Luke 24:13-35

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.

Leo & Ingrid, “Rejoicers” in the Resurrection of Jesus

Leo and Ingrid lived in the small community of Lorena just south of Waco on I-35. They and their sons were longtime members of the congregation. Ingrid’s mother was clearly a German immigrant, but it was shock to discover Ingrid had also come to the United States as a five-year-old speaking no English. Ingrid didn’t sound like she had German roots at all. She sounded like a central Texan. In fact, she no longer spoke the German of her childhood. Like my own mother, she understood what her mother was saying.

My first Easter at St. Matthew, I introduced the traditional Easter greeting: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Leo and Ingrid, but particularly Leo, took to that greeting with great exuberance. Leo’s voice carried far above the rest of the congregation both in volume and in joyful exclamation. One might not have expected that of Leo if one only observed the western cut of his clothes and cowboy boots, surmising, by his manner of dress, that he was your quintessential, quiet Texas Lutheran. On any given Sunday, not only in the 50 days of Easter but anytime throughout the year, I could say, “Help me, Leo,” and when I exclaimed, “Christ is risen,” he would shout at the top of his lungs, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” That was not your typical Lutheran response anywhere. I suspected Leo had Baptist roots.

Those old enough to remember a particularly tragic year in the United Kingdom’s history might also remember that Queen Elizabeth II lamented it as an “annus horribilis.” I learned shortly thereafter that everyone might expect one such year filled with deaths and other tragedies. For my family, that year was 1992. We began with two major deaths in the first seven weeks of the year, followed by a teenager’s car wreck in March, followed by the death of my brother in early May, followed by a major economic loss in June, followed by a teen’s sudden surgery in July, followed by a move in August, a major surgery in October, and another close death in December. One becomes numb when one has no time to heal or properly grieve each loss as one loss follows rapidly on another. The only thing I remember about Easter that year was a beautiful children’s choir anthem: “Jesus is arisen.” I hardly remember the building expansion program that was completed. I worked full weeks, but I only remember the tragedies.

But Easter 1993 was different, because the nerve endings had finally woken up. There was so much emotional pain from so many losses. That year, the children’s choir and the adult choir sang a very challenging “Alleluia” by Billings. It was so amazing how those children sang, and the tears flowed with catharsis after so many deaths. Paul reminds us: Christians do not grieve as those without hope. Death has been swallowed up by the saving death of God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man!

I remember looking out just a few rows from the pulpit at St. Matthew, Waco. There were Annie and Tony, their son and his family, and Annie’s siblings Bill and Bertha near the front in their usual pew. Right behind them were Leo and Ingrid with joyful faces, proud to have some grown children and their families with them. I looked at Leo, and he nodded at me as if to say, “Bring it on!” Then, I shouted: “Christ is risen!” And Leo led the entire congregation in: “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” God knows I needed the faithful to preach in their own way to their pastor. I will never forget that day. The reign of death is ended. Alleluia!

Yes, dear Father, we praise and thank you for Leo and Ingrid and all the saints in that great cloud of witnesses who shout with us: “He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grant us Easter joy this day and throughout eternity! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Put forty-seven pennies, nickels, or dimes in a bowl or box today to help to buy farm animals to help the global poor to make a sustainable living.

Bring a check with your daily Lenten offerings for the global poor made out to St Matthew’s with “Good Gifts” on the memo line in the amount of $11.77 (pennies); $58.85 (nickels); or $117.70 (dimes).

Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina

The Daily Readings are from English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers