Sunday’s Sermon: Last Words

  • Words are a powerful thing – form and inform our lives → Think about it. How would you express who you are without using words?
    • Articulate your particular likes and dislikes
    • Communicate your needs
    • Convey the beliefs that are a fundamental part of your soul
    • Now, there are plenty of people in the world who don’t have the ability to vocalize words for one reason or another, but even when we can’t speak aloud, we find ways to express ourselves – to get those words across.
      • Sign language
      • Pointing to letters/pictures on a board
      • Through other medium (art, music, etc.)
    • Part of the power of words = lasting nature → Long after we’re gone, our words live on.
      • Hearts and minds of the people we love
      • Writings we leave behind→ Even if we don’t write profusely, or even much at all, we all write something. We write lists. We write recipes. We write down appointments. We write in birthday cards for family and friends.
      • Social media
        • Extreme e.g. – Eterni Me: “ collects almost everything that you create during your lifetime and processes this huge amount of information using complex Artificial Intelligence algorithms. Then it generates a virtual YOU, an avatar that emulates your personality and can interact with, and offer information and advice to your family and friends, even after you pass away.”[1]
          • Brings up interesting point: last words → Very few things leave the enduring impression that last words do for those who hear them. And our Scripture readings this morning leave some pretty powerful last words ringing in our ears.
            • Words of faith
            • Words of love
            • Words of peace/reconciliation/forgiveness
            • And as we think about these words today, we’re going to interact with them in the context of the stories of other people’s last words.
              • How can these words form and inform our faith?
  • First story: April 20, 1999. It’s not a day that many will forget, especially those who live in a relatively small suburb of Denver, a suburb called Columbine.
    • 2 seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, lay siege to their high school with guns and bombs → first highly-publicized mass school shooting
      • Wounded 24 students
      • Killed 12 classmates and 1 teacher
      • Eventually took their own lives
    • Among students who lost their lives: Rachel Scott[2]
      • 1st victim – sitting out on the lawn eating lunch with friend
      • According to her brother: “[Rachel] was mocked for her [Christian] faith, they knew her, they had a class with her.”
      • Last moments, Harris asked Rachel, “You still believe in God?” → Rachel’s response, “You know I do” → Harris: “Well, go be with him.”
    • Think of all the different things Rachel could have said. Think of all the words that might have resulted in a different outcome for her. Yet even in the face of fear, even in the face of certain death, Rachel chose to give voice to her faith. “You still believe in God?” “You know I do.”
      • Words that continue to leave a lasting impression → Rachel’s Challenge – non-profit organization created by Rachel’s father/stepmother
        • Mission: to inspire, equip and empower every person to create a permanent positive culture in their school, business and community by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion[3] → words left behind that continue to inspire faith and action
    • Scriptural connection – psalm
      • Context: don’t know whether words were initially written as someone’s final testimony
        • However, it’s certainly clear from the rest of the text that the person who uttered the words of this psalm was in distress.
          • Called a “prayer for deliverance” in most bibles
          • Speaks of enemies and failing strength
            • v. 12: I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
          • Numerous mentions of seeking God as a refuge
      • Yet even in the face of fear, in the face of whatever evil the psalmist was facing, we hear words of faith: You are indeed my rock and my fortress … My times are in your hand[4] → final and resounding words of faith in God
        • “You still believe in God?” … “You know I do.”
  • Second story: There are some events that are so seared into our brains that we can tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard about them. November 22, 1963 – the assassination of President Kennedy … April 4, 1968 – the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. … September 11, 2001 – the day thousands of people were killed at the World Trade Centers in New York; the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and in Stonycreek Township in rural Pennsylvania.
    • Where I was and what I was doing
    • As with any news story that we witness as it unfolds, we all started out with just the most basic of facts: four planes, collapsed buildings, thousands of lives. But as time went on, more and more of the story surrounding the events began to come out.
      • More facts
      • More theories (some credible, some not)
