Easter Continues

April 07, 2024
Luke 24:13-35

Christ is Risen. Christ is risen indeed.

While we are still in the Easter season, our gathering today is a fraction the size we were last week because so many have gone off to parts west and north to “chase the eclipse,” to have a “totality awesome” experience. On Monday afternoon the moon and the sun will take us back to Good Friday.  Matthew, Mark and Luke include an eclipse as part of the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. From Luke 23: It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Does darkness automatically mean death? And the rising sun on Sunday morning mean new life? Or is it more complicated than that, maybe sun and moon, heaven and earth, life and death are intertwined? Can each bring hope?

Last Sunday I went for an Easter sunrise walk near our house, by the Northwest Branch. In the early morning stillness, I heard a crow, frantically cawing and squawking. I am learning to pay attention to insistent calls and caws. I finally spotted the large crow on a tree branch, near the water. I focused on the crow and when I lowered my gaze, I saw why the crow was so persistent. There, on a rock in the middle of the Northwest Branch, was a magnificent, bald eagle.

Startled, I let out an “Oh my God!” It was so spectacular and at the same time so ordinary, a bird sitting on a rock, scanning for fish. The crow kept squawking. The ducks started quacking. And the eagle just sat there. I began to think, “This can’t actually be an eagle. I mean, I know they roost around here but… maybe it is one of those ducks with whiteheads.” Then just like that, it flew away, it’s magnificent wingspan confirming that it was not a duck.

Because it was Easter morning, I was reminded of this story of the two people on the road to Emmaus: Cleopas and – let’s call her Joanna. Cleopas and Joanna meet a stranger on the road and the stranger seems so ordinary. In fact, he is not only ordinary he is kind of uninformed. He doesn’t seem to know what just happened in Jerusalem, seems not to have heard about the tragic capital punishment of their friend and rabbi, Jesus. Because it is foremost in their minds, Cleopas and Joanna recount the story. And then the stranger shows that he does know something about the Jewish tradition, the prophets and the stories that enliven and bring meaning to all of their lives. In fact, he knows a whole lot and helps them understand in new ways who Jesus was.

When they finally get near to Emmaus, dusk is setting in. True to their Jewish tradition, Cleopas and Joanna show hospitality. They invite this stranger to eat with them, to stay with them. As they begin to settle in for a nice dinner, the stranger picks up the bread and breaks it. And their eyes are opened. They see it. They see him. They know him. And then he disappears – almost like an eagle flying off with an incredible wingspan. When they look back on the last few hours, they can see what had been in front of them, next to them, the whole time. This was Jesus, is Jesus. He is somehow still present with them.

Though it is late, they are too excited to worry about the risk of running the seven miles back to Jerusalem. They must share this good news. Because when you experience the living presence of Jesus – you want to share it with someone.


The sun rose higher in the sky and the eagle flew away. There was no one near by, no Cleopas or Joanna to share my morning sighting with.

I continued my walk, pondering all these things in my heart, when I glimpsed another extraordinary sight. A very proud looking fox trotted down the street – with a full grown Mallard in its jaws. I gasped at the sight which startled the fox. It dropped the duck and ran away. Now there was a duck, perched on the sidewalk, in shock, too wounded to move. Had my presence saved the duck or doomed it to further torture?

I resumed my walk on the berm path, giving me a good view of the fox. We kept eyes on each other, the fox and I, even as I turned around periodically to check on the duck. And then as I watched the fox in one direction and the duck in the other, something else caught my eye. The eagle was back, flying above the water, a shiny fish in its talons. The eagle landed high in a dead tree and ate its breakfast overlooking the water.

A person jogged by, earbuds firmly in place. A couple starting their run looked up at the eagle and ran on. I wanted to share these remarkable morning experiences but no one seemed interested. They had miles to run and steps to count.

Then on the path, on the opposite side of the river, I saw movement. It was our friend, and my neighbor, Dave Kraybill. He was also out for an early Easter walk. He was too far away for me to get his attention. But knowing he was there, having some of the same experiences that I was having, gave me joy – and pointed me back to the Luke account.

