1. Bad news and good news:
"I've got some good news and some bad
news to tell you. Whichwould 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 inflationand all, I won't be able to pay anything on my mortgage this year, eitheron the principal or the interest.""Well, that is prettybad," said the banker. "It gets worse," said the farmer. "Ialso won't be able to pay anythingon the loan for all that machineryI 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 businesswith you." [John C. Maxwell, Developingthe Leaders Around You (Nashville, TN: ThomasNelson, 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 thatleads to Emmaus.They were as low as that farmer because their Master had been crucified like a common thief. But now they’veheard reports that their Master is not dead at all. Reliable sourceshave told them that he has appeared to someof their most trusted friends. Was he really alive? The disciples were troubled and afraid. Should they believethe good news or the bad? And that's our dilemma, isn't it? DO WE BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS OR THE BAD? The goodnews is that Christ is alive. The bad news is how little impact thatevent is having in the world today.
Dr. J. Wallace Hamilton, in his book Horns and Halos in HumanNature, 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 wasa device to prevent snoringwhich 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 heslept. There was an adjustable pulpitwhich 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 timesomebody 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. The Risen Lord with the most beautiful smile.
A young boy was walking home through the park after attending a Sunday school class. Somehow, he couldn’t stop thinkingabout the lesson for that day about Jesus’ teaching on the Last Judgment.What impressed him most was what the teacher said, "When you give something to another person, you’re really giving it to Jesus, and you will find the risen Jesus in every one you meet." As he continued through the park, he noticed an old woman sitting on a bench. She looked lonely and hungry. So he sat down next to her, took a chocolate bar he had saved and offered some to her. She accepted it with a beautifulsmile and he watchedher smilesas she chewed the chocolate. Then they sat together in silence, just smiling at each other. Finally,the boy got up to leave. As he began to walk away, he turned, ran back to the bench, and gave the woman a big hug. Whenhe arrived home, his mother saw a big smile on his face and asked, "What made you so happy today?" He said, "I shared my chocolatebar with Jesus." Before his mother could ask more questions, he added, "You know, she has the mostbeautiful smile in the world." Meanwhile, the old woman returned to her little apartment whereshe lived with her sister. "You’re all smiles," said her sister. "What made you so happy today?" She replied,"I was sitting in the park, eating a chocolate bar with Jesus. And, you know, he looks a lot younger than I expected." Today’s gospel tells us that we will meet and experience the risen Jesusin unexpected places and persons.
4. Euryclea’s moment of recognition
In the 8th century B.C. Greekepic poem The Odyssey weread the epic tale of Odysseus the ruler of the Island country Ithaca. Odysseus was the valiant warriorwho fought so bravely in the Trojan War. But according to legend, his homeward journey after that war was interrupted for many years as the war god Jupiter and the goddess of wisdom Athena had decided totest 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 Penelope and family had presumed himdead. Finally, however, the day came when the gods released Odysseus and he arrived home at last. But instead of simply walking through the front door and crying out some Greek equivalent of, "Honey, I'm home!" Odysseus decided that he needed to determine if anything had changed during his long absence.Did his wife still love him? Had she been faithful? In order to find out, Odysseus disguised himself as a strangerin need of temporary lodging. The housekeeper, Euryclea, welcomed the apparent travelerand washed his feet as was usual for a guest. As she did so, Euryclea detailedthe 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 hermaster had been missing, and she noted that by then Odysseus would be about the same age and of about the same build as the man stranger. As a young boy, Odysseus had been gored by a wild boar, and had a nasty scar on his leg from the tusk. As Euryclea finished washing the stranger’s feet, her hand brushed againstthat old scar. Instantly her eyes were opened and she recognized, with great joy, her beloved friend and master! Today’s gospel describes how the Emmaus travelers recognized their fellow traveler’s identity as the Risen Lord at the breaking of the bread. (Scott Hoeze).
5. “I met some guy in here last week who looks just like you!”
