, easier to understand?

Pope Francis used the story of Emmaus while in Brazil to address those many lapsed Catholics who have given up on the power of the Church to bring us Jesus.  To the Bishops of Brazil, our Holy Father stated:

They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day (Lk 24: 17-21). Here we have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church, who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church – their Jerusalem – can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.  It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in the new religious groups that are sprouting up, but also those who already seem godless, both in theory and in practice.

While this won’t be the group hearing our homily this Sunday, Francis’ words teach us that we must reach out to those who have been alienated from Christ’s Church.  For he is the only road that will lead to wholeness and salvation and we must therefore reclaim his Body’s message for the world.  To preach the truth in love and in a sincere, authentic way of life is the beginning of reclaiming souls for Jesus.

It seems that the Church is losing so many key battles in the world. Maybe the Lord will allow the government, special interest groups and factions hateful of the Gospel, to win for a while.  But while the light shines, should we not get more assiduously to work?  Should we not evaluate how our parishes are doing in not only providing for the intellectual and spiritual needs of our regular communicants, but how we are doing in reaching out to those who walk and drive by our doors without even a moment’s notice?  Do we supply our parishioners with the apologetics courses they need, with the hours of Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation that will strengthen their souls and equip their minds to answer the homosexual couple who ridicule the Church of their youth, the divorced and remarried who think the Church is judging them as unfit parishioners?

Today’s readings could be used to talk about our “walk” with Jesus, our walk between the supposed end of Calvary and the new beginnings inaugurated by Easter morning.  Both events are real but only one is eternal.  Both places exist in our heart but only one should have hold.  Are we and our people able to narrate the basic points of Christ’s life as the two on the Road to Emmaus do today?  Are we and our people solicitous and charitable enough to invite the stranger to “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening”?  Are we and our people holy enough to see Jesus in the “breaking of the bread”?  We are all looking for answers to life’s questions and today on the Road to Emmaus, the living Answer encounters and calls us.  He may not always be readily recognizable but if we remain, insist, and open ourselves up to how he wants to feed us, we will all be able to “recount what had taken place” and thus convert souls and change society. 

2.     The Connections:

THE WORD:

Today’s Gospel begins on the afternoon of that miraculous Easter Sunday.  Having just completed the observance of the Passover Sabbath, two disciples of Jesus (one identified as Cleopas) are making the seven-mile trip to the village of Emmaus.  By identifying them as disciples, Luke is emphasizing that these two were more than just impartial observers of the events of Holy Week.

Luke writes that their exchange was “lively” -- we can well imagine!  As well as anger at the great travesty of justice that had taken place, they must have felt emotionally shattered at what had befallen their revered Rabbi Jesus.  The two are suddenly joined by a stranger who asks the subject of their “lively” conversation.  The stranger then explains, to their astonishment, the meaning of each of the events of the past week.  When they reach the village, the two disciples ask the stranger to stay with them.  And, in the words from Luke’s Gospel that we have come to treasure, the two disciples “come to know (the Risen Christ) in the breaking of the bread.” 

HOMILY POINTS:

Luke’s Easter night story parallels our own experience of the Eucharist:  We come to the Lord’s table feeling angry, hurt, despairing, alone -- but at this table, coming to “know him in the breaking of the bread,” we can experience the peace and presence of the Risen Christ.

It has been said that true friendship begins when people share a memory.  Like the two disciples who recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread, we, too, are bound as a Church by the same memory of the Risen One.  In the word we hear together and the bread we share together, God's love is both remembered and relived, giving us hope and direction and meaning in the course of our individual journeys.

As the two disciples discover on their journey to Emmaus, Christ is alive and present in our midst in the love, charity and goodness we give and receive, in the sacrament of his body and blood, in moments of grace and prayer.

Like the disciples journeying to Emmaus, we are disciples journeying.  The journey reaches its zenith in the great Paschal journey from crucifixion to resurrection.  As the disciples traveling to Emmaus discover, the journey is not ended.  It continues through the wilderness and is marked by the cross.  But God is still very much present to us along the way. 

The many roads to Emmaus

A mother and father rush their child to the hospital in the middle of their night.  They have done everything they can, but the baby's fever will not subside.  It has been a long night of waiting, of trying not imagine the worst, of second-guessing, of desperate prayers.  From their child's room to the hospital, from the emergency room to the waiting room, this young mother and father walk the long road to Emmaus.