When Cleopas and Joanna arrive back in Jerusalem, they find the other disciples and they share the amazing news of seeing Jesus. The gathered eleven also have a story about a Jesus sighting. “Jesus appeared to Simon Peter!” (Luke doesn’t tell it that way, just a few verses previous but maybe I am being too literal.) Their joy is multiplied as they talk together.

Later, as we gathered in this very room to celebrate resurrection, I told Dave that I had seen him along the path early that morning. He excitedly showed me a video he had taken of the fox. We had both been there, both seen the fox – but from different angles, on opposite sides of the water. Dave saw the fox after it had vanished from my sight. Neither of us had the complete story but we each had seen it. Perhaps that is how the gathered eleven were able to proclaim, “Christ has risen! It’s true! Jesus has appeared to Simon.” We get a fuller picture when we hear from others, when we share the good news.


For most of my life, I have tried to understand Jesus’ resurrection. What does it mean, this story that we tell every spring? Was he truly resurrected in body? How is that even possible? In my spiritual struggles to understand, I have even had the audacity to say I don’t believe in the resurrection. But what does my opinion matter in relation to this old, old story? Does that mean it isn’t real? Just because I say I don’t believe it?

After all these years of struggle, of holding tightly to the need to explain and understand, I recently realized that I have let it go. (which doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep wrestling with Jesus’ resurrection – if it has a hold on you.) Maybe it’s just the stage I am in, that whole second half of life thing, but I now have less need for comprehension. Instead, I find that I am willing to explore the layers that might be there. To connect resurrection to some of the other things that Jesus said about seeds and plants and trees. Resurrection now feels to me like a practical, grounded truth that I want to find ways to live into.

So I tell you the eagle story – and the fox story. Trying to connect them to a bigger story, trying to connect them to surprise and joy. I understand resurrection as a model that points us toward what new life means, how we might see signs of new life. Where do we find the holy, the unusual? What takes our breath away and points us toward living with new hope – even for a moment? I daresay, those who witness the eclipse tomorrow may be breathless with excitement at the darkness. Will they sense that the curtain of the temple is torn/removed? Will they experience the presence of the Holy in a new way – in darkness?

And – even as I have let go of the need to understand a literal resurrection of Jesus, now I wrestle in new ways. How can resurrection mean anything for people in Gaza? for people in Ukraine? What does new life mean for people living in state sanctioned cages? Isn’t it just cruel to wave this new life/theological promise of resurrection, in front of people who live and breathe death? Who taste nothing but the dust of destruction? When death seems to have such a strong hold over everything, when the system is rigged and evil seems to have the last word – and every word – what does resurrection mean then? And I realize I am right back where I have been most of my life, wondering if resurrection is possible, if it is real.

In fact, that is right where the disciples were after Jesus died. In an oppressive, rigged system, that wanted them dead. Where the one good thing that held out promise to them was destroyed cruelly and violently, right in front of them. And yet somehow they found some hope in an empty tomb. They saw hope in the way bread was broken and the way they interacted with each other. They saw Jesus in the stories he left with them. They saw new possibilities everywhere.

Resurrection was not impossible, it was imperative. Resurrection became a way to keep carrying on in the face of horror, a way to have hope for themselves and the next generations. Death was still present but they saw that it did not have the final word. The stories Jesus told and the acts of healing that Jesus shared were seeds that would grow and spread. They may have been tiny mustard seeds but the disciples remembered the story Jesus told about the mustard seed growing into a tree large enough for birds to build their nests in.


It’s not enough to see a bald eagle once. Once you’ve seen it, you want to see it again or you want to see another amazing and unusual bird. And you want to let other people know, you want to show them the video, the photo, describe it all.

Is that how it is with resurrection? Once you’ve gotten a glimpse of something glorious, or seen what seems Holy – an eclipse, an eagle, a living person who breaks bread – you want to share it with others. And you want to find ways to keep having those encounters. Because we don’t do all this God stuff just for the sake of eternal life. We look for signs of new life because we want there to be a better life here, now, for people and the creatures. We want to be part of creating a better life for our children and our neighbors. This story of Jesus helps guide us toward new life. And gives us hope.

So we say Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.