A man wrote to Reader’sDigest to tell about his father-in-law, whose name is Eugene. Eugene was in a restaurant with some business associates when a distinguished-looking gentleman rushed up to his table. Hardly able to contain his enthusiasm, the man beganto pump Eugene’s hand vigorously, all the while addressing himas Joe, fondly recalling the great times they had together in the Army. Eugene, who had served in the Merchant Marines, gently told the man that he was mistaken, and had evidently confused him with someone else. The stranger,obviously embarrassed, apologized profusely and left. A week later, while leaving the same restaurant, Eugene bumped into the stranger again. This time, the stranger hugged him, and repeated to all within earshot the poignant story of two Army buddies who had not seen each other in years. Finally,before Eugene could speak a word, he said, “You know, you’re never going to believe this, but I met some guy in here last week who looks just like you!” We could understand that happening. He hadn’t seen his old Army buddy in many years. We can even understand about the man in the hospital thinkinganother woman washis wife. But how do you explain Mary Magdaleneat the empty tomb not recognizing the risen Christ? And how do you explain the two disciples onthe road to Emmaus walking and talking with Christ for many miles that same day, and they too did not recognize him? Today’s gospel tells that story.
6. “Are you Jesus?”
Several years ago a group of computer salesmen from Milwaukee went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in time for dinner. But the meeting ran overtime, and the men had to race to the railway station, tickets in hand. As they barged through the terminal, one man inadvertently kicked over a table supporting a basket of apples. Without stopping, all the men reached the train and boarded it with sighs of relief. But one of them paused, feeling a twinge of compunction for the boy whose apple stand had been overturned. He waved goodbye to his companions and returned to the boy. He was glad he had because the ten-year -old boy was blind. The salesmangathered up the apples and noticed that several ofthem were bruised. He reached into his wallet and said to the boy, "Here, please take this ten-dollar bill for the damage we did. I hopeit won't spoil your day." As he started to walk away, the bewildered boy called after him, "Areyou Jesus?" Jesus comes to us in various disguises.
7. The story of "Wrong-Way iRegels"
is a familiar one, but it bears repeating. On New Year’s Day, l929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that gamea young man named Roy Riegels recovereda fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards towardthe wrong goal line. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he reached the endzone. The Bruins were forced to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLAteam. The strange play came in the first half. At halftime the UCLA playersfiled off the field and into the dressing room. They sat aroundon benches and the floor. But Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in a corner, and put his face in his hands. A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during halftime. That day CoachPrice was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what todo with Riegels. When the timekeeper came in and announced that there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price lookedat the team and said, "Men, the sameteam that played the first half will start the second." The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn't budge.The coach looked back and called to him. Riegelsdidn’t move. Coach Pricewent over to where Riegels sat and said, "Roy, didn’t you hear me?The same team that played the first half will start the second." Roy Riegels lookedup, his cheeks wet with tears. "Coach," he said, "I can’t do it. I’ve ruinedyou. I’ve ruinedthe university’s reputation. I’ve ruined myself. I can’t face that crowd out there." Coach Price reachedout, put his hands on Riegels'' shoulder, and said, "Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over." (Leadership, Spring 1992, "To Illustrate," page 49.) No appearance of Christ after the resurrection is more vivid or beautiful than the episode that takes place on the Roadto Emmaus becauseit is a story of singular grace and charm. Thetwo disciples, like RoyRiegels, were traveling in the wrong direction. They had "fumbled" and were running away from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They
thought the gameof life was over. Imaginetheir surprise when Jesus told them that the same team of disciples who had fled from the cross was going to start the second half of the game. He wastelling them there would be a tomorrow.
