Easter 3, May 8, 2011, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore
The parents of this morning's baptismal candidates are special to me. The situation has happened to me plenty of times in my 20 years of ordained ministry, and every time it is special. I married the parents, now I'm baptizing their children. In today's move-every-3-years society that doesn't happen often. It's special because in our transient society follow-through with the same people is often just not an option. They PCS somewhere, their job moves them, or their parents need them in a distant city, and off they go. Oh, we get around it like today, by the parents bringing the children back to the same place to be baptized, and whereas they will be raised in another context, the sense of continuity is important, the sense that we have a hand in continuing what we start.
This is the lesson in today's Gospel reading. We don't really know much about Cleopas and his friend, Cleopas sounds like "Clopas," whose wife, Mary, was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion. But there is no evidence that these are referring to the same person. Either way, there is no other Scripture reference to either of them. So we know these two disciples only as the two men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We can say this about them, however. They knew Jesus before the Crucifixion, and they were sad and disappointed at His death. They took it to be the final chapter in Jesus' story, and they wished there had been more. A nascent faith was dying in infancy in their hearts.
It is puzzling, of course, why the disciples were kept from recognizing Jesus. The text seems to indicate that something did it to them, the voice is passive. Was it God? If so, why? Was it the devil? So what is the moral of the story? Or was it something in themselves that just couldn't get past Jesus' death? We're not told. I believe that whatever the immediate cause, their blindness is instructive to us. In Jesus teaching them from the Old Testament they would see that what had happened was part of a larger plan. In appearing to them in the breaking of the bread He showed them that the story keeps going, and that they are part of it. His presence is no longer restricted to one time and place, and therefore one appearance. Now He will be with them wherever and whenever they break the bread.
So, whoever they were, these two disciples are one with us in the community of Jesus, for Jesus is also with us and recognized in the breaking of the bread. We, too, are warmed in heart, and hurry out to share the news, and Jesus' actions that night become His actions with us tonight, we have a hand in the message of Emmaus.
And herein lies the greater lesson. Baptism gives us a hand in continuing in the lives of these two boys, yes, and it is a grand thing to do so, and a great privilege and responsibility. Yet that is not the end of the story. Baptism is bigger than any one baptism per se. I was baptized at age 11 in an outside baptismal font in Quito Ecuador on the campus of missionary radio station HCJB. My wife was baptized by her father in a river in Africa. All of our baptisms take on a different color and texture and appearance, yet they all are one, for we are all baptized into Christ, who is one.
Therefore we reaffirm our own baptismal covenants. Just as the experience with Jesus in Emmaus sent Cleopas and his friend hurrying back seven miles in the night to Jerusalem to share the good news of the risen Christ, so we join Christians of all places everywhere in committing ourselves to proclaiming in our own way and our own day the power and grace of His resurrection. Cleopas and his friend hold our hands and the hands of these two baby boys.
Today is also Mother's Day. I think of my own mother, 81 years old, living with my father in Dallas in the sunset years of their lives. The other day we were up there visiting with them and she said what every mother feels. We were talking about a move to a retirement center in their native Indiana, close to my older brother. She wasn’t sure she liked the idea. At one point almost rebelliously she said, "I don’t care how old you are, you know you’re all still my kids." Though my siblings and I now carry the load of the family, and it is now our turn to care for them, we are still her kids. She still has a hand in our lives, and she will not be denied!
There are many images in Scriptures of God treating us as a mother treats her children. God Himself, as the best of mothers, will have a hand in our lives, our continuing, changing and evolving lives. From creation to birth to baptism through this life to death, our Lord Jesus Christ continues with us. Often incognito and unrecognized, always recognizable in the breaking of the bread and the life of the Church that breaks it, but always there, whether known or not, always present, always with a firm, wth a steady and supporting hold on the upper hand in all that our lives are and will be. In His unobtrusive way He will not be denied.