Monday, April 1, 2013

Sermon: Road Trip

D. Bonnell Road to Emmaus #2 at
Sermon for Easter Evening

St. Philips In The Hills Parish, Tucson, AZ

The Rev. Vicki Hesse, March 31, 2013
For Readings, click hereLuke 24:13-49

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen

I love to take road trips.   
There is a certain, um,
spark to the idea of going 
on a long journey,
like four- or six- hour drive; or
maybe making the three-days drive across the U.S.
“Road trips” for me, are liberating. It’s a time out of time;
permission (for me) to eat keep-me-awake junk food,
to drink buckets of coffee,
to listen to scary talk-radio programs and
to hold non-linear conversations –
you know, talking and discussing the meaning of life. 

Sometimes those conversations surprise us,
as Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue says,
“…are not just two intersecting monologues…
but…are conversations in which
you overheard yourself
saying things that you never knew you knew..

[conversations in which]
you heard,…from somebody, words that
absolutely found places within you
that you thought you had lost…

[conversations that]…
brought the two of you onto a different plane…
that continues to sing in your mind for weeks afterward…”[1] 

That’s what I love about road trips. Fresh perspectives.

When you are at a fuel stop, have you ever noticed
a familiar car fueling up beside your car? 
Maybe you go over and talk to the people with that car,
“I notice your license plate is from Alaska,
how did your journey bring you to this place?”
You are likely to get one of two responses,
“None of your business” or “Well, it all started this way…”
Sometimes, we humans just need a little nudge
to spill out our hopes and dreams,
disappointments and lamentations,
even if it’s a stranger who asks.

That could be what happened
on the road trip in our gospel reading today.
The two disciples were on a 1st century “road trip,”
from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking and discussing,
“…about all the things that happened.”
This stranger approached and asked them
what they were discussing.

And they stood still. Time stopped.
They just needed a nudge from a complete stranger
to reflect for a minute. 

Has that ever happened - you think
you are having a conversation with one someone
and suddenly, unsuspectingly, God enters.
Not as a topic but as a freeze frame –
some fresh idea, or weird viewpoint –
and we suddenly find our lost selves, standing still. 
Time stops. We have come to a crossroad of
our “horizontal” human story and God’s vertical perspective. 

At that crossroad, it is not the pathway that stops us,
but the moment at hand and
the eternity that has just invaded time.
I think that’s what might have happened to the disciples.

They stood still. They knew something shifted,
but they did not recognize Jesus. 
They looked down, scratched their feet in the sand,
rearranged their backpacks, and wondered if or how much
to share with this stranger. 
They thought again – who could possibly not know
about these things that had just unfolded in Jerusalem.

So they share their story with him. 
And, like a opened faucet, their story came gushing out in a
semi-comprehensible stream of consciousness… 
a quagmire of confusion, sadness, dismay, betrayal
and anger, they told the stranger

About mighty prophetic Jesus, his crucifixtion, and his death,
About their hopes that Jesus would redeem Israel,  
About how three days had now passed after his death,
About the women of the group who had been at his tomb early in the morning did not find his body,
About the angels the women did see, who said he was alive,
About the others in the group who also did not see his body.

They paused to catch their breath,
awaiting a reaction from this stranger
to whom they had just poured out their heart.
They still did not recognize Jesus.

As with us, sometimes. We do not recognize Jesus.
We get so wrapped up in our life and what is happening…
how can we recognize Jesus in the midst of a
Good Friday world? 

We might feel blindsided by the another person’s meanness,
by yet another unnecessary violent death,
by human rights violations,
by uncivil public officials,
by inappropriate law proposals…
or we might even be so blinded by the light of joy
in a grandchild’s birth, whatever it is that weighs on our hearts,

that we might not even consider
where is God in all of it? WIGIAT?

Sometimes, we do not recognize Jesus,
even though this Holy One takes all our road trips with us.
We might not recognize him, but he is there.
Waiting for us to invite Love in.