      • More stories of the people involved → And one of the story threads that emerged after 9/11 was all the phone calls made and the voicemails left by those who died that day.
        • E.g. – phone call from Brian Sweeney[5]
          • Former U.S. air force fighter pilot
          • Passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 175 (hit 2nd tower)
          • Tried to call his wife, Julie, at 8:59 a.m. – left a voicemail: “If things don’t go well, and it’s not looking good, I want you to know I absolutely love you.”
          • Impact: 9:03 a.m.
          • And Brian’s is one story of many – stories of people whose last words were words of love.
    • Scriptural connection
      • Psalm: Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.[6] → Call me crazy, but I hear love in an utterance like this. In a time of fear and uncertainty, the psalmist gives his or her most precious self – his or her very soul – to God.
        • Later psalmist calls on God’s love for us: Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.[7]
          • Reciprocation of God’s love for us: Into your hands I commit my spirit, O God, as you have committed your steadfast love to mine.
        • Tied to other, very familiar last words – Jesus’ last words on the cross (according to Luke): Father, into your hand I commend my spirit.[8] → last words in the greatest act of love: self-sacrifice
        • Also passage echoed in Stephen’s words in Acts – Stephen: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.[9] → Lord Jesus, receive my spirit as I have received your saving love from the cross.
    • The words of the psalmist, Jesus’ last words, and Stephen’s last words are all words that convey a powerful love just like Brian’s last words for his wife: I absolutely love you.
  • Final story: But of course, not all last words are spoken in times of tragedy. Sometimes people’s last words grace moments of tenderness, peace, and calm release.
    • E.g. – life and legacy of Mattie J. T. Stepanek
      • Suffered from rare form of muscular dystrophy
      • Died just shy of turning 14 in 2004
      • During his short but extraordinary life …
        • Motivational speaker
        • Lobbyist for peace, people with disabilities, and children with life-threatening conditions
        • Wrote 7 books
          • 6 “Heartsong” books(poetry)
          • 1 book of peace essays
      • Now, Mattie’s is a case in which we don’t know what his actual last words were, but the words that he left for us convey a peace and an openmindedness that cannot help but inspire.
        • E.g.: “Eternal Echoes”[10]
    • Scriptural connection – peace for which Mattie advocated so enthusiastically is similar to call for reconciliation/peace that we hear from Stephen in Acts
      • Stephen’s backstory: after thousands began being converted in Acts and Christian community was growing, the “original apostles” chose seven people to serve the growing community so they themselves could continue to “devote [themselves] to prayer and serving the word”[11] → Stephen = one of those seven (first deacons) → text: Stephen “did great signs and wonders” among the people in Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia[12] → those who heard didn’t understand and became angry àarrested Stephen → long speech to the council – not exactly endearing: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.”[13]
        • So then we come to today’s passage – the part of the story in which the enraged council sentences Stephen to death, takes him outside the city, and stones him.
          • Stephen calls out to Jesus before his death – words we already talked about (“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”)
          • Actual last words (as recorded in Scripture): Lord, do not hold this sin against them.[14] → words that extend peace and reconciliation
            • Peace to God on behalf of those who were participating in his death – asking God to forgive them
            • Also extending peace to those whom he had recently insulted → Think about it. These are at least some of the same people that he just called “stiff-necked” and “uncircumcised in heart and ears.” And yet with his last words, he asks for forgiveness for them. Maybe one of them heard him. Maybe those last words – those words of peace and reconciliation – wormed their way into the hearts and minds of some of the people in the crowd. Maybe they took them home, mulled them over, and shared them with someone else … Who knows where those final words of peace and forgiveness ended up?
  • You see, words are powerful things. They surround us. They fill us up, and they empty us out. They enfold us, and they expose us. Each word we choose to use leaves an impression, but as followers of Jesus Christ, there is one Word that we always carry with us – the Eternal Word, the Living Word, God’s Word made flesh which dwells among us full of grace and truth.[15]
    • Word that encourages us to share faith
    • Word that encourages us to share love
    • Word that encourages us to share peace
    • And inspired by this Living Word that goes with us always, we don’t have to wait for that faith, that love, that peace to be our last words. They can be our every word. Amen.



