April 23, 2023
Rev. Scott Landis
Typically, after I finish all the research for the week’s sermon, and sketch out an outline, and come up with a possible title, I like to plunk my proposed title into Google Images and see what graphics come up. They are usually all over the map with everything from nature scenes to cartoons to the words simply graphically portrayed, but not this week. My title “Aha Moments” seemed to lend itself to two distinct images. Either a person with their eyes wide open and their index finger in the air. [demonstrate]. Or an illuminated lightbulb. Aha!
We’ve all had them. They are typically welcomed experiences. Moments of insight. Sudden realizations when that which was hidden becomes perfectly clear. A mystery is solved. The confusion is gone. A moment of clarity emerges which helps us know the way forward or opens our eyes to a future course that we may feel compelled to take. I say “MAY” feel compelled because the “AHA” doesn’t force you to do anything. It’s just the revelation. What we do with that new understanding is mainly up to us. [Pause]
Two disciples were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This is yet another description of later in the day on what WE call Easter Sunday. The two are beside themselves with grief. While they walked, they were processing all that they had witnessed – or had been told. They got out of town as quickly as they could – talking non-stop of their traumatic experience.
We don’t know why they left. Perhaps they could not bear the pain and in their panic-stricken grief they bolted. Perhaps they were trying to avoid the whole nightmare that was only beginning to unfold. After all, if they killed Jesus. Who might be next? Certainly, those who were his disciples had to hide or deny any association. And so, in fear and deep sorrow they ran — telling no one of their hasty departure.
Maybe this is why when Jesus appeared to them, they could not recognize him. Grief does a number on us the effects of which are often difficult to understand. Many of you know exactly what I mean. [Pause]
When my former partner died very suddenly of acute leukemia, I was beside myself with grief. Here was a healthy man in his late 30s, who was diagnosed with a terrible disease I thought we could fight. But within 4 hours he was gone.
Unfortunately, I was in the room when they did all the heroics of trying to revive someone who had gone into cardiac arrest. It was very different from anything I had ever seen on T.V. It was all so hopeless and so impossible to believe. I was in shock.
Before leaving the hospital, I had the presence of mind to call some friends to pick me up and drive me home. I knew I could not do that myself. All I remember was walking around the parking lot unable to find my car. I insisted on finding it myself. I needed to do something to bring a sense of reality into what could not possibly be happening. I must have passed it a half-dozen times, but I did not recognize it. Grief can sometimes prevent you from seeing the obvious. [Pause]
It took his voice calling her by name before Mary recognized Jesus. It took the gift of the Holy Spirit blown upon the disciples before they could truly see him. It took the offer to put his hands in his side before Thomas said, “My Lord. My God.” It took the panic button on my key fob and a bleating horn before I finally found my car. Grief can completely confound our perception. Our ability to see. Until the “Aha.” And we recognize that which is right before us. [Pause]
When he was invited into their home, after he opened the scriptures to them, and after chiding them for not seeing, he did something he had done so many times before. An action they had previously witnessed. He took the bread, and after he blessed it and broke it, he gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened. They recognized him. Aha! [Pause]
We may not be walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus today, but perhaps we are in a way. All too often we walk away from that which is too painful to bear as a way of avoidance or escape OR as a means of denial. Perhaps, we believe, if we just run far enough or fast enough it will all go away. That is, until it doesn’t.
Our life journey can be incredibly challenging as evidenced time and again in the scriptures. You remember Jonah, trying to run as fast as he could from the call of God – it took him some time in the belly of whale before his “aha.”
And it wasn’t until Jesus served Peter some fish freshly broiled on a charcoal fire until he stopped dead in his tracks. He knew that aroma. It was the same smell that came from the charcoal fire on the night he denied Jesus three times just days before. And then, “aha.”
While it may not have been as dramatic, most of us at some point in our lives have probably found ourselves running from God. Perhaps we felt we were not good enough or had committed some egregious sin. Perhaps we were just fed up with our lives and wanted nothing more to do with God, or church, or anything having to do with faith. Or maybe we were just walking quietly away. Minding our own business. Simply following another path in life.
Hmmm – God will not let you go. God will keep showing up. Oh, we may not recognize the presence of Holiness right away, but eventually you are bound to have an “aha” moment.
Maybe it will be in the breaking of the bread, or in a jaw-dropping sunset, in the eyes of a child, or the kindness of another being extended to you. And then you know – Aha! — even if, just like that [snap fingers] it vanishes from your sight.
But it is up to you what you do with that experience. You have the right to chalk it up to coincidence or even to marvel at its gift and move on as if nothing ever happened. But it is an invitation. [Pause]
You see, we not only follow a Risen Christ, but we are also welcomed into the presence each day of the Inviting Christ. Who calls us by name. Who offers us bread for the journey. Who blows Holy Breath into our lungs inspiring our whole being. And who gives us peace.
I pray that your “aha” will be an obvious invitation. I hope it will open your eyes to that which may have confounded you. And then, I pray, when you have your “Aha,” you will respond to its invitation to follow — to seek more — and to allow yourself to be amazed in the presence of holiness. And finally, may it bring you peace.