United Church of Christ

2628 Fillmore Street, Philadelphia, PA  19137
"A Warm, Welcoming Church in the Heart of Bridesburg"

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Dear Friends -

"As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Luke 24:28-35

The reading from Luke shown above is our Gospel reading for April 30. It is one of several appearances of Jesus after the resurrection; other appearances include Jesus’ appearance to Mary in the garden and two appearances to the disciples in the upper room (one without Thomas being present and the second including Thomas). Another appearance was along the Sea of Tiberius, just after daybreak when several disciples were fishing.

One thing that many of these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus had in common is that those who saw Jesus did not immediately recognize him. When Mary saw Jesus in the garden, she initially thought he was the gardener. When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas felt a need to touch Jesus to make sure it was him. When Jesus appeared at the Sea of Tiberius, the disciples in the boat did not recognize him at first. And in Luke’s account of Jesus’ appearance on the Emmaus road, Jesus walked alongside two disciples without their recognizing him. We’re told that it was only in the breaking of the bread that they came to know they had been speaking with Jesus – and in that moment Jesus disappeared from their sight.

The disciples along the Emmaus road encountered a stranger whom they did not recognize, and poured out their grief at the events which had just taken place, what they thought was the end of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, and their wonderment at the strange tale of angels told them by the women. The stranger – Jesus, though unrecognized by them – pointed out how the Scriptures had pointed to these events, not as an end, but as necessary steps toward a new beginning. And then, in the breaking of the bread, they learned who the stranger was, just before he vanished.

Perhaps experiencing the presence of the Risen Christ is a matter of perception and perspective. That is to say, in order to experience the presence of the Risen Christ, we need to know where to look and how to look. Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered in his name, he would be in their midst. Certainly the quality of community at Emanuel Church can be seen as a testimony of the presence of Christ in our midst. Jesus also pointed to the poor and marginalized as his sisters and brothers, and said that whatever we did or didn’t do for them, we did or didn’t do for Jesus. And in those moments when our hopes and dreams appear to have come to nothing, Jesus is present to make a way out of no way, to bring new hope out of despair, to bring new life out of death.

In the words of a familiar Easter hymn:

“The strife is o’er, the battle done; the victory of life is won.
The song of triumph has begun. Alleluia!”

Easter blessings to all the members and friends of Emanuel Church!

Pastor Dave

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