[2] Matt Ferner. “Craig Scott, Columbine Massacre Survivor, Revisits The High School And Remembers His Murdered Sister Rachel Scott.” From The Huffington Post, Posted: 04/10/2013, accessed: 05/16/2014.

[3] “FAQ: What is the mission of Rachel’s Challenge?” from Rachel’s Challenge: Start a Chain Reaction., accessed: 05/16/2014.

[4] Ps 31:3a, 15a.

[5] Philip Sherwell. “9/11: Voices from the doomed planes” in The Telegraph. Written: 09/10/2011, accessed: 05/16/2014.

[6] Ps 31:5.

[7] Ps 31:16.

[8] Ps 31:5; Lk 23:46.

[9] Acts 7:59.

[10] Mattie T. J. Stepanek. “Eternal Echoes” in Journey Through Heartsongs. (New York, NY: Hyperion Books, 2001), 7.

[11] Acts 6:4.

[12] Acts 6:8-9.

[13] Acts 7:51.

[14] Acts 7:60.

[15] Jn 1:14.

Sunday’s Sermon: Your Own Little Patch of Grass



  • Story: The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies[1]
    • Seems to be an issue every parent and often grandparents also have to tackle when raising children: teaching them the difference between “want” and “need” → And this is also one of the issues tackled by our Scripture readings this morning: As Christians and simply as human beings, what do we need?
      • Sometimes an easy question to answer
      • Sometimes far from easy
      • Reassurance that we find in Scripture this morning: Even when we don’t know what we need, God is there for us.
  • See need for differentiation between “need” and “want” in Psalm – ever-familiar first line: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.[2] → pay particular attention to last half, “I shall not want.”
    • Other translations:
      • NIV: I shall not be in want.
      • Common English Bible: I lack nothing.
      • The Message: I don’t need a thing.
      • Difference gets to the root of the Heb. – literal translation of “I shall not want” = “nothing I lack” → When you think about it, that’s a pretty big difference. According to Time Magazine, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world[3], and I’d be willing to bet that Bill Gates doesn’t need anything. He has food and water. He has a roof over his head. He lives in relative safety. But I’d also be willing to bet that even the richest man in the world wants things.
        • New suit
        • Cheeseburger and a chocolate shake
        • Tickets to the latest play on Broadway
        • New car
        • Boat
        • Better furniture
        • And the list goes on and on. None of these things are necessities. Life can go on without them. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want them.
    • Scripture = focused on “needs” – things we require to keep going → seems to tackle 2 different facets
      • Physical needs
      • Spiritual needs
  • First question: What are our physical needs? → one of the easier questions to answer … sort of
    • Pretty well addressed in psalm: [God] makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies[4]
      • Physical need: food = “green pastures”
      • Physical need: water = “still waters”
      • Physical need: protection
        • “I fear no evil, for you are with me”
        • “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”
        • Both these phrases speak to God’s protection and reassurance.
      • See how greatly and passionately God desires these things for all God’s children – all the sheep – in Heb.
        • clarify “God’s children” = all-inclusive term
        • “lie down” includes word “dwell” → God wants this to be a sustaining experience for us, a safe place in which we can settle down and feel secure.
        • “green pastures” = new fresh grass (as after rain) → best of the best
          • Freshest grass
          • Lushest grass
  • Second question: What are our spiritual needs? → often much more difficult to answer
    • Also addressed in psalm: [God] restores my soul. … You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.[5] → again touched by God’s desire to provide in abundance
      • Heb. “follow” (“goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”) = “pursue” → This is not God simply tying goodness and mercy to our beltloops so they can follow limply behind us like a drooping kite tail without any wind. This is God deliberately coming after us holding out that goodness and that mercy and just waiting for us to accept. When we zig, God zigs. When we zag, God zags. When we stop in our tracks, God comes ever closer in hopes that we will feel that goodness and mercy all the more.
