Sermon Text: Luke 24: 13-35
There is a phrase in this gospel text that hits me square in the gut every time. I believe that it may be the saddest phrase in all of scripture. “But we had hoped…”
On this journey to Emmaus, the disciples, when discussing the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion say, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”
As Luke tells the story you get the sense that these two disciples are absolutely crushed by what had happened to Jesus. Their heavy grief might even be part of the reason they cannot recognize Jesus as they walk the road together. With those words we hear all of the pent up disappointment the disciples are harboring from Jesus’ death.
But we had hoped…
That Jesus was the Messiah.
That Jesus would kick out the Romans.
That Jesus would be God’s King.
That we would serve with him.
That Jesus would redeem Israel.
Who can fathom the depths of their hopes and the roles they were longing to play as those hopes realized? Who can imagine what turmoil is tearing at these disciples as their dreams vanished, just as their dead Messiah’s body had vanished? It’s a pretty glum scene before Jesus springs into action and reveals the new hope of Easter.
I have said before that this coronavirus has been a pandemic of disappointment. We know that the death tolls are maintaining their climb, but for the moment we, in Blair County, Pennsylvania, feel this mostly in experiences lost, in dreams that are dashed. I recently saw a meme on the internet that joked about the 2020 Daily Planner being the worst investment ever. I’m starting to think that’s true. As our situation prolongs I start to think of all the activities lost to social distancing, of all the disappointments.
Personally, I can make do missing all of our meetings. I don’t lose sleep over them. But as the days march on the tally of things cancelled and postponed grows. We all have our own litany.
Going to the gym
Going to continuing education events. The Institute of Liturgical Studies.
Meeting with friends
Eating in restaurants
Canceling vacation plans
And getting together for worship, especially our Holy Week and Easter services, and also not being able to share in Holy Communion with all of you, because, as our gospel shows, that is the place we most clearly see Jesus.
Personally, that’s the short and incomplete list of disappointments and I know that we all have a list of our own with many bullet points. We are like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus.
But we had hoped…
I appreciate that Jesus walks with the disciples as they share their grief. If you have ever listened to someone’s pain you know that it can be a hard task. Jesus is allowing them to tell their story, to claim their emotions, and to start to heal. He easily could have revealed his presence at the beginning, but instead Jesus journeys with them, enters into conversation, opens the scriptures, and the opens their eyes.
And when that happens, when Jesus opens their eyes, their whole world changes. All of a sudden their previous hopes are overshadowed by the unthought-of joys of the Resurrection. New life, life after death, the destruction of death—those things become the new hopes within their grasp.
If I have faith in anything, I have faith that Jesus is walking with us now, through the grief and disappointment of this pandemic, just as he walked with the two disciples to Emmaus. I know that we do not walk alone, that Jesus knows all of our loss, and that he offers his consolation and love.
I know that Jesus continues to open our hearts to the scriptures to nourish us with the bread of word.
I know that Jesus will help us to reevaluate the things that are important in life as we are forced to weigh our priorities.
And most assuredly, I know that whatever hopes we are mourning, whatever hopes have been blackened by this pandemic, that Jesus continues to offer the same hope that he gave all those years ago. We have the hope of a new, resurrected life. We have the hope of death’s destruction. We have the hope of eternal life with God and with one another in a new creation.
Our hopes are important. What we have lost is important. Knowing this, Jesus will give us space to grieve, he will not shortchange our emotions. But ultimately he will make himself known to us. He will replace our disappointment with joy.
Friends, I long for the moment that we will be able to come together to share that hope and to worship God for these promises together in one place. I cannot wait to see how our eyes will be opened as we are able to break bread once more, to share in Holy Communion.
Together, we have miles and days to walk before that desire can become a reality, before many of our hopes and plans can resume. Until that day comes, know that Jesus is walking the road with us. AMEN