8. Jesus on a Maple tree?
Here is an 80-foot tall maple tree in Milford, Connecticut that hasn’tchanged much over the years. There are new leaves every spring, of course, and the leaves fall off every autumn. And there is the spot where a limb came off when Hurricane Gloria blew throughin 1985.The spot where the limb was blown off caused quite a stir in the neighborhood sometime back. One of the residents, Claudia Voight, looked at the tree one day and saw what looked like the face of Jesus. "It took my breath away," she recalls. "I told my friend to come over and pretty soon we had the entire neighborhood here looking." Word spread quickly throughout the area and before anyone realized it the maple tree became a popular attraction as car after car drove by to see the face of Christ on the tree. Drivers slowed down as they passed by, while others parked and walked through yards to see firsthand this strange apparition.
Eve Mizera, another Hawley Avenue neighbor, brought her 17-year-old son over to touch the tree in the hope it would cure him of the seizures that he suffers. "You never know," Eve says. Anotherresident, Cathy Cornwall,says she brought her three children over to see the tree. "Wehave a lot of single mothers in the neighborhood," she explains,"and teenagers who have to make tough decisions inthese times." Cathy also sees the face in the tree as a message of hope. She says it’s "like a message to have faith in ourselves and to have hope for the world." ("Face of Jesus seen in a maple tree." The MorningCall. Allentown, PA, July 25,
1992, p B-25.) This brings us to our question for the day. Where in the world do we find Jesus? Today’s gospel gives us the answer that Jesus meets us on our life’s Emmaus road.
9. It takes the signal nine hours to get to earth.
In 1972, NASA launchedan exploratory space probecalled Pioneer 10. The mission of Pioneer 10 was to fly to Jupiter and take picturesof the planet and moons, and send back data about the atmosphere, magneticfield, and radiation belts. Many scientists did not think this would be possible, because they feared that the probe would be destroyed in the asteroid belt, and up to this point, no probe had made it past Mars. But, Pioneer 10 completed its mission in November of 1973, and continued to travel into space. By 1997, the probe had traveledsix billion miles from the sun. In spite ofthe great distance, scientists are still able to pick up radio signals from the probe that they can stilldecipher. What is more remarkable than that, is these signals are sent by an 8-watt transmitter, which is only as powerfulas a night light, and it takes the signal nine hours to get to earth. (Rev. Matt Sapp, http://www.ccountry.net/~svchurch/svcc/sermons/mark10d.htm) It is always amazing to me that a generation that takes for granted the wonders of science is so quick to dismiss the power and the purpose of the Creator who set it all in motion in the first place. God is alive. God is personal. God cares about you and God desires to reveal Himself to you just as Christ revealed himself to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
10.“But I’ve got this problem, I can’t sleep at night.''
Dr. Tony Campolo, in his film series, You Can Make a Difference, tells the story of a Christian colleague with a PhD. in English Literaturewho quit his job and became a mailman because Christ opened up a new tomorrow in his life. Tony went to the man’s apartment to try to persuade himto change his mind. Here is how Tony describes that encounter: Tony says, "Icouldn’t change his mind, so I came back with the old Protestant work ethic thing. I said, ‘Charlie,if you’re gonna be a mailman, be the bestmailman you can be.’ He looked at me with a silly grin and said, 'I’m a lousy mailman.’ I asked, 'What do you mean, you’re a lousy mailman?’He answered,
'Everybody else gets the mail delivered by one o’clock; I never get back until about five thirty or six.’ ‘What takes so long?’ Iwanted to know. He said, 'I visit! That’s why it takes so long. You wouldn’t believe how many peopleon my route never got visited until I became the mailman. But I’ve got this problem, I can’t sleep at night.’ I asked, 'Why can’t you sleep?’ He said, 'Who can sleep after drinking twenty cups of coffee?’ I began to get the image of this mailman onthe job. He was no ordinarymailman. I could picture him going from door to door and at each home giving more than the mail. I could see him visiting solitary widows, counseling troubledteenagers, joking with lonely oldmen. I could see him delivering the mail in a way that was extra-ordinary for the people on his route. He’s the only mailman I know that on his birthday the people on his route get together, hire out a gym, and throw a party for him. They love him because he’s a mailman who expresses the love of Jesus everywhere he goes. In his own subtle way, my friend Charles is changing his world,changing the lives of people, touching them where they are, making adifference in their lives. It may not sound like much, but that man who is deliveringmail, like Jesus would deliver mail, is an agent of God who is changing the world." (Tony Campolo, You Can Make a Difference,Word, Inc., l984, pp 54-55.) We can return to our "Jerusalem" and wait for the energizing power of the Holy Spirit to help us to travel like the PhD.mailman in a new direction, doing the work that we feel Christ has called us to do.