        • John passage demonstrates care and attention this requires: The sheep hear [the shepherd’s] voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.[6] → As the shepherd in the psalm, this shepherd of which Jesus speaks cares for the sheep. This shepherd desires that they should follow so they can be lead to those green pastures, those still waters, that life-restoring rest.
          • Speaks to physical need          AND
          • Speaks to spiritual needs
        • God loves us, and so God wants us to have not just the bare bones but the fullest life possible – our own little patch of grass where our needs are satisfied.
          • Jesus’ words – end of John passage: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.[7]
  • But sometimes sheep wander off. Sometimes sheep fall prey to a predator or fall sick or become injured. Nothing – no life, no situation, no person – is perfect all the time.
    • On the one hand, there are all sorts of things that pull our attention away from the shepherd. → John addresses this: Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. … [The sheep] will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers. … The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.[8]
      • Scholar put it simply: It is perilous to follow the wrong shepherd.[9] → wrong shepherds: greed, pride, blind ambition, power
        • Think about it. We have an uncanny ability to be distracted … which is exactly what the vast majority of the advertising industry counts on!
          • Evident in number of ads we see everywhere – TV, magazines/newspapers, sides of vehicles, billboards, pop-ups online, Facebook feed → There’s always a flashier car, a bigger home, a more extravagant vacation that we could take. One thing’s for sure: they’re certainly not playing to our needs. They’re playing to our wants.
        • Ps acknowledges our constant turning and returning – Heb. “I shall dwell” (in the house of the Lord my whole life long) = “I shall return” (same word as “repent”)
  • But there’s an even bigger issue than that, isn’t there? We live in a world where not all who are hungry have food. Not all who are thirsty have access to clean, safe drinking water. Not all who fear and are in danger find the shelter they so desperately seek. What then?
    • Difficult question → let me ask this: Do sheep live as lone, solitary figures? – No, they live in a flock. They live together in community. And so do we.
      • Again, clarify “we” = all people, not just Christians
    • In times of need – our own need or others’ need – we find ourselves with the unique and sacred privilege of being God’s hands and heart for one another.  fulfilling our needs through other people and/or helping others fulfill their needs
      • Find this call in both Scriptures this morning
        • Jn: The sheep follow [the shepherd] because they know his voice.[10] – Gr. “follow” = same word used for “disciples” → implies following, yes, but also learning and reciprocating the actions
        • Ps: [God] leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.[11] – Heb. “right” = grace-filled, just → The psalmist isn’t talking about a correct path and an incorrect path here. The psalmist is talking about God leading us down paths of justice for the sake of God’s name. This is our chance to act out the love, the grace, the open-mindedness we find in our faith, making sure that those who need food don’t go hungry, that those who need water don’t die of thirst, that those in need of protection are not left alone to fend for themselves.
          • Scholar: When Psalm 23 is heard in the context of … Jesus Christ, its profoundly radical implications are even clearer: God is with us, but God is not ours to own; the God who shepherds us to life also gives life to the world; the table at which we are hosted is one to which the whole world is invited.[12]
      • So many ways to do this
        • Concrete ways: Habitat for Humanity, food shelf, Dorothy Day house, Backpacking for the Weekend
        • Ways that feel less concrete – lifting our voice
          • Prayer
          • Crying out for justice
          • E.g. – #BringBackOurGirls: Apr. 15, 300+ teenage girls were abducted from a school in Nigeria, some escaped but 234 are still being held by a terrorist group → How can we walk that road to justice with and for these girls? What can we do? We can pray. And we can spread the word to our family, to our friends, to our local and state and federal leaders. For these 234 girls and for all our brothers and sisters around the world who find themselves in need, we can raise our voices in support of those who are still seeking out those paths of justice because we each deserve to dwell in that little patch of grass that God has for us. Amen.