And, so, Jesus joins the disciples on their
Road Trip toward understanding. 
Jesus recalls their ancestral story –
beginning with Moses.

It seems like he pulled out his pocket Torah scrolls,
complete with the Prophets, and
gave a multi-faceted PowerPoint presentation
on the “messianic completion.”[2] 

Jesus, the stranger, connected the intellectual dots
for the disciples from the faith tradition of their past
to the hope that all people have, yearning for fruition –
the unfolding history of salvation to the ends of the earth.

In so doing, Jesus began to reveal himself to them. 
But they still are not ready to recognize him.

Then, Jesus walked ahead of them
as if he were going on his way. 
Was he feigning departure, just waiting to see
how the disciples might respond? 
[So it is with us – Jesus is right there,
waiting for an invitation to enter our lives.]

But the disciples urged him – strongly – the gospel reads,
to “stay with them” in their home. 
They continued to talk and to share their road trip stories. 
At table, they shared a Eucharistic meal. 
Jesus took the bread they had on hand, and
in the blessing and breaking, in that meal they shared,
their hearts were rekindled and their eyes were opened
and they recognized Jesus. 

The words they shared
“absolutely found places within the disciples
that they thought they had lost…
it was a conversation that brought them
onto a different plane…”[3]
Jesus accompanied them on a Road Trip
To a fresh destination:
From their heads to their hearts,
From explanation to experience,
From point in time to eternity,
From isolation to community,
From death to life. 

In that meal, they recognized Jesus.
They knew that his death was not the end of the story,
only the beginning.
And they couldn’t wait to tell their friends.

In that same meal, week after week,
our eyes are opened and we recognize Jesus. 
He often does not come to us through our head,
or in our isolation, or in explanations. 

Jesus opens our eyes and comes to us on our journey. 
During Road Trips.  In community.
At meals. In experiences. Beyond death. In mystery.
With open eyes, we recognize Jesus.
And Jesus recognizes us.

We might feel blindsided by the another person or situation,
yet in our Baptism our eyes are opened. 
We are sealed by the Holy Spirit
and marked as Christ’s own, forever.
And, regardless of that other person or situation,
we are seen and recognized by God.
We are worthy of God’s love and belonging.

We might be distraught by the news
of yet another unnecessary violent death,
yet God in Jesus also continues to battle
suffering and injustice through his own needless
suffering and death. 
Life-giving God, in Jesus,
stays present in peace-making conversations.

We might be dismayed by the
“powers and principalities of the world,”
but on those road trips toward broken dreams,
Jesus is with us on the way. 

Jesus heals in the midst of illness and
pours out joy abundantly in the midst of sorrow.
God, in Jesus, shows up in our lives and
brings moments of eternity to bear. 

Our part is to remember that we are an Easter people!
Death does not have the final word! 
There is more to the story!

When we, too, share bread at the communion table,
or at a coffee bar, or in someone’s dining room,
or the soup kitchen or on the dusty river walk,
or on the road trip.

Those are the times when we can recognize Jesus. 
Those are the times when we travelers feel alive.
Those are the times when our hearts burn with
knowledge of him.

God recognizes us in those ancestral salvation stories,
as they are revealed in scripture and the breaking of bread.

To quote Marcel Proust,
"The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes." 

With our new eyes, this Easter,
may we recognize that Jesus has defeated death.

On our Easter road trip,
we can invite that stranger Jesus to accompany us
in our stories and experiences to give us fresh perspective. 
May this Easter’s conversation continue
to sing in your hearts and minds for weeks to come…

Jesus the Christ is alive, with us, here,
in this experience, in this eternity,
in this community, in this life.
Alleluia, the Lord has risen!
The Lord had risen indeed! Alleluia!

[1] Transcript for The Inner Landscape of Beauty, an interview with Krista Tippett and John O’Donohue, recorded January 26, 2012. Cited at

[2] Inspired from Feasting On The Word, “Third Sunday of Easter Year A,” p. 420.
[3] O’Donohue interview, cited above

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