Unsung Saints 2020 Lent

Easter Sunday

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.

Pastor Ted, Who Knew (and Now Knows) Easter Joy

I have written before of Ted, the pastor who saw me through the time when I was torn between God’s call and a selfish young woman’s demand that I be hers alone. I have written and spoken often that we learn life’s most important lessons through pain. There is a terrible mercy in the screeching loneliness of not having, in the breaking of an addiction that must be broken in order to keep the First Commandment. A pastor can only accompany us through that growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ted was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. As an old German might say, he knew from snow and bitter cold. After that and the Senior College at Fort Wayne, Indiana, St. Louis winters were positively balmy, But Ted spent most of the rest of his years in and around Dallas TX until the very last chapters. Once your blood thins, facing subzero temperatures and mounds of lake-effect snow is abhorrent to you.

Ted was a big teddy bear of a man. Another mentor said he knew Ted in school and sniffed that Ted was one of those guys who spent too much time playing bridge. People with high IQs simply don’t get why people with high EQ (emotional intelligence) are so much better in the care of souls than they.

Ted introduced our little Bonham flock to the ancient Easter victory cry of the Greek church: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” I was so taken by his exuberance that it has become my own habit at the end of the Easter Vigil, all Easter Sunday, and throughout the Queen of Seasons in the church year.

His first Easter with us, Ted went into great detail talking about how long and miserable Buffalo winters were. Having just made it through my first St. Louis winter, I offered a silent “Kyrie eleison” that I never have to learn what that was like. On vicarage, the seminary turned me down for Texas and sent me to Kirksville, the icebox of Missouri, where the winter temperatures go lowest and the snows deepest.

Ted described the coming of warm weather to Buffalo. He said, “We teenagers would roll down the windows on our cars and drive through town with the AM radio blaring.” One particular song from his youth captured that joy of the end of winter: “Shout! Shout! Knock yourself out!” Ted said his buddies and he would be racing down the streets, warm air blowing through their hair, singing: “Shout! Shout! Knock yourself out!” Then, Ted said, “And that’s just a small taste of what Easter joy is for us Christians! The Lord is risen indeed! The reign of death has ended! Alleluia!”

This is the strangest Easter in my life and in almost forty-four years of working in churches. The nave will be mostly empty. The services of God’s house will be live on Facebook. We will gather in cars in our parking lot, safely distanced from each other, and watching an outdoor Eucharist being celebrated. At the conclusion of the liturgy, folks will drive through the circular drive to receive the Host from a pastor wearing an N95 mask and gloves. No Easter hugs. No crowds in the pews. No profusion of Easter lilies.

As Paul reminds us, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are, of all people, most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Yes, we will have Easter joy not based on crowded spaces but on the Living Lord!

So, dear Father, we praise and thank you for Pastor Ted 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! And, we bless, laud, and magnify Thy holy Name for the gifts of all those dogs and beloved pets who eternally offer their raucous “Howl-lelujahs!” 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, NC

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.