[1] Stan and Jan Berenstain. The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies. (New York, NY: Random House), 1988.

[2] Ps 23:1 (NRSV).

[3] Alexandra Sifferlin. “Bill Gates Is The Richest Man in the World (Again),” Time Magazine, Publish date: March 3, 2014. Access date: May 8, 2014.

[4] Ps 23:2-5a.

[5] Ps 23:3a, 5b-6.

[6] Jn 10:3-4.

[7] Jn 10:10b.

[8] Jn 10:1, 5, 10a.

[9] Molly T. Marshall. “Fourth Sunday of Easter – John 10:1-10 – Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 444.

[10] Jn 10:4.

[11] Ps 23:3b.

[12] J. Clinton McCann, Jr. “The Book of Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 4. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 771.

Sunday’s Sermon: Fellow Travelers

  • Everyone likes a good “journey” story.
    • All sorts of great books about people’s journeys
      • Classic fiction: Journey to the Center of the Earth[1]
      • Epic quest stories: The Lord of the Rings[2]
      • Real-life stories: Wild[3] → true story of woman who hiked Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to find herself after her life sort of fell apart
        • Pacific Crest Trail = similar to Appalachian Trail but tougher according to most hikers
          • Rougher terrain
          • More extreme temperatures
          • Almost 500 miles longer
        • No experience or training
        • 1000+ miles from Mojave Desert in southern California to Cascade Mountains in Washington State
      • We love to hear about where people have come from. We love to hear about the twists and turns their paths have taken, about how they’ve ended up where they are today. And our Scripture reading for today is certainly one of the best.
        • Catch up with 2 disciples as they embark from Jerusalem
        • Journey with them on the road to Emmaus à journey with twists and turns if ever there was one
  • Doesn’t exactly start out as a happy journey
    • Placement in Luke’s narrative – directly follow’s resurrection account
      • Women find tomb empty → “men in dazzling clothes” (presumed angels): “He is not here, but has risen.” → women run to tell other 11 disciples → Peter returns to see discarded grave clothes and empty tomb[4]
        • In what leads up to today’s text, we hear the good news of the resurrection from the angels, and with the women and Peter, we see the empty tomb. But we do not see the risen Christ himself … yet.
    • Today’s text: Now on that same day two of [the disciples] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. → Can you imagine the conversation that these two were having?
      • Witnessed Christ’s crucifixion
      • Saw him laid to rest in the tomb
      • Heard this crazy story of an empty tomb and 2 guys in sparkly clothes from the women
      • Heard Peter’s account of the tomb being empty and Jesus’ grave clothes being tossed aside
      • But … they have yet to see anything miraculous for themselves. Right now, all they know for sure is that Jesus died and his body was gone. We may not know why they were headed to Emmaus, but they were leaving Jerusalem behind because all it contained for them now was a whole lot of sadness and disappointment and hopelessness. They had lost their reason for staying in the city, and so they walked on …
  • Along the way – encounter “stranger” who seems to have been living under a rock!
    • Text: While they were talking and discussion, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place here in these days?” He asked them, “What things?”[5]
      • Jesus’ question evokes physical reaction – stops disciples in their tracks
      • Can’t you just hear Cleopas’ voice as he questions this stranger? “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place here in these days? Where have you been? How could you possibly have missed this? It’s all everyone’s been talking about for days.”
        • Jesus reaction = actually pretty humorous
          • Text: “What things?”
          • Even better in Gr. – one word: “What?”
    • Surely, though, the disciples did not see the humor in this. They launched into a long explanation of what had happened in Jerusalem over the past few days.
      • Described Jesus as a prophet
      • Described his arrest, condemnation, and death
      • Described the account of the empty tomb
      • And while we certainly could read these verses in any number of different ways, it doesn’t seem to me like the disciples’ story ended on a hopeful note.  get the impression they were unsure about the resurrection at best – end of their recitation: Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.[6]
        • Hear apprehension in this
        • Hear uncertainty in this
        • Hear skepticism in this
        • And who can blame them? People don’t just come back from the dead. They don’t toss aside their grave clothes and walk out of their own tombs. These disciples hadn’t even seen the empty tomb for themselves, let alone the once-again-alive Jesus (at least, not that they know of).
          • Feeling that resonates with us, isn’t it? → We wonder. We question. We doubt. Like these two disciples, we haven’t seen the risen Christ … at least, not that we know of.
            • Remember Scripture: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.[7] → And so we hope. And so we have faith. And so we walk on …
  • Jesus’ reaction to their story: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”[8] → At first, this may seem like a harsh reaction to us. But I don’t think this was meant that way. I don’t think Jesus was berating them or belittling them for any perceived lack of belief. I don’t hear a harsh, reprimanding voice coming from Jesus here. This isn’t the voice that he used to drive the merchants and money changers out of the temple. No. Instead, I hear a tender voice. I hear the voice that invited children into his lap and gave Peter the confidence to step out of his boat onto the surface of the Sea of Galilee. He isn’t trying to make the disciples feel bad about their misunderstanding. He’s inviting them to understand.
    • Text: Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.[9]