While not a complete surprise, it was still a blow.  Her job was one of many that were eliminated in the merger.  There would be a modest severance package, of course, and some outplacement help, but to find another job in her field at her salary would mean a move to another city -- or she would have to “retool” and begin a new career.  So begins her journey to Emmaus.

He had taken a year off from school to work on the campaign.  He believed in what the candidate stood for, in the political process, in the ideal that one person could make a difference.  But his candidate lost, in a bruising campaign.  The young campaign worker's idealism also took a beating as he saw for the first time how ugly politics can be.  What's next? he wondered, as he began the next chapter of his life and career along the road to Emmaus.

Every one of us has traveled the road the two disciples walked that Easter night.  It is the road of deep disappointment, sadness, despair, anger.  But God assures us, in his Easter promise, that along those roads he will make himself known to us.  If our eyes are open, we will meet him in his Christ: in the compassion and generosity of others, in the breaking of bread and the healing touch of the sacraments, in the grace and wisdom of his Spirit in our midst.  May our hearts and consciences always be open to behold the presence of Christ, our constant companion along the many roads we walk to Emmaus.
 
ILLUSTRATIONS:

 From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection:

1.     Bad news and good news:  

"I've got some good news and some bad news to tell you. Which would you like to hear first?" the farmer asked. "Why don't you tell me the bad news first?" the banker replied. "Okay," said the farmer, "With the bad drought and inflation and all, I won't be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year, either on the principal or the interest." "Well, that is pretty bad," said the banker. "It gets worse," said the farmer. "I also won't be able to pay anything on the loan for all that machinery I bought, not on the principal or interest." "Wow, is that ever bad!" the banker admitted. "It's worse than that," the farmer continued. "You remember I also borrowed to buy seed and fertilizer and  other  supplies.  Well,  I  can't  pay  anything  on  that  either,  principal  or interest." "That's awful," said the banker, "and that's enough! What's the good news?" "The good news," replied the farmer with a smile, "is that I intend to keep on doing business with you." [John C. Maxwell, Developing the Leaders Around You (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers), p. 71.] I don't know if that was good news for the banker or not. Two of the disciples of Jesus were on the road that leads to Emmaus. They were as low as that farmer because their Master had been crucified like a common thief. But now they’ve heard reports that their Master is not dead at all. Reliable sources have told them that he has appeared to some of their most trusted friends. Was he really alive? The disciples were troubled and afraid. Should they believe the good news or the bad?  And that's our dilemma, isn't it? DO WE BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS OR THE BAD? The good news is that Christ is alive. The bad news is how little impact that event is having in the world today. 

2.     Broken dreams:  

Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton, in his book Horns and Halos in Human Nature, tells of one of the weirdest auctions in history. It was held in the city of Washington, D.C. It was an auction of designs, actually patent models of old  inventions that  did  not  make  it  in  the  marketplace. There  were  150,000 designs up for auction. There was an illuminated cat to scare away mice. There was a device to prevent snoring which consisted of a trumpet reaching from the mouth to the ear. One person designed a tube to reach from his mouth to his feet so that his breath would keep his feet warm as he slept. There was an adjustable pulpit which could be raised or lowered. You could hit a button and make the pulpit descend or ascend to dramatically illustrate a point. Obviously, at one time somebody had high hopes for each of those designs which did not make it. Some died in poverty, having spent all of their money trying to sell their dream. One hundred fifty thousand broken dreams! Is there anything sadder? Today’s gospel describes the shattered dreams of two of Jesus’ disciples. 

3.     Risen Lord in the train.   

On her first train trip, a little girl was put into an upper berth by her mother. The mother then assured her that Jesus would watch over her during the night.  As the lights were switched off the girl became alarmed and called out softly: "Mom, are you there?" “Yes dear,” her mother replied.  A little later the child called in a louder voice: “Daddy, are you also there?” “Yes”, was the reply.  After this had been repeated several times, one of the passengers lost patience and shouted: “We’re all here. Your father, your mother, your brothers and sisters and cousins, your uncles and aunts – all are here. Now go to sleep!”  There was silence for a while.  Then, in a hushed voice the child asked: "Mom, was that Jesus?” 

4.     The Risen Lord is watching:  

Up at the head table in the cafeteria, one of the nuns had placed a big bowl of bright red, fresh, juicy apples.  Beside the bowl, she placed a note which read, "Take only one.  Remember, Jesus is watching." At the other end of the table was a bowl full of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, still warm from the oven.  Beside the bowl was a little note scrawled in a child's handwriting which read, "Take all you want. Jesus is watching the apples!" 

5.     Where is God?  

A couple had two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who were excessively mischievous.  They were  always  getting  into  trouble,  and  their parents knew that, if any mischief occurred in their neighborhood, their sons were probably involved. The boys’ mother heard that a priest in the downtown parish had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The pastor agreed, but asked to see them individually. So the mother sent her 8-year-old first, in the morning, and fixed the appointment of the older boy with the priest in the afternoon. The priest, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, “Where is God?” The boy’s mouth dropped open and he made no response. So the priest repeated the question in an even sterner tone, “Where is God!!?” Again the boy made no attempt to answer. So the clergyman raised his voice even more and shook his finger in the boy’s face and bellowed, “WHERE IS GOD!?” The boy screamed and ran directly home and dove into his closet, slamming the door behind him. When his older brother found him in the closet, he asked, “What happened?” The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied, “We are in BIG trouble this time, Dave. God is missing - and they think WE did it!” 

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From Sermons.com  

A friend shared with me a beautiful legend about a king who decided to set aside a special day to honor his greatest subject. When the big day arrived, there was a large gathering in the palace courtyard. Four finalists were brought forward, and from these four, the king would select the winner. 

The first person presented was a wealthy philanthropist. The king was told that this man was highly deserving of the honor because of his humanitarian efforts. He had given much of his wealth to the poor.

The second person was a celebrated physician. The king was told that this doctor was highly deserving of the honor because he had rendered faithful and dedicated service to the sick for many years.

The third person was a distinguished judge. The king was told that the judge was worthy because he was noted for his wisdom, his fairness, and his brilliant decisions. 

The fourth person presented was an elderly woman. Everyone was quite surprised to see her there, because her manner was quite humble, as was her dress. She hardly looked the part of someone who would be honored as the greatest subject in the kingdom. What chance could she possibly have, when compared to the other three, who had accomplished so much? Even so, there was something about her the look of love in her face, the understanding in her eyes, her quiet confidence. 

The king was intrigued, to say the least, and somewhat puzzled by her presence. He asked who she was. The answer came: "You see the philanthropist, the doctor, and the judge? Well, she was their teacher!" 

That woman had no wealth, no fortune, and no title, but she had unselfishly given her life to produce great people. There is nothing more powerful or more Christ-like than sacrificial love.

 The king could not see the value in the humble lady. He missed the significance of the teacher. Often we miss the value of those around us. I think it would surprise us to know how often we miss the presence of Christ just as Cleopas and his brother missed the significance of the stranger on the road to Emmaus.
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 How many of you here this morning remember "Stone Soup"? No, I don't mean the magazine. No, I don't mean the recipe.  

I mean the story. "Stone Soup" is an old folk-tale, told and re-told with slightly different details in dozens of countries and cultures. In case you've forgotten it is a fable that focuses on the ingenuity of some weary travelers who arrive at a small village with nothing. No food, no money, nothing. All they have is a large cooking pot. The travelers are met with suspicion and surliness everywhere they go. No doors are opened to them. No invitations of hospitality are extended.  

The travelers then build a fire in the commons of the village square. They fill their cauldron, their big pot with water and one large stone, and place it over the fire. They sit around the pot rubbing their hands in expectation, talking about their anticipation of a great delicacy - "stone soup."  

The villagers grow curious and one by one come out to ask the travelers what they are doing. Most importantly, what are they cooking that is exciting them so much? The travelers reply to each villager who approaches that the "stone soup" they are cooking is absolutely the most exquisite soup anyone could ever taste.  

But the best could be even better if it received just one more ingredient. To one villager they mention carrots. To another villager they suggest potatoes. To a third villager they muse that a big beef bone would add much to the mixture.  

As more villagers approach and more ingredients are suggested, the cauldron of "stone soup" gradually takes on the identity of a rich, thick stew - a stew capable of feeding all of those who contributed to its creation and then some. At the end of the story, all of the villagers and the travelers sit together on the commons and enjoy an unexpected and hearty meal together. 

"Stone Soup" is not a story about how to get a "free lunch." "Stone Soup" is a story about the transforming power of hospitality, but a reverse hospitality. It is the weary travelers with empty hands who invite the first wary villager to join them in their watery wares. It is the strangers who offered hospitality to the inhospitable hosts.  

