Many years ago I moved to Japan.  I was in the midst of determining what God wanted me to do with my life, and to honest I was running away.  When I got to my small little town in Japan one of the first things I looked for was where or even how I was going to worship Sunday mornings.  Japan’s population of Christians was less then 1% and I was quite worried I’d be left without a Church.  Turns out my expectations were completely wrong.         The first church I found was immense! A huge white building with a shining cross on top.  It looked exactly like a church should look and I was excited!  I made my way in and started to look for some info on when services were…where the sanctuary was…that sort of thing …when I was confronted…very politely, by a Japanese lady in a uniform.  Immediately she asked why I was there and when, in my struggling Japanese, I said I had come to pray she grew agitated…there is no praying here she said.  Go else where, you can’t worship here! I was startled and confused, as you might imagine.  It turns out that the building was a façade, it was a wedding business! and the architecture was simply to make the pictures look good.  And we think a center aisle is popular! In our Gospel reading today we meet up with two disciples who were walking back from Jerusalem, taking the long 7 mile hike to Emmaus. As they walked they were reflecting on the events of recent weeks; Jesus triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, the crushing disappointment of the crucifixion and the mixed bag of emotions that accompanied rumours of the resurrection.     I say rumours because despite the account of Mary, that first Apostle of the Resurrection, the men were not inclined to believe a woman’s idle words; when their own eyes could not confirm what the women said (they had not been in the upper room for Jesus’ first appearance).   In their experience Easter had not taken place. For those disciples it was still Passover, the time when Jewish people recalled God’s saving deliverance…the passing over of the spirit of death which saved the first born of God’s people during their slavery in Egypt.  And in light of that salvation, the disciples had expected the Messiah, Jesus would do the same.  They expected that Christ would be their salvation from Roman occupation.  And you can hear the bitter disappointment of expectations dashed in their conversation with the stranger that walked with them. ”we had hoped …we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Instead they had watched their Messiah die at the hands of those from whom he was supposed to redeem them.  The salvation they expected died on the cross and to a man… they were crushed. Their Passover redemption was absolutely ruined, and now in the wake of their grief the disciples just wanted to get things back to normal.  Cleopas and his companion head off to Emmaus, just as other disciples head back to the fishing grounds and tried to resume normal life. But the resurrection had taken place and Jesus walks with us, not only in parishes and upper rooms, but in everyday “normal” life, just as he did with those confused and uncertain disciples on that long and lonely road.    The trouble is that they didn’t recognize him.  Their eyes had been kept from knowing him.  They couldn’t recognize Christ… This is a huge theme throughout the Easter season…Jesus is there…but no one recognizes him.  We are like Thomas and have our criteria to prove that Jesus is alive, our expectations of who Jesus is and what he will look like.  We see the stranger on the road, and focus on his ignorance of what we expect he should know. ·      We see an empty tomb and panic because Jesus isn’t where we expect him to be ·      We see a lowly gardener and can’t see past our assumptions of status, ·      we hear the experience of the witness and we simply cannot credit a women’s idle tale. Our eyes are kept from recognizing Jesus where he is, because we expect him to be where we want him to be, where he has always been, where tradition states he should be. The second church I found in that Japanese town, was not too far from my apartment.  It was small …but welcoming and as they began the service that Sunday morning… lo and behold they were speaking from the Book of Common Prayer!  A little Anglican Church. and even though the words were Japanese, the tone, the format and the tempo were familiar and easy to follow. I was Literally across the world and church was the same as at home. I could feel myself at home…I could recognize the liturgy and the ritual…the breaking of bread and the prayers. But it also felt out of step.  The East facing Eucharist, the chorus of reply in sync yet apart somehow.  The trappings were there, I felt Christ’s presence in that place… but something wasn’t right.  The BCP was comforting, familiar and full of Christ’s spirit…but it didn’t speak my name.  My heart was not on fire within me. When the disciples and the stranger walking with them came near the village to which they were going, they urged the stranger to stay because night was falling. So, Jesus entered in.  When he was at the table with the, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him.” Perhaps the simple act of blessing and breaking bread was not new, but the significance and ritual that Jesus brought to the simple act of sharing a meal was unique.  And in that unique and expectational act … expectations were reimagined, normal was transformed and everyone around that table was changed.  They experienced the resurrection…moving from fear and doubt to joy and certainty…Jesus was alive, the Messiah lived, and Salvation was at hand in ways that they would never have imagined possible. Mary at the empty tomb heard that gardener speak her name and her eyes were opened and she recognized Christ before her. Thomas had Christ stand before him and saw the wounds, heard Christ’s voice, and experienced the resurrection.  Expectations were blown out of the water.  What these faithful people expected no longer mattered in the face of the reality of Easter.   That Passover… God did not let death Passover the firstborn…but rather death itself was passed over…once and for all. But as always, Christ walks with us.      In our place and time as well Jesus is on this journey with us, helping us reimagine and reinterpret what it means to be an Easter Church.  What it means to move beyond our expected borders…to see Christ in new ways and hear the witness of Christ in new formats and new voices.            That is our challenge in this time of reimagining church…to see Christ outside our expectations and outside our normal.  The disciples had hoped Christ would be the one to redeem Israel…and they expected it to be in the traditional ways.  Many of us hoped Christ would renew the Church…and we expected the new church to look like the old. That little Anglican Church in Tsuchiura, Japan was not the church I worshiped at for the year and a half I lived in Japan.  The parish I ended up worshiping at would best be described as a non-denominational church with missionary roots.  It was a very different church then I was used to, very focused on singing and preaching…and each Sunday the service was translated via live translation in a headset into English and Korean. This translation was often flawed and shall we say creative, but through the ‘quote unqoute’ errors ….I heard the gospel in new ways and through the absence of certain aspects of Anglican tradition such as…Lent…(that one was a shocker).  I really got to explore what had real meaning and depth to my faith…what made my heart burn within me. We take for granted that Sunday mornings have a pattern and rhythm to them.  We know the liturgy and the customs.  The familiar trappings and architecture of our parish home.  It always had a comfort to it, a permanence to it…so that no matter what happened in our week we knew what Sunday would look like.  And I think we’d all admit that this is not it. Yet perhaps in this very unusual time when all expectations and all normal has been dashed to pieces …we will hear Christ interpreting our scriptures and faith to us.  We will have our own eyes opened to what really matters to Christ and what really doesn’t.  So that we can have our eyes opened to see the Church resurrected as Christ is resurrected.  So that we can see our faith move beyond expectation to new and unimaginable heights. What happens next may not be what we expect, but we will be able to recognize Christ within it.  Perhaps we will be looking back in years to come and say to one another…”were not our hearts burning within us?”   In these uncertain times we look for Christ in the unexpected, in the unrecognized, in the strange and in the unusual.  And we listen, we listen for Christ speaking to us as we walk this road, and to the witnesses that see Christ when we do not.  We let our eyes be opened to the possibilities that we cannot yet imagine…this is the Easter season…and we are and Easter church. Alleluia Christ is Risen. Christ walks this road with us. Alleluia The Lord is Risen indeed.