      • Gr. “interpreted” = opened → opened their eyes, minds, hearts
        • Think of our own lives. Lots of things close our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to God’s message and God’s guidance.
          • Anxiety, fear, misunderstanding, pride, anger → These are all things that get in the way of our relationships with other people, and sometimes, they get in the way of our relationship with God. The important question we have to ask ourselves is what we do when we encounter them.
            • Let them overpower us and damage our relationships?
            • Let God help us find a way through them to the hope and grace waiting for us on the other side?
    • The disciples eyes and hearts and minds were opened. With the risen Christ, they walked on …
  • But this was just the beginning of the disciples’ eye-opening evening. – text: As they came near the village to which they were going, [Jesus] 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.[10]
    • Interest cultural context woven into this simple-sounding scene → scholar: [This “walking ahead as if he were going on”] implies that Jesus was not really going further but that he would not impose on the disciples to offer him hospitality. In Near Eastern customs, the guest was obligated to turn down such an invitation until it was vigorously repeated.[11] → Jesus was just following cultural protocol
      • See this back-and-forth in Gr. – “walked on ahead as if he were going on” = pretended to be going far
      • Not a phenomenon exclusive to Near Eastern customs à Howard Mohr (former Prairie Home Companion writer), “How to Talk Minnesotan” – A Minnesotan never accepts food until the third offer, and then reluctantly. And if it’s not offered three times, it’s not serious.[12]
    • But eventually, Jesus accepts the disciples’ offer. And once again, the disciples find their eyes opened. – text: 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.[13]
      • Scholar captures wonder in this: [The disciples] discovered at the table that their traveling companion was the Lord himself. They had not planned it as a sacred moment, but in the act of sharing their bread with a stranger they recognized the risen Lord in the fellow traveler.[14] → “They had not planned it as a sacred moment.” The disciples weren’t looking for something miraculous to happen that evening. All they were doing was sitting down for a simple meal. But Jesus knew they needed something special, something exceptional, something sacred. And so he opened their eyes. They may not have seen the risen Christ in Jerusalem, but here they were, sitting and eating and drinking with him again.
    • Account becomes a bit jarring because of what happens right after they recognize Jesus – text: Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.[15] → Jesus was there one minute and gone the next. But this is true to life, isn’t it? Along our own walks of life, our God-moments are most often just glimpses – flashes of the divine in the midst of our most common, ordinary moments.
      • Our experience is not so different from the disciples – response: 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 scripture to us?”[16] → We may not see God, but we feel God’s presence. We may not hear God, but we feel God’s presence. We feel God’s love, patience, peace, comfort, challenge, strength. We understand in looking back at our experiences that God was with us, guiding us, protecting us, teaching us, sustaining us. And so, like the disciples, we walk on …
  • Final part of the story is crucial – disciples take the message out: That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.[17]
    • That same hour → Let’s think about this for a minute. This story starts by telling us the disciples didn’t leave Jerusalem until midday. And they were walking 7 miles to Emmaus. The average walking speed of a human being is roughly 3 miles per hour, but we know they walked slower than that because the story also tells us that when Jesus and the disciples finally reached Emmaus, it was almost evening. That’s at least 6 hrs. for a 7 mile walk. So Jesus and the disciples sat down together, and Jesus revealed himself to them. By this time, it was getting late, and most roads in and around ancient Jerusalem weren’t exactly safe for nighttime travel. And yet these disciples were so inspired that they jumped up from the table and immediately traveled the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to share the news of their encounter with the risen Christ.
      • Scholar: The weary travelers feel alive; their hearts are renewed. … Their burning hearts illumine their blind eyes and quicken their weary souls for a seven-mile nighttime run. Their sacred city is made holy again, and their pilgrimage of faith has just begun.[18]
        • How often do we let the burning of our hearts spur our actions like this?
          • Refuse to let the “maybes” and the “buts” and the “what ifs” of life squash that spark that God has lit within us
        • Like those disciples, the pilgrimage of our faith has just begun. Each and every day, God is walking with us, a fellow traveler along this path of life, waiting to reveal to us that presence that will inspire us to holy action. And so we walk on … Amen.


[1] Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth. (London, England: Ward, Lock, & Co), 1877.

[2] J.R.R. Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. (© 1954, 1954, and 1955, respectively).

[3] Cheryl Strayed. Wild. (New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group), 2013.

[4] Lk 24:1-12 (direct quote: v. 5).

[5] Lk 24:15-19a.

[6] Lk 24:24 (emphasis added).

[7] Heb 11:1.

[8] Lk 24:25-26.

[9] Lk 24:27.

[10] Lk 24:28-30.

[11] Culpepper, 479.

[12] Howard Mohr. “How to Talk Minnesotan – Lesson Six: Accepting on the Third Offer,”

[13] Lk 24:30-31a.

[14] Culpepper, 482.

[15] Lk 24:31 (emphasis added.)

[16] Lk 32.

[17] Lk 24:33-35.

[18] Shannon Michael Pater. “Third Sunday of Easter – Luke 24:13-35 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 2. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 422.