"Stone soup" is the story of a gift of calories and community to a village that was too scared to share...
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Peace Is a Possibility 

Lucy of Peanuts cartoon fame, pictured with an air of discouragement, questions, "Do you think that life has any meaning when you have failed nine spelling tests in a row, and your teacher hates you?" While most likely for very different reasons, I rather suspect that most of us gathered this morning for worship have experienced our own times of despair, a time when it feels as if all of life is falling in upon us. Each of us has known times of anguish and despair, times when we have felt all alone, times of confusion and pain. 

John Wesley spoke of his experience of encountering the grace of God firsthand as a time when his heart was strangely warmed. Burning hearts, hearts strangely warmed - are these not indications of an Easter power and presence within us, the gift of the risen Christ's Spirit? Burning hearts, hearts strangely warmed, are hearts ablaze with the promise of resurrection and new life, with the good news that fear and death do not have the final word, that love is stronger than hatred, that peace is indeed a possibility.

Joel D. Kline, Hearts Strangely Warmed
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 Living Generosity 

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For more information CLICK HERE.
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 Slow to Recognize Greatness

Karl Barth, one of the twentieth century's most famous theologians, was on a streetcar one day in Basel, Switzerland, where he lived and lectured. A tourist to the city climbed on the streetcar and sat down next to Barth. The two men started chatting with each other. "Are you new to the city?" Barth inquired.

"Yes," said the tourist.
"Is there anything you would particularly like to see in this city?" asked Barth.
"Yes," he said, "I'd love to meet the famous theologian Karl Barth. Do you know him?"
Barth replied, "Well as a matter of fact, I do. I give him a shave every morning."

The tourist got off the streetcar quite delighted. He went back to his hotel saying to himself, "I met Karl Barth's barber today."  

That amuses me. That tourist was in the presence of the very person he most wanted to meet, but even with the most obvious clue, he never realized that the man with whom he was talking was the great man himself.  

It reminds me of Mary's reaction on Easter morning. In her grief, she thinks the man she is speaking to is the gardener. It is not, of course. Until he called her name she did not realize that she was speaking with the risen Christ. 

And, of course, it reminds me of that scene on the road to Emmaus, when later that same Easter day, two of the disciples walk for a while with the resurrected Jesus, and they, too, had no idea with whom they were conversing.

 King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com 
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 Recognizing at Last! 

In the ancient Greek myth The Odyssey we read the epic tale of Odysseus. Odysseus was the valiant warrior who fought so bravely in the Trojan War. But, according to legend, his homeward journey after that war was interrupted for many years as the gods had decided to test Odysseus' true mettle through a series of trials. His journeys carried him far and wide as he encountered mythic beasts and lands, many of which have passed into common parlance: the Cyclops, the Procrustean bed, Scylla and Charybdis, the sirens' voices.

Meanwhile, back at his home, Odysseus' wife and family presume he must have died en route back from Troy. Finally, however, the day came when the gods released Odysseus and he arrives back home at last. But instead of simply waltzing through the front door and crying out some Greek equivalent of, "Honey, I'm home!" Odysseus decides that he wants to determine if anything has changed during his long absence. Did his wife still love him? Had she been faithful? In order to find out, Odysseus disguises himself so as to approach his home looking like a stranger in need of temporary lodging.

The housekeeper, Euryclea, welcomes the apparent traveler and performs for him the then-standard practice of foot-washing. As she does so, Euryclea regales the stranger with anecdotes about her long-lost master, Odysseus, whom she had also served as a nurse when he was young. She told the traveler about how long her master has been missing and she noted, too, that by then Odysseus would be about the same age and of about the same build as the man whose feet she was washing. Now when Odysseus had been a young boy, he was once gored by a wild boar, leaving a nasty scar on his leg. As Euryclea went about her servile task, suddenly her hand brushed against that old scar and instantly her eyes were opened and she recognized, with great joy, her beloved friend and master!

