[Sermon given on Sunday evening March 27, 2016 (Easter Evening) at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church– Kansas City, MO by the Rev’d. Fr. Marcus G. Halley]

Grace and peace be unto you from G-d our Father, from Jesus Christ our Risen Lord and Reigning Savior, and from the Holy Spirit who empowers and enlivens our time together.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

This is the Church’s song through the ages, whenever the sinister shroud of darkness has threatened to cover over humanity – we serve a Risen Savior who has triumphed gloriously over the best that death and darkness could throw at him. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! is at the heart of the Church, the community of people gathered around the Risen Christ, baptized into this mystery, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the Body of  Christ in the world.

And in a few weeks, when the lilies of Easter have faded, when the music is more subdued, when the cascade of Alleluias in our worship cease, Alleluia will still be our song, because it has to be our song. To be called into this community is to be called into the Hallelujah Chorus who sings the refrain “…and He shall reign forever and ever.”

The reality of it is this, dear friends – Easter is more than a season, it is a way of life. We are called to be an Easter people boldly living the Good News of Resurrection in a Lenten world. We are to be bearers of bottomless compassion for those who least deserve it and messengers of abundance for those who most need it. We are called to speak with our mouths, serve with our hands, feel with our hearts, and live in our lives that early one Sunday morning the Lord of Light threw off death, put on life, and calls us all to live that life through him.

But the lilies will fade.

The music will become more subdued.

The Alleluias will cease.

And we will find ourselves much like the disciples, minding our business, going about our normal routine, when we come face-to-face with Christ. How do I know? Because that’s how G-d works. When Jesus was at the Table with his friends, he asked them to remember him in the simplicity of a meal – bread and wine. “Never forget me,” he said. “Never forget what all this means.”

And just a few days after the Lord gave them that commandment, that sacrament, they had already forgotten. The women had gone to the tomb earlier that day to embalm the body and found that he was not there – He had risen, just like he said. The women ran back to the tell the other Apostles, but they did not believe them. A sermon on the dismissal of women might be appropriate, but I’ll save that for another day.

So later on that very same day, two of the disciples were on the road to Emmaus, a little village about 7 miles west of Jerusalem when the stumbled across a stranger. The stranger asked them what they were talking about, to which the travelers retorted, “Have you been under a rock? Do you now know what has happened? Jesus of Nazareth is dead! We believed in him, we had put our hope in him, and he is not here. He is dead. What are we to do?”

I wonder what Jesus must’ve felt hearing the pain and disappointment of his followers  who felt that he had let them down. It is clear that they don’t believe that he had actually Risen. It is clear that they believed that someone had probably moved the body and that they victims of a cruel joke. But get this: the Lord so glorious that he was beyond recognition appeared to two of his disciples in the depth of their despair. Nothing stops him from getting to us. After listening to this stranger for a while, it was time to eat and so they invited him to stay with them, for evening was at hand.

He stayed with them, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.

I felt familiar. Wait… Could it be? No. I wonder… it’s Him! It’s JESUS! But… how? Wha…?

Their eyes were opened. And they remembered.

And he vanished.

When the sheer magnitude of pain and anxiety had chased them to forget, Jesus met them and invited them to remember. “Never forget me,” he said. “Never forget what all this means.”

That’s why this matters. That’s why we are invited as a Church community to gather regularly, to hear the stories of our faith, to say the ancient prayers, but most of all to share in this simplest of feasts – because so much in our live will tempt us to forget. Anxiety. Stress. Worry. Fear. Uncertainty. Grief. Sadness. Disappointment. Plain old busyness.

But dear friends in Christ, we cannot forget. We are called to remember this because the world needs this. In the midst of so much brokenness, so much misery, so much anger, and sadness, and grief, the world needs to hear a message of hope, to hear that “the world is indeed full of peril, and it is there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”[1] Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Church in Rome, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.”[2]

This meal is a mandate, a call, a commission, and an invitation. We are invited to come out of isolation and into loving community to share this bread and wine, sacraments of the “feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines” when G-d “will destroy… the shroud that is cast over the peoples… and swallow up death forever.”

We are on our way to that reality – the reality of the Kingdom of G-d when there will be an abundance of peace and joy. But while we are on our way we have to remember this – all this – because there is simply no telling who will meet on the road.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

[1] J. R. R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

[2] Romans 8.18 (NRSV)