Sermon: Surprised by Easter

Sunday, 30 April 2017 03:00
Hits: 133 Written by Mark Giroux


Download the Audio


Watch on YouTube


I'm so lucky to have my own personal Zen master.

In spite of autism, in spite of mental disability, my daughter Marie has both a great heart and quirky wisdom. I quote her often because she deserves to be heard.

So not long ago, I was thinking about the season of Easter. And I asked her advice. She had some, and it was simple and clear. She said, "Let it rip!"

Alleluia, Christ is risen, let it rip! Easter happens. Joy comes along unexpectedly.

A famous spiritual autobiography of the last century had a great title:  "Surprised by Joy." I feel that way often. And when it happens, we should tuck it away in our hearts and cherish it.

When my sweet wife was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer, she had a couple of sayings. One was this:  "Now is nice." She decided that whatever might come in the future, right now she was okay, and that was nice. Now is nice.

And she also said, "Bank the good stuff." She meant that when joy comes along and surprises you, you should hang on to that. Now is the good stuff.

Joy came along and surprised two friends walking a dusty road a long time ago. They were on the road to Emmaus, a little town about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were not expecting joy, not at all. In fact, their faces were downcast. I picture them walking along, looking at the ground with their shoulders slumped.

No wonder they didn't pay much attention to the stranger who walked up. You miss something when you're looking down. You miss joy if you don't pay attention.

In the Emmaus story, the stranger, of course, turns out to be Jesus. Easter happens. Emmaus happens. They get surprised by joy.

Now, the scholars argue about whether or not this story happened just the way the Gospel of Luke describes it. Some say that Emmaus never really happened.

You know what? I don't care if it didn't happen back then, because in my experience, it happens all the time now.

It's pretty clear that whatever happened that day 2000 years ago, the Emmaus story is a powerful metaphor. It is a parabolic description of our experience every Sunday.

I mean, think about it. These companions reflect together on the Scriptures. Well, we do that every Sunday. Then they gather at a table and the bread is broken. Well, we do that every Sunday. And suddenly, their eyes are opened and they recognize Jesus. Well, he promises to show up every Sunday. All we need is an attendance of two or three, he says, and he'll be there. We usually have more than that, which is great with me.

So Emmaus always happens. We get together, we hear the Scriptures, and we break the bread. And Jesus shows up.

Now, I'm not saying it's powerful and glorious every single time. If my heart is a little closed, I'll admit I sometimes miss the joy. It can be just a routine.

But routine is not all that bad. It can be a good discipline. It can get us through times of dryness.

For me, the Eucharist, our Sunday gathering for Scripture and bread and wine, is the main way I experience the joy of the risen Christ. It's one of the many reasons I'm glad to be an Episcopalian.

The Holy Eucharist is "the principal act of worship on the Lord's Day," on Sunday. Those words come right near the beginning of the Prayer Book, on page 13 if you want to check on me.

Easter happens. Emmaus happens. We get surprised by joy.

This Emmaus story inspired one of the prayers used in our service of Evensong, or Evening Prayer. We don't use Evening Prayer all that much any more, but I love this prayer. Listen to it and think of what happened to those two walkers on the road to Emmaus:

"Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past. Be our companion on the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love."

That's the Emmaus story in the form of a prayer.

Emmaus happens.

Easter happens.

So....let it rip!

Close Panel

Worship Services at St. Mark's


  • 8:00am Holy Eucharist

  • 10:00am Holy Eucharist
    10-10:30 Sunday School 


  • 9:00am Morning Prayer