Today’s Gospel reading is only part of the story. The first part, of course, is that walk along the road to Emmaus, when two disciples walked with him, and talked with him, and did not know him as Jesus. And then he joined them around the table.
But let’s begin with the reading from Acts. Poor Peter. He opens his mouth only to switch feet, because he keeps putting his foot in his mouth. And the post-resurrection meeting with Jesus on the shore, at the beach, in John chapter twenty-one, gives us his redemption. Here in Acts, he is telling the life and mission of Jesus, which is to educate and equip us to carry out God’s work in God’s world. Peter is telling us, “This is what it looks like to be an ‘Easter people.’ ”
We are – an Easter people. Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen, whose time as bishop came to an end in 2014, said that a lot. We are an Easter people. What does this mean?
For Peter in Acts, it means this: Tell the story of the life and ministry and mission of Jesus. Do as he has equipped us to do. Go and tell – and most of all, go and show. We can let our hands and our feet, our hearts and our mouths, show Jesus to the world.
And from the urgent sermon of Peter, we reach back and find the psalm that tells us again how we might live as an Easter people.
I say that we reach back because the psalms are old, much older than the time of the Book of Acts. The psalms are prayer songs, all composed during and after the time that David was a court musician for King Saul.
And what do these ancient prayers have to say about how we might live as Easter people, when they were composed long before Jesus’ time on Earth? They speak to us still – because Jesus is before time and during time and after time. Jesus is God, and God transcends time as we measure time.
So hear this, from the psalm.
Be angry – but do not sin. Ponder it upon your bed and be silent.
This is why Psalm 4 has been one of my favorites for many years. In this one statement is an invitation to live as Easter people.
Get angry! It is okay to be angry. This is something that people living in the South might want to hear. Maybe just women living in the South. It is okay to be angry. It is good, even, to be angry. Anger is a healthy emotion.
The critical difference, and the pivot point in this psalm, is the rest of that sentence. Be angry – but do not sin. Be angry – but do not lash out in our anger, lest we wound others. Be angry – and reflect on what is causing us to be angry.
Be angry – and prayerfully discern what we might do with that anger. This is what it can look like to be an Easter people. Allowing healthy, righteous anger to move us toward justice, rather than allowing anger to seize us, to possess us, and to move us to lash out and cause pain. We channel that anger so that we can hear God.
And then what? “Offer right sacrifices. Put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, ‘O that we might see some good!’ Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
And so to the letter of First John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we will be has not yet been revealed. When he is revealed, we will be like him.”
This is also what it looks like to be an Easter people. To live joyously in the knowledge that we are God’s children. And to live faithfully, telling and showing the story of Jesus, channeling our healthy anger, knowing that in the fullness of time, what we will be – what we will be, will be shown to us in his presence.
This is the Emmaus road we have walked that has brought us to the story in Luke for today. It is like the post-resurrection appearance we explored last week from the Gospel of John. Jesus appears to the disciples, who are shocked and afraid. To reassure them of his human reality, he asks for food.
For the disciples walking the road to Emmaus, not knowing that their companion was the Christ, they knew him when he broke the bread, after they had invited him to stay and eat with them.
And for the others at the table, it was when he took the food they offered, what they had, a simple piece of fish, and took it and ate it in their presence. Then, ever the teacher, he tells them what the next possibility is. This is what Jesus invited those around the table to do, and it is what Jesus invites each of us to do.
We are witnesses. We have been invited to have our minds opened, to understand the scriptures. We are invited to be angry – and not sin. To know that we are God’s beloved, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We are invited to show that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed. We are the Easter people. He is risen! Alleluia! Amen!