Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Their Eyes Were Opened

Luke 24:13-34

I guess they thought they had seen it all... those two friends of Jesus... from beginning to tragic end. Bewildered... hurt... angry... what a gamete of emotions they must have felt as they walked along the dusty road at the end of the day toward home. Tomorrow they would pick up the sad pieces of their lives... and go on... somehow.

It's not hard to identify with them, is it? We've all been there at least once in our lives... and sooner or later... most of us will be there again. We've all been there... standing at the bedside of a loved one as they suffer and pass on to a place we cannot even imagine... or by the coffin of a child whose life has ended far too soon... or answering a phone call in the night... receiving news of a tragic accident. We all know the grief... the bewilderment... the pain... and the anger.

How did you begin to pick up the pieces? Probably you talked about it... to family... and friends... probably for days... maybe you still do sometimes. And so the two friends were still talking... reliving each step of the tragedy... hoping to somehow make some sense of it. Is it any wonder they did not recognize the stranger?

It's understandable how clouded our minds can be at such a time... it's a normal reaction. Maybe it's a defense mechanism that kicks in... to help us deal with what we are experiencing. But it is true, I think, that often... after the fact... we can't remember much of what was said... or exactly what we did... or who was there. Our senses are mercifully dulled... and sometimes the hardest times occur when we begin to return to our senses... and realize our loss.

I can't help but wonder just how clouded our minds are at other times in our lives. I suspect that there are any number of events which occur in our lives leaving us angry... uncertain... frightened... maybe even in a daze of confusion. We've been talking about that in our small group on Wednesday night... the ways in which our lives... and our relationship with God has been formed by events and relationships.

Last Sunday I mentioned how difficult it is for me to ask God for something for myself. For many years I thought that was an attribute... an act of selflessness. Obviously I was more concerned about others than I was about myself... or was I? Perhaps another word more aptly describes my attitude... martyr. How self-righteous of me... to think that I did not need to ask God for anything!

I've struggled with that this week... actually over the past several weeks. Why don't I feel closer to God... what is wrong... where has he gone. Bewildered... hurt... angry... my mind clouded by the painful awareness that something is wrong. I can't go on pretending... I know the truth about myself... everything is not as it at first appeared... everything has changed as I too walk on the road to Emmaus. I find it necessary to talk about it... and I guess that's what I am doing this morning... sharing with you my personal struggle.

Last night... as I thought about writing this sermon today... I was angry... I just couldn't seem to get through to God. My mind was clouded and I couldn't see him... or feel him... and that made me angry. Sometime in the night... I woke up and realized that it didn't matter whether I saw... or felt God's presence... because he is there whether I am aware of it or not! I was able to rest in that knowledge.

There was once a sexton in a small church in Los Angeles who took an interest in those who came in to pray. One man in particular attracted his attention. He would walk into the church just after noon, walk down the center aisle, stand at the chancel steps for a moment, then move on.

The sexton observed this behavior for a few days and began to be concerned about the man. He was not well dressed, he could have used a good bath, and his walk was not steady. The sexton expressed his concern to the pastor who suggested that he ask if there was anything the church could do to help him. The man said, ‘No, thank you. I just come in every day and stand before the altar and say "Jesus, it's Jim." It's not much of a prayer, but I think God knows what I mean."

Some months later, the pastor heard from the Mother Superior of a home for aged men that Jim had been admitted there. She related that he had been placed in the most cantankerous ward in the home. Every nun had tried to bring some kind of joy and calm to that ward... and all had failed. But when Jim went into that ward it was transformed.

After about two months, the Mother Superior said that she went to the ward and asked "Jim, how is it that you have been able to bring such joy and such a sense of peace to these men?" He said, "Oh, sister, it is because of my visitor."

Well, she knew that Jim had not had a single visitor in the sixty days he had been there. So she asked Jim what visitor had come to see him. He said "Sister, every day at 12:00, he comes and stands at the foot of my bed" and says "Jim, it's Jesus."1

Even clouded minds can know the joy of Jesus presence! Even on the road to Emmaus... by God's grace... there comes a moment of enlightenment.

30 As they sat down to eat, he took a small loaf of bread, asked God's blessing on it, broke it, then gave it to them.
31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
For Cleopas and his friend, sadness and despair turned to hope and joy when they encountered Jesus... the resurrection became real in their lives. Even in our darkest... cloudiest days... God's Spirit touchs us... and in a moment of grace Jesus becomes real to us... if only... at times... for just a moment.

It's the Spirit at work in our lives that gives us these moments of encouragement and hope. When all seems lost... the sad walk to Emmaus turns into a joyful return trip to Jerusalem... celebrating the eternal presence of our Risen Lord.

The resurrection is true... Jesus Christ is risen and alive. From the beginning the church has refused to say that the truth of the resurrection depends on whether or not we recognize him... or are aware of his presence. The Easter message is that "on the third day he rose again from the dead" — a statement of faith. In the breaking of the bread... and in their remembering how he taught them on the road, the disciples recognized the risen Lord. May it be so for us today and for all those who have yet to encounter the risen Lord. Amen.

1Leonard Sweet, Homiletics (Canton, OH: Communications Resources, January- March, 1994), p. 38.

A Sermon Preached on April 18, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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