THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"  And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.  Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,  and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."  And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther,  but they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"  And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together,  saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
The two men stood there looking sad, because things hadn't gone according to plan, according to their plan anyway. They had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel but their Chief Priests and Rulers had delivered Him up to be condemned to death. And it was now the third day since all these things had happened. Things had gone about as wrong as they possibly could go, as far as they could see anyway.
I think we can all say by this point in 2020 that things haven’t gone according to plan. No, not at all. Standing here on the 3rd Sunday of Easter in front of an almost empty Church was nowhere in the plan when 2020 dawned on January 1st of this year. No, neither was having to reach you by audio recording, video on YouTube or just calling you on the phone. No, no, Covid 19 and the havoc that it has wrought on life in general and the life of the Church was not a part of the plan, even when the news was first coming out of China about this new virus.
No, life doesn’t always go according to plan, our plan anyway. We’re all learning that in one way or another in these Covid 19 days. From our weekly plans, that are so turned upside down that we hardly know what day it is half the time, to our yearly plans like birthday parties and family dinners, to life plans like weddings and even funerals, yes, plans have changed in many ways. Some little. Some big. Some annoyingly. Some almost unbearably. The temptation of course when life goes off our plan is to hang our heads with the disciples on the road in sadness, to be heavy hearted about how things are turning out, to believe that things have gone about as wrong as they could possibly go, to believe that life has gone off plan, and so come to doubt the Planner.
But as the two disciples find out today, we must not confuse our plans with the plan. Of course this is not so easy for sinners, who have been deceived into wanting to be their own gods, to do. Our plans seem like the better plan, the best plan. Things should go the way that we think they should go and when they don’t, we can be left shaking our heads wondering what God is up to, or even questioning or doubting Him. Yes, we have plenty of plans don’t we? Plans of how things should go in our lives, in the lives of others, in the life of the Church and in the life of the world. And we can be left questioning and doubting in sadness when they don’t go the way the that we think that they should go. But the Lord Jesus in mercy speaks out to us with the other two sad faced disciples, wherever such thoughts and doubts rule our hearts, “O foolish ones, so slow of heart to believe.
And then He directs us to the Father’s plan for us in Him, a plan that none of us could have imagined, because who among us would choose such a plan for ourselves, a plan that would cost the Planner so much, that would mean such sacrifice, such giving, such love. But this was indeed His plan for us, to give up His only begotten Son to suffer and die for poor miserable sinners like you and me, so that we could have forgiveness and life in His name, so that we would not be lost or die in our sins but have life with Him and each other forever.
That we may not doubt this but believe it all the more the Lord Jesus comes, wherever and whenever two or three gather in His name, and He takes the bread and blesses it to be His body and takes the cup and blesses it to be His blood, and gives it to us to eat and drink, so that we might know the Father’s plan for us, for others, for the Church and the world in Him. A plan for life in the love of God for all eternity. At the altar Jesus reveals Himself to us as the Risen One, who has died that we might live. He shows us that no matter how far our lives may go off of our plans, even when that means that we can’t gather together as one to eat Christ’s body and drink His blood, God’s plan for us will never fail because Christ has already fulfilled it.
As I have seen with so many of you, as I have walked along beside you, even as I myself went through it with you walking so kindly beside me, when I had my stroke 3 years ago, and even now as we journey together through these days of Covid 19, there are times, when our plans must be set aside so that God can carry out His plan. In these times the Lord invites us into the plan of Christ’s cross. These times are hard but blessed because of the One who stands on the road with us today, opening our hearts and minds to the truth of God’s plan for us in His Word. Even as He reveals the goal of that plan in the heavenly Communion that He gives to us in His supper, where we and all the saints of the past, present and future join together with Christ in an eternal moment of life and love.
Yes, sometimes our plans need to be laid aside for God’s plan. Christ lived this out to the fullest to grant repentance and forgiveness to Israel, to grant repentance and forgiveness to us. As my one doctor said to me after my stroke, “We can ask why this happened to you, given all that you had done to keep it from happening.” I replied, “It happened for my repentance, that I might know that the Lord is God and be humbled before Him.” And he replied, “Well, He’s humbling us all through you.” Yes, I have no doubt that God asked me to set aside my plans three years ago, so that He might glorify His name through His plan for me in Christ. And as hard as all of what were going through now may be, I have no doubt that the same is true in these difficult days also.
And so, beloved, wherever your life may be, or wherever it may go, look on Jesus as He reveals God’s plan for you in His risen body and blood, and hear and know and be encouraged in God’s promise to you in Him: “I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Life may go off of our plans, but no, it will never go off of God’s plan for us, beloved, an empty tomb and a Risen Lord Jesus are God’s sure and certain promise of that. The almighty and merciful Lord keep you in that truth in these Covid 19 days, that you might pass through them in His peace and the never failing hope that is yours in Christ Jesus. Amen