11.“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water or do you want a chance to change the world?''
On March 20,1983, John Sculley, President of Pepsi Cola and one of America’s fastest rising corporate stars, stepped off the elevator and into the penthouse suite of the San Remo apartment buildingin New York. He was there to give Steve Jobs, founder ofApple Computer, an answer to his offer. For months, Jobs and his staff, badly in need of a brilliant leader to manage their rapid growth, had been trying to lure Sculley away from Pepsi. Sculleyhad discouraged their efforts.He had no interest in leaving Pepsi and he knew almost nothing about computers. Besides, he was slotted for the top spot at Pepsi and his salary, stock options and perks were beyond anything Jobs could hope to match. Still, Jobs persisted. Their conversation unfolded like this, according to Sculley: "Wewere on the balcony's west side, facing the Hudson River and he finally asked me directly: 'Are you going to come to Apple?' 'Steve, Ireally love what you're doing. I'm excited by it. How could anyone not be captivated? But it doesn't make sense. I'd love to be an advisorto you, to help you in any way. Anytime you're in New York, I'd love to spend time with you. But I don't think I can come to Apple.' Steve's head dropped as he stared at the pavement. After a weighty, uncomfortable pause, he issued a challengethat would haunt me for days: 'Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water, or do you want a chanceto change the world?'" (Youth Worker, Spring 1993.) When the two disciples recognizedit was the Lord Jesus who shared dinner with them even though they had failedand forsaken him, "they never felt more loved." Their hearts burned with His love. Jesus declared to them thatthe game of life was only half over. They were to turn around and get back to Jerusalem and await furtherinstructions and a new assignment. The schedule would go on as planned. Jesus was giving them a chance to change the world. That brings us to a questionthat we should often ask ourselves as wetravel on our own Emmaus road.Are we affecting the world-- or is the world infecting us?
12. “What exciting thing is going to happen today?"
In Winnie-the-Pooh, Pooh and Piglet take an evening walk. For a long time they walk in silence. Silence like only best friends can share. Finally Piglet breaks the silence and asks, "When you wake up in the morning, Pooh, what's the first thing you say to yourself?" "What's for breakfast?" answers Pooh and then asks. "And what do you say, Piglet?" Piglet says, "I say, I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today?" [Robert D. Dale, To Dream Again,(Broadman Press, Nashville, 1981).] You and I can't really plan to meet the Risen Christ becausewe never really know when or where He's going to show up. But you can be sure of this: He will show up.
13. And the light in his eyes does not go out:
Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn demonstrated the power of the Word of God in his book, One Day in the Life of IvanDenisovich, a book based on his own prisonexperiences. Ivan notices that oneof his fellow prisoners in the Gulag Archipelago is not broken, and the light in his eyes does not go out, as it seems to in all the other convicts. This isbecause each night in his bunk before the glimmering bulb is turned off, this man reverentlyunfolds some wrinkled pieces of paper that have somehow escaped the censor. On them are copied passages from the Gospels. The Book of Life was thesecret of this man's strength and endurance deep in the darkest corner behind the Iron Curtain. (Earl C. Davis in “Sermons and Services for Special Days”, Jack Galledge, Ed. Nashville Convention Press, 1979) That is one way we encounter the risen Christ in the breaking ofthe bread of life which is the Word.