Recognition scenes like that have long exercised a strong pull on the human heart. Sometimes this can be used for comedic effect, as in any number of episodes on the old I Love Lucy show when Lucy would disguise herself so as to worm her way into one of her husband, Rickie's, shows. And you always waited eagerly for that moment when Desi Arnaz's eyes would widen right before he'd exclaim, "Luuucccy!" But such shocks of recognition are also the stuff of high drama, as in The Odyssey and any number of plays, novels, and films across the centuries. And, of course, in also Luke 24.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
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 From the Confessions of St. Augustine 

One of the greatest voices of the church was St. Augustine. He lived between the 4th and 5th centuries in Rome and was a Bishop. After Rome fell and faded into dust it was largely Augustine's writings that kept Christianity alive and made it the most influential movement the world had ever known. It is remarkable that between the 8th and 12th centuries his writings were more widely read than any other. And that was 400 to 700 years after his death.

But he was not always a saint. Before he was converted at age 29 he lived to fulfill every lust and pleasure. But Augustine had one great quality that saved his pitiful life - a praying mother. She never gave up on him until one day he stopped long enough to listen to the voices around him. Augustine had just heard a sermon by Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

We are told in public speaking and preaching classes not to read long quotes but I'm going to do it anyway and read something that Augustine wrote. These two paragraphs shaped the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of people throughout history. He is looking back on his conversion to Christianity and the convictions of his heart. Here's the quote: 

"One day, under deep conviction: I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out...So was I weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighboring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting and oft repeating, "Take up and read; Take up and read." Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like.

So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find... Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius (his friend) was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: 'Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh...' No further would I read; nor needed I for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away."

Adapted from St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine
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Abide With Us 

In the King James Version of the Bible, the invitation of the two travelers reads, "Abide with me; for it is toward evening and the day is far spent," words which were the inspiration for that beloved hymn, "Abide with me/Fast falls the eventide." The hymn was written by Henry Francis Lyte, for 25 years the vicar of the parish at Devonshire, England. He was 54 years old, broken in health and saddened by dissensions in his congregation. On Sunday, September 4, 1847 he preached his farewell sermon and went home to rest. After tea in the afternoon, he retired to his study. In an hour or two, he rejoined his family, holding in his hand the manuscript of his immortal hymn. 

Despite what most think, Lyte's "eventide" has nothing to do with the end of the natural day but rather the end of life. "Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day/Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away." The words are about the faith that faces life and death fearlessly and triumphantly in the light of the cross and the empty tomb....East of Easter. Thus Lyte could conclude, "Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee/In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me." Vicar Lyte died three months later. 

David E. Leininger, East of Easter
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Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend. 

Albert Camus
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 Three Table Fellowships 

"The Scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship that Jesus keeps with his own: daily fellowship at table, the table fellowship of the Lord's Supper, and the final table fellowship in the kingdom of God. But in all three, the one thing that counts is that 'their eyes were opened, and they knew him.' 

"The fellowship of the table teaches Christians that here they still eat the perishable bread of the earthly pilgrimage. But if they share this bread with one another, they shall also one day receive the imperishable bread together in the Father's house."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954), 66.
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 The Resurrection Changes Everything 

There's a story about a young boy named Walter Elias. Born in the city, his parents one day moved out to the country to become farmers. Walter had a vivid imagination and the farm was the perfect place for a young boy and a wondering mind. One day in the apple orchard he was amazed when he saw sitting on a branch of one of the apple trees an owl. He just stood there and stared at the owl. He thought about what his father had told him about owls: owls always rested during the day because they hunted throughout the night. This owl was asleep. He also thought that this owl might make a great pet.

Being careful not to make any noises he stepped over sticks and leaves. The owl was in a deep sleep because it never heard Walter Elias walking toward it. Finally, standing under the owl, he reached up and grabbed the owl by the legs. Now, the events that followed are difficult to explain. Suddenly everything was utter chaos. The owl came to life. Walter's thoughts about keeping the bird as a pet were quickly forgotten. The air filled with wings, and feathers, and screaming. In the excitement Walter held the legs tighter. And in his panic, Walter Elias, still holding on to the owl, threw it to the ground and stomped it to death. After things calmed down, Walter looked at the now dead and bloody bird and began to cry. He ran back to the farm, obtained a shovel, and buried the owl in the orchard. 

At night he would dream of that owl. As the years passed he never got over what had happened that summer day. Deep down it affected him for the rest of his life. As an older man he said he never, ever killed anything again. Do you see it? Something significant happened after that event.
Something that Walter didn’t miss. Something which transformed Walter Elias, something that redeemed him from the pit of despair, something that resurrected him, something that made Walter Elias into someone who we all have experienced in some way. You see his name changed to Walt Disney who created Mickey Mouse, Goofy and all those wonderful cartoon animals.