Kahu's Mana‘o

Keawala’i Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)

Third Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Luke 24:13-35

“Recognizing Jesus”

It makes sense that on a day such as this our thoughts turn, if only for a brief moment to Mary, the mother of Jesus. After all it was Mary who together with Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple, not long after he was born, to be circumcised and to be designated as “holy to the Lord.” (Luke 2:23).

It was Joseph who took Mary and Jesus – mother and child – to Egypt to escape the wrath of those seeking to destroy him. And it was Joseph who later returned to Israel with them.

It was on the occasion of a journey to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover, when Jesus was twelve years old that both Mary and Joseph found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers.
When they returned home to Nazareth it is said that Jesus was obedient to his parents. (Luke 2:51) It is also said that Mary treasured in her heart all the things he had said to them.

And it was Mary who was at the cross when Jesus was crucified. (John 19:25-26) She was there when he died and she was among those who bore witness to the resurrection.

I imagine she felt great joy the night Jesus was born and gratitude when she and Joseph took him to the Temple to be blessed by Simeon and Anna. Then I imagine she felt great fear as she and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape the anger and fear of Herod.

I imagine she felt joy when they were able to return to family and home after having been exiled in Egypt for many years. I aksi imagine her consternation when Jesus disappeared among the crowd at the Passover celebration when he was still a boy. And oh, how she must have felt satisfaction when it is said he grew “in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor.” (Luke 2:52)

When the time came she was there in the hour of his death. I can only imagine the profound sorrow she must have felt or any parent feels when he or she loses a son or daughter. How difficult it must have been for her to hear him say as she stood near the cross - “Woman, here is your son.”
From infancy to boyhood to adulthood, Mary was with him.

I have an old photograph of my mother sitting on a bookcase in my office at home. There are no dates on the black and white print that is remarkably clear, despite the passing of over seventy years. I also have a black and white photograph of my mother’s mom, my grandmother or Tūtū Julia.

Tūtū is dressed in a white dress. Her hair is tied back with a black ribbon. My recollection of the photograph is that it was taken while she was a student at Kohala Seminary, a school for young Hawaiian girls.

Both my mother and grandmother appear to be same age when each photograph was taken. With the photographs side-by-side, the resemblance is very evident. I am not sure I would have recognized my mother’s likeness in my Tūtū Julia if I had first been asked to choose from a selection of photographs that included other women.
My mother was with me when I literally lost my breath. I suffered from asthma when I was a child. My mom would always caution me about “running around too much.”

If it happened that I started to wheeze she would always remind me, “See what I told you. You so hard head.” On one occasion it was serious enough that I ended up in the hospital for several days.

My mom was always at the airport when I left for boarding school in Honolulu. She was there on birthdays and when I graduated from high school. She was here in this sanctuary in 1991 on the day that I was installed as pastor of this church.

My mother died on October 29, 1999. She was 71 years old. She had been ill for quite some time and suffered from emphysema towards the end of her life. She was always small in stature, a fact that became more and more accentuated as her health began to fail.

Death has a way of robbing us of the ability to recognize our loved ones. We find ourselves saying, “Oh, mom doesn’t look like mom anymore!” somehow thinking that death would not be able to steal from us the person that we knew. In some ways I imagine it is a way for us to cope with the loss of those we love because there is something final about physical death.

There is also confusion and sadness; dismay and anger.

We find such confusion and sadness; dismay and anger in our reading from The Gospel According to Luke. Two disciples of Jesus, Cleopas and an unnamed person, have left Jerusalem for Emmaus.

It is about a seven-mile journey and since they are traveling on foot there was more than enough time for them to talk. While they were talking and discussing what had just happened in Jerusalem, Jesus himself came near and joined them. (Luke 24:15)

At first they do not recognize Jesus. We are not told why that is and can only surmise that Jesus’ death was a profound loss for both of them.

Jesus asks about their conversation. They tell him about their experiences during the previous week in Jerusalem. Among other things, they tell him about Mary Magdalene’s puzzling encounter with Jesus.

Like so many others, they had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah and that he would bring political deliverance for Israel. Jesus responds by reminding them about the stories of Moses and the prophets that tell of how the Messiah must suffer in order to bring about God’s plan for salvation.

When they reach Emmaus, the two disciples urge Jesus to stay with them. The day is nearly over and evening is near. They sit down for a meal. Though he is a guest, Jesus takes the role of the host – blessing and breaking bread and giving it to them.

In that moment, they recognize him and then he vanished.

The two return to Jerusalem to share their joy with the other disciples. There they hear that the risen Christ appeared to the other disciples and other followers.

Like Cleopas and the other disciples we also encounter the risen Christ at unexpected moments.
Like them such moments may come in the opening of scriptures to us (Luke 24:32) or in the sharing of a meal. (Luke 24:30) Like them we come to know the risen Christ more deeply.

My mother was far from a gourmet cook. But I remember the meals we ate and I enjoyed them. Spam was a staple – spam and cabbage, spam and rice, spam and eggs – always fried. Vienna sausages went a long way if it was mashed together with rice whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Canned corn beef was also on the list of staples. A can of corn beef like a can of spam was always supplemented with other vegetables - corn beef and cabbage, corn beef and onions, corn beef and green beans. It was my mother’s way of stretching a meal to feed a large household.

On special occasions a chicken would make an appearance and be added to the menu. But there was always fish – manini, menpachi, uouoa, ‘öpelu – sometimes raw, sometimes dried, often fried.

My mother died in 1999. But I remember and I sense her presence at a meal that may simply consist of spam and cabbage. We all come to know each other more fully whenever we share a meal.

That is what happened to Cleopas when Jesus blessed, broke and gave the bread to him and to the other disciple. Their eyes were opened. They knew him. They recognized him.

So it is that we recognize the risen Christ whenever we break open the scriptures and whenever we break bread together. Mahalo ke Akua! Amen.

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