14. For Helen Keller it was a gigantic breakthrough:
Young Helen Keller was imprisoned by her circumstances. She could neither see nor hear. She could feel withher hands, but without sight or hearing, how could she know what it was she was feeling? One day her teacher Ann Sullivan took Helen down a familiar path to the well house. Someone was drawing water there. Ann let the water run over one of Helen's hands and in sign language spelled into the other, WATER. Suddenly something happened within Helen. Something dramatic. Something life changing. It was only a five letter word, but for Helen Keller it was a gigantic breakthrough. She now had a name for familiar experience water. If this experience had a name, other familiar objectsand sensations must have names as well.It was as if she had suddenlyburst forth from a closely guardedprison. Now she could be a whole person, experiencing the world as a real human being in spite of her handicaps. Such a breakthrough is always exciting. Such a breakthrough came to two of the disciples of Jesuson their Emmausjourney described in today’s gospel.
15."Don't worry, Miss, I've got you."
Our tendencyis to look for Christ in the extraordinary, the spectacular, the breathtaking. Remember in Superman: the Movie when Superman first reveals his superpowersto the world? Lois Lane is dangling from a cable, high atop the Daily Planet building, screaming at the top of her lungs. Just as she begins her long fall to earth, Superman changes into his flashy red, yellow, and blue outfit and swoops up to catch her in midair. "Don't worry, Miss," he assures her, "I've got you." "You've got me," she exclaims. "Who's got you?" Just then the helicopter that has been perched on the edge of the building begins to fall straight toward them and the crowd below. But Superman merely grabs it with his one free arm and gently sets both it and Lois safely back on the landing pad. When he turns to leave, an astonished Lois stammers out the words, "Who ARE you?" "A friend," Supermanreplies warmly, and as he flies straightup into the air with a sort of half twist. Lois faints in a heap. [Jack Kuhatschek, The Superman Syndrome (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p. 133.] That's the way we would like for Christ to come to us. And that is why we miss him. Christ reveals himself as hehas always revealed himself "through the Word and throughthe Sacraments," through the studyof Scripture and the breaking of Bread. That is why when we need encouragement we go to our Bibles or we go to our church because there, Christ isrevealed in all his glory.
16. "We pursue him in order to show him the way."
There is a gripping story of a traveler who was walking along the road oneday when a man on horseback rushed by. There was an evil look in his eyes and blood on his hands. Minutes later a crowd of ridersdrew up and wanted to know if the travelerhad seen someone with blood on his hands go by. They were in hot pursuit of him. "Who is he?" the traveler asked. "An evil-doer," said the leader of the crowd. "And you pursue him in order to bring him to justice?" asked the traveler. "No," said the leader, "wepursue him in order to show him the way." (Fr. Anthony de Mello, Taking Flight (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1990), p. 65.) The picture we have in the New Testament is of a God who pursues us sothat God may show us the way. Christ comes to the two disciples. They do not recognize him, but it is he who takes the initiative. He walks with them and interprets Scripture for them.
17. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches.
There is a story of a Britishsoldier in the First World Warwho lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost.In the darkness, he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the postso that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost,he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Then he remembered the One who had died for him . . . who had endured . . . who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches.("To Illustrate," Preaching Magazine, Jan-Feb 1989.) Maybe that's what you and I need to do in the momentsof our distress and darkness, “strike a matchin the darkness and look on the face of Jesus Christ.” For Christ is here. He comes to us just as he came to those two disciples on the road to Emmaus even though we may not recognize him. He takes the initiative. He knocks on the door.
18.Healing of the grandfather :
The grandfather of the Jewishphilosopher Martin Buber was lame. Once day they asked him to tell a story about his teacher, and he related how his master used to hop and dance while he prayed. The old man rose as he spoke and was so swept away by his story that he himself began to hop and danceto show how his master did it. From that moment he was cured of his lameness. When we tell the story of Christ, we achieve two things. We enable others to experience him and we ourselves experience his powereven more. We cansee that happening in today’sgospel.