Open Our Eyes (A Sermon for Easter 3A)

Open Our Eyes (A Sermon for Easter 3A)
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas)
Acts 2:14a,36-41
Luke 24:13-35
April 30, 2017

What does it take to wake you up?

An alarm clock? A strong cup of coffee? An elbow in the rib?

Some wake up to a rooster crow, and others wake up to the sound of a trash truck.

I get our boys ready most mornings, which includes waking up my six-year-old, Walker. Ford, he is usually up bright and early, and he often wakes us up. But Walker takes a little work. I tell him, most mornings, just open your eyes and don’t go back to sleep. Open your eyes, and you’ll begin to wake up.

I thought about that as I was studying our readings for today, and then looking at the Collect. I thought about opening eyes, and waking up. Here’s our collect:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

We wake up, of course, not only in the morning, but all kinds of things can jolt us awake. All kinds of things force us to open our eyes. Someone swerving into our lane on the road. A pink slip at work. An unexpected test result from the doctor. The death of a loved one.

It’s not always negative events that wake us up, either. The birth of a child, a niece or nephew, or a grandchild. Maybe we receive clean results from the doctor, and life is different from before.

These sudden events wake us up…they open our eyes to a new reality around us.

In this morning’s first lesson from Acts, Peter follows in the footsteps of John the Baptist, trying to wake people up, trying to open their eyes, spiritually. His method is a bit blunt, a little like trying to wake up someone by throwing cold water on them. Peter says, “This Jesus, whom you allowed to be put to death—this is the Messiah.” “There’s a lot to answer for, so repent, get your lives in order, get right with God, be baptized and make a new start.”

Peter’s wake-up call seems effective, though, as the Acts of Apostles reports some three thousand people were baptized and welcomed into the faith.

In some ways, the whole Easter Story is about the different ways in which people open their eyes and wake up to new faith, new life, and a new hope for the world.

One of the criminals who dies alongside Jesus has his eyes opened to the reality of life that is possible. He doesn’t have to die alone. He doesn’t have to re-live his past over and over again. There’s another way, and so he asks for it. “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

There’s Mary Magdalene who goes to the tomb that first Easter morning. She has awakened early from sleep, literally, but after she finds the empty tomb, and comes into contact with the gardener-who-is-really-God, Mary’s eyes are opened to the reality that Jesus is risen from the dead.

Last Sunday we heard how Thomas is trapped in the nightmare of his worries and fears and disbelieving. He struggles to accept what the others seem so easily to believe. Thomas wants proof, and then when proof stands right in front of him, Thomas, too, has his eyes opened to the risen Lord.

In the Gospel from Luke we read today, the wake-up call is gentler, but no less dramatic. It’s later on Easter Day and Cleopas and one of the other disciples—perhaps Luke—are on their way home from Jerusalem. A stranger joins them, and eventually this stranger unpacks for them everything that has happened, putting it all into the context of scripture and prophecy.

The disciples and their guest go home. They continue the conversation, and almost casually, they share a meal. And then they notice a pattern. Just like in the Upper Room, just like that Passover Meal, just like the bread and cup they shared the night of Jesus’ arrest… Jesus “took the bread, blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.” And their eyes are opened. They recognize him. They wake up.

It’s interesting to note that passive language is used here. They don’t open their eyes. Rather, their eyes are opened by a force outside of themselves. Just like those events we talked about earlier, those things that wake us up and open our eyes.

For these disciples on the road to Emmaus, they are just walking along. They are just eating dinner. And then they have their eyes opened because of the presence of Jesus Christ in their midst.

They are awakened to love: their eyes are opened to the love of God that would not leave them without comfort. The love of God that would befriend, that would die in the place of, that would extend mercy and compassion and forgiveness even from the cross.

They are awakened to peace: their eyes are opened to the peace that passes all understanding. This is a peace that has defeated death, that has won victory over violence, put evil in the grave, slammed down the lid, and danced on it.

They are awakened to forgiveness: their eyes are opened to the forgiveness that is beyond imagination, beyond human doing, but always available by the Grace of God in Jesus Christ.

The sufi and mystic and poet Rumi has a wonderful poem that strikes the spirit of an Emmaus awakening. He writes:

The early breeze before dawn is the keeper of secrets.

Don’t go back to sleep!

It is time for prayer, it is time to ask for what you really need.

Don’t go back to sleep!

The door of the One who created the world is always open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

As followers of Jesus Christ we have been awakened to love, to peace, to forgiveness, and to the possibility of new life. Open your eyes! Don’t go back to sleep! There is a whole new world to wake up to.

Amen.

Open Our Eyes (A Sermon for Easter 3A)