Sunday, May 4, 2014

Third Easter, Marathon in Pittsburgh

The Rector, 1995

Luke 24: 13-35

Good morning, and welcome, and congratulations of course to all who figured out how to slip through the barricades and across the flowing streams of runners to find your way to church this morning.  Always a great day for the city, if a bit of a jumble for the churches.  Back in the mid and late 1990’s and early 2000’s I used to run in the marathon, as some of you will remember—and even though I haven’t done that for a decade now I still enjoy all the festivities of the day.  A good day I think for our city and region, and I know we would offer our prayers today with special intention for the runners and those who are assisting them at refreshment and first aid stations, all the support structures involved, for families, friends, people cheering and celebrating along the way.  Nice weather for a long run.   

In early fall we’ll pray the Collect marked now in the new Prayer Book for “Proper 21,” and the Sunday nearest September 28.  In the older Prayer Books for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity:  “O God, who declares thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure.”  And of course remember today St.Paul, First Corinthians 9: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run, that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable one . . . .”

The distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus isn’t 26.2 miles.  More like a 10-K—a bit under 7 miles.  In the first century the town was the site of a Roman military barracks and prison, probably the centerpiece of the local economy.  Luke doesn’t tell us much about these two.  I’ve sometimes wondered if perhaps they were husband and wife.  We have the one name, “Cleopas.”  And we might notice that in his telling of the Passion and Good Friday St. John says in Chapter 19, verse 25, “But standing by the Cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”  Don’t know if “Clopas” and “Cleopas” might be variants of the same name, but perhaps.  Not only then two followers of Jesus on their way home from Jerusalem after all the tumult of the week just passed, but perhaps even his aunt and uncle . . . .

In any event, the story one of the most familiar of the Easter reports.  The two walking home, late in the afternoon.  They meet a stranger.  They tell him about what has happened.  He opens up the Scriptures for them, Moses and the Prophets, to demonstrate that all the things they had experienced were a part of God’s long and careful plan.  At their invitation he comes to their home, since it’s getting dark, and they ask this remarkable rabbi and teacher to say the blessing before the meal.  He does so, breaking the bread in their presence.  And then, suddenly, mysteriously, supernaturally, he is gone.  And they do the only thing they can think to do.  Strap on their running shoes and zoom back to Jerusalem.   (Leonard Komen of Kenya has the world record for a 10K road race, 26 minutes 44 seconds.  I’ll bet it didn’t take Cleopas and his companion too much longer than that to get back to the Upper Room where the rest of the disciples were hiding out in Jerusalem.  They were motivated to share this astonishing experience.    In any event, Luke says, “that same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.”  They didn’t want to waste any time.)

Strap on your running shoes.  Not a direct quote from scripture, but a paraphrase for my text this morning.  Strap on your running shoes.

I guess I would just take this opportunity, Marathon Sunday, to continue in the same direction that I began with my sermon and report last Sunday at the 177th Annual Parish Meeting of St. Andrew’s Church.

What we don’t read in Luke 24 is that after recognizing the risen Jesus in their presence Cleopas and his companion finished dinner, did the dishes, caught up on their e-mail, updated their Facebook Status Page, and then went to bed, with the note that they would have for sure one interesting story to tell when they next saw their friends in Jerusalem.

No.  It was already night by this time.  No lights on the road.  The most dangerous time to travel.  Wild animals, muggers and thieves.  But there doesn’t seem to be any conversation about alternatives.  They just get moving.  Right away.

I think it’s a word, an image, a story for us.  We can apply it personally, and we can apply it in terms of our life as a congregation. 

As a congregation of course we’re at this turning point, this transition.  Looking forward to the celebration of “renaissance” toward the end of the summer.  A great Easter word, “renaissance.”  Certainly a Holy Spirit kind of moment, a vocational moment.  One of those once-in-a-generation times when we would turn a new page in the history of St. Andrew’s—and I think we do sense that page turning.

But you don’t have to replace a floor and build ramps and elevators and restrooms and add new meeting space for that to happen.  In fact it’s really not about any of those things.  It’s about what God was stirring up in us that carried us into those projects, and about what God is doing with us now as we look forward to the summer and the fall and the year ahead, and years and decades, and all our lives.

Just think, each one of us this morning:  “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”  And when his blessing was given, the bread broken—as he placed it in their hands.   Luke says, “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

So I said last Sunday, say again now.  As the construction work all begins finally to draw to the end.  What if we were to listen, to open our ears and truly listen, as he opens his word to us.   Each one of us.  Our eyes and our ears, our minds and our hearts.  As we would hear and know and truly believe his blessing, receive into our hands the bread that he has broken for us.  The words of the prayers: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Send us out to do the work you have given us to do.  To walk in your ways, to the glory of your name.

Were not our hearts burning within us?  ==

Strapping on those running shoes.  Every Sunday  “Renaissance Sunday.”  That’s can be our prayer and our intention and our new life in him, at this Easter season of our lives, and very hour, and every day.   

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