St. Luke 24.13-35
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
We had so hoped. We had so hoped that after surgery and radiation her cancer would be in remission. And then we had hoped that another regimen of chemotherapy would buy her some time, at least until her daughters could finish grammar school. After that we had hoped that the cancer wouldn’t metastasize to her bones and thereby causing her excruciating pain as bones broke with every move. We had hoped that she wouldn’t have to suffer so much, that there would to be a way to manage her pain. And then toward the last we had hoped her death would come easily and soon. But none of our hopes were realized.
We had hoped . . . . we’ve all heard those words. We’ve all said those words – but if not yet, I can guarantee you this – live long enough, love enough, dream enough, listen to others enough – you will hear these words, you will say these words. Disappointment is real and ever-present in the lives of all of us here, of all people everywhere. And I do not say this as a pretext for pulling the Easter Rabbit of Resurrection out the hat. I will not make a mockery of the cross: pain and disappointment are real. No one here and who is honest can say that Easter has taken away the pains or the disappointments of life. Oh yes, there is the resurrection, and I will never deny it, and I will proclaim it to the end of my days. Yes, there is that promise that we shall all rise. And for some of us – but not all of us – for some of us and for whole moments at a time, perhaps for hours at a time, perhaps even days at a time, for some of us, the joy of Easter can and does overcome pain and disappointment. Sort of.
But more likely it’s something like this: there is the promise that enters our ears, there is the promise poured over our heads or remembered through the sign of the cross – without or without water, there is the promise we eat and we drink. These are the means of grace through which the thin places appear, the thin places occur – those places and times where and when the borders and boundaries between the Eternal, the Holy, the Love-yet-unknown – and the places and times of this world’s dashed hopes and faded dreams come close to one another and become as thin as gossamer, thinner than the lightest and finest silk. The thin places: when and where the here-and-now come close enough to the then-and-forever to get me through another day. And when those thing places occur . . . I come close to hopes that are not and cannot be dashed in disappointment. Oh, those thin places when I even come close to my blessed dead, when through the means of grace, I somehow come to know in a knowing beyond reason that because my Redeemer lives, the dead of my life live also. But I will be honest with you – those thin places, call them Road to Emmaus places – almost all of which occur here in this Holy House, here among you Holy and Beloved People – though those thin, Road to Emmaus places are enough to sustain me many if not most days, they do not take away the torturing tree of broken hopes and dreams. They do not take away the blood encrusted nail holes of death; they do not take away the wounded side where dwells the broken heart. The truth is, we do all die with the Lord, both daily by bits and pieces, and then one day fully. And so too do we live with the Lord – already in part but not yet as we shall one day we fully shall.
And I know from being in those thin places that the Promise is true – this Promise given to you – not just some of you, but all of you – this Promise, this: Because Christ is Risen from death, because Christ is victorious over death, because hell has been destroyed and now sits as an empty ruin – you too shall rise from the dead. You shall rise from the dead – and I’m not just saying that of my own accord. Rather, I say it on account of what I’ve heard, on account of the water, on account of the bread which He shares. Through these things I know that my Redeemer lives and that I with my Redeemer shall rise – in part every day – and one day in full and forever. And so it shall be for you. You shall rise today, and the day after, and the day after that and until the day when Christ comes to greet you as you go forth from this world.
The difficult truth of the Resurrection, the difficult truth of the Promise, the difficult truth of Easter however, is this: only the dead can be raised. Only those whose hopes are dashed to pieces shall one day, some day, have their hope renewed and forever restored.
But until then, some Bread, some wine with the Word; a Promise pronounced with water; a Promise sealed by God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. AMEN