|¨Scripture, Tradition and Reason¨ The Anglican way|
Acts 3: 12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48
In the Book of Common Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer “c” just before the great AMEN, we all ask “Risen Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread”. We did not use this prayer in today’s Eucharist. This was a pity (blame me) because that phrase would have been in synchrony with the collect for today: “O God, whose blessed son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of the bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work”. It also would have been in harmony with the context of the Gospel proclamation this morning which follows from the account of two disciples travelling on the day of the resurrection to Emmaus.
On their way to Emmaus, the two disciples are joined by a third man who asks them what they are discussing. They are, of course, discussing the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus. They have also heard reports of the empty tomb. Their companion explains the scriptural basis for the suffering of the Christ. Because it is late in the day, the two disciples invite their companion to have supper with them in Emmaus. When their guest takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and begins to give it to them, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other? Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’”
Where was Emmaus? There are several candidate sites, all of them at least several hours to a full day’s walk away from Jerusalem. Since the disciples were able to return immediately, my preference is for a nearby location, on a well-travelled road. Remember that when they arrived in Emmaus, it was late afternoon. When Jesus made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread, it must have been evening. Still, “they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem”. I assume they travelled in the early hours of the night. The road must have been free from bandits, jackals, hyenas and packs of wild dogs, in other words a major thoroughfare. And of course it was the second night after the full moon that marks Passover, so there would have been ample light from the moon.
As in John’s Gospel narrative we heard last week, in today’s narration from Luke, Jesus does not open the door to the upper room and come in. Nor does he knock. Very simply, he appears. The disciples are startled, and some are terrified, thinking they are seeing a ghost. As in John’s Gospel, Jesus bids them to be unafraid, and he shows them his hands and his feet. He is not a ghost. As further proof, he asks to be fed, and eats a piece of broiled fish before them. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene wraps her arms around Jesus’ feet. In this same Gospel, Thomas is invited to probe his wounded hands and side. He may materialize suddenly without a defined entryway but he is sufficiently flesh and blood to be embraced, to have his wounds probed, and to eat broiled fish. How can this be? Honestly, I don´t know because this is outside the boundaries of what I think of as reasonable.
You know of course that in the Anglican tradition we believe in Scripture, Tradition and Reason. We are confronted here by one of those narratives where our much vaunted Anglican reason has no answer. We cannot say how this could be. Tradition doesn’t help much either, although we can say that our Church believes as the Apostles believed, and has always made an effort to remain true to the Apostolic traditions of the early Church. So we believe as the Apostles must have believed, and trust that what they saw is what has been handed down to us over the centuries.
We return then to Scripture. We have John and Luke’s testimony to the apparition of Jesus to his disciples on the day of his resurrection. We have their statement that Jesus expounded on the Scriptures, and opened their eyes. In Luke we have also the risen Lord’s declaration that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. We know that this came to pass. The Apostle’s carried his message to Armenia, to India, to Ethiopia, to Rome, to places far from Jerusalem. The faith took root in those distant places, and continues to this day to bear its fruit. We are heirs to that Apostolic faith which circled the globe.
Faith plays a big part in your and my lives. In difficult times it is the life-preserver we cling to until we can get to shore. In good times it is a source of joy, of song in our hearts. Our faith is sustained not only in what we believe, but in the sacraments that join us to Jesus, and him to us. As we come to the communion rail today or at any time let us remember that we are going to an encounter with Jesus himself. “To the darkness Jesus came as God’s light. With signs of faith and words of hope he touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean”. Alleluia, the Lord is risen; the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.