Gaining a Community, Joining a Movement

Baptism of Adam, Easter 3, Road to Emmaus

Homily delivered on May 4 by the Rev Alison Kemper

Today we hear one of the best stories in the Gospels: the appearance of Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. We celebrate a baptism—one of the most wonderful things the church does. And we gather around wee Adam, as happy and bright and darling a baby you may ever see. A Christian hat trick.

The story–Two disciples are walking down the road. They have been through the ministry of Jesus—the parables, the miracles. They’ve been through the triumphant entrance to Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the arrest at night, the trial and sentencing. They’ve seen him crucified and buried. And they were in Jerusalem when women who went to the tomb came running, claiming that the tomb was empty. They were around when rumours started up—rumours that people had seen Jesus risen from the dead.

These two people—Cleopas and another—maybe his wife Mary?—possibly Joseph’s brother and his wifeJesus’ aunt and uncle—got out of town. They headed for Emmaus, about a 2 hour walk from Jerusalem. We don’t know what was in Emmaus, it may be just a place away from the murderous Romans. But Cleopas and Mary were getting out of danger’s way, leaving the dreams and hopes and despair and craziness behind.

They’re leaving, walking along, and they meet a stranger and explain everything to him, stunned to hear he hasn’t heard the news. They get to their destination, and invite him to come inside for supper. He comes in, takes bread, blesses and breaks it.

They see Jesus in the stranger, in the blessing, in the breaking, in the bread. The Jesus story they had left behind in Jerusalem has followed them all the way to Emmaus. They had left the 11 behind, the folks who were a bit crazy about Jesus. And they had gone away to figure out what was next. They hadn’t even recognized him outside in the sunshine. But inside, in the light of the oil lamps, they saw him clearly in the meal they shared. He vanishes.

Now what? They gave up. They left town. They were not about to be turned upside down by the death of their hopes. They were going away to start again. They had to.

Then this. He was back.

And having seen Jesus in the breaking of bread, Cleopas and Mary go outside and walk back to Jerusalem. They rejoin the people scrambling around Jerusalem trying to figure out what’s going on and what they need to do about it. They were back into it, whatever itwas.
There are at least three lessons for us:

A.    It’s hard to tell who Jesus is and where you might find him. We see this in the news, in our work, all over the place. Recently, that famous statue of the homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench was installed at an Episcopal parish in North Carolina. Neighbours called the police on the sleeping Christ.
B.     From the earliest days of the church, from the years in which the Gospels and Letters were being written, it has been critically important that Jesus promised to be with us when we have Eucharist.  When we remember him, Jesus is among us in bread and wine—Jesus is easier to recognize.  Today we will do this together. It will change us. And here at Holy Trinity, we recognize that Jesus’ invitation is for all. Not just for those with membership cards: all.
C.     When we recognize Jesus, when we make Eucharist, we reconnect with the group hiding out in Jerusalem, the women at the tomb, the disciples Jesus picked up and the family that went along with him because they already loved him.
Today is a great day for all of us, a celebration this morning of the new life of Adam, and the celebration of the long life of Don Heap this afternoon. Both Adam and Don are joined to this group of half-crazed disciples of the God of love.

So many Christian rites are about opening our private lives, making light shine in, making what was a small joy or sadness shared by a couple or a family into a celebration for a community or a city. Adam’s birth was a delight to his parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents. Today, his baptism is way for all of us to share in his life, his inherent happiness, his immense cuteness.

But it’s also a day in which his parents, James and Laura, relinquish a little bit of their ownership, their control, of their child and join them to a much broader community. Today Adam is a member of the same church as Don Heap, with the same rights, privileges and (eventually) responsibilities as any of us. We bring our children to these waters, and we hope that the saints who surround us will influence them, pray for them, show them the ways of justice and peace. We let go a little, and we trust that these saints will nurture him along his path. The children know this is their job: they will show him how to hide under the high altar, run his first 50 metre dash, find Easter eggs hidden in the sanctuary. They will show him also how to grieve and remember, how to ask the hardest questions thank goodness for the ministry of Beth Baskin), and how to trust that he will find his own answers.
Today we are transformed by Adam’s membership in us. Our church is different. We don’t know how different we will become because Adam is among us. In the 1920’s, when two wee boys were baptized, no one knew how both Canada and the Anglican Church would be transformed by Don Heap and Cyril Powles and their devotion to a Christ who seeks peace and demands justice. We will discover Adam’s gifts to us as we grow together.

This pull outward, from family to community, enriches us all. From the cross, Jesus’ words to his mother and his beloved disciple echo in my mind: Son, behold thy mother, Mother behold thy son. You are now the family. When Jesus’ relatives, Cleopas and Mary, met the risen Christ in the meal at Emmaus, they raced back to Jerusalem to rejoin the movement.

Here today, Adam gains a community and joins a movement. May he grow to lead us into the ways of justice and peace.