“Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.””Luke 24:44-49 NRSV
Today is Bright Thursday. Like the week leading up to Easter, the week following Easter is a week in which there are propers for every day of the week. Each day, we get readings from the Gospels about the beauty and gift of Easter, and we are encouraged in our walk on the way of love. On Wednesday and Thursday of Easter week, we get the beloved stories of the Road to Emmaus at the end of the Gospel according to Luke. Perhaps we all know the first part of the story well: two disciples on the road who meet up with Jesus and finally recognize him in the breaking of the bread. At once, they return to Jerusalem to find the eleven and companions gathered together. They proclaimed the Easter truth that we celebrate over the next 50 days: The Lord has risen indeed!
The Church has celebrated The Great Fifty Days for almost the whole of its existence. As one of the earliest periods within the liturgical calendar, it was a season in which the mysteries of the Church were taught to the newly baptized. While the Lenten season focused on teaching catechumens and preparing them for baptism, the Easter season was focused on helping the newly baptized to go deeper into the mysteries of the sacramental life of the church. Unlike in the modern day, the catechumens would not have seen or experienced the sacraments until the moment they were baptized, and fittingly, they would experience Baptism and Holy Eucharist (in that order) on the night of The Great Vigil of Easter.
For our times, perhaps it is good for us to keep reading in the Gospel according to Luke to remember that the Great Commission does not happen only in the Gospel according to Matthew. At the end of the reading for today, Jesus reminds the disciples about the way of the cross and the call to enter into ministry as the risen body, as the church. The true body of Christ is found in the people who take up the Christian life and are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We, the people of the church, are the ones who are left with living out the mysteries of the Church in our communities, and we continue in the way of love because in Christ we find the faith, the hope, and the love we need to continue putting one step in front of the other.
In the Gospel according to Luke, we hear that repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. Tempting as it is to focus our proclamation in places far from the community we call home, it seems that the places that we should begin our own practice of sharing the Good News is right here in our own community. Like the eleven and their companions, we are to preach the Good News in our local community and to invite others to know the love of God right here in Tempe, Arizona. To be certain, it requires more courage of us to do this work in our local community, but it is also the place in which we are able to establish longer relationships with others who live here.
The invitation to invite others to know Christ in their hearts and to know the love of God made known in the Risen Christ is an invitation that is, first and foremost, rooted in relationship. Through relationship with one another, we begin to establish our belonging in a community. We begin to find places that our gifts are able to be put to good use as we engage in the ministry of the church, and before we know it, the belief the church has been proclaiming for millennia begins to make sense to our hearts. We seek belonging, engagement in the community, and belief in something more wonderful and glorious than human origin.
In this Easter season, how are you being called to belong? How are you being called to engage your gifts and talents in Christ’s mission? How is the belief in the love of God made known in Christ nestling into your hearts?