Last week, we had a beloved and familiar text from the Gospel of John which was ‘Doubting Thomas’. I talked about ‘doubting’ Thomas as one seeking to understand what was happening. I talked about Paul Tillich’s statement that “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; doubt is an element of faith” (The Dynamics of Faith, 1957).
This week, we have another very beloved and familiar story but we detour into the Gospel of Luke. We actually rewind a little bit as well, because this is the day of the Resurrection. It is one of my most beloved (favorite) stories, it is the ‘Road to Emmaus’. I am going to ask us to do a little imagining of our own this morning.
Imagine that we are walking on a dirt path leading out of the holy city of Jerusalem to a small village called Emmaus. Its going to be about a seven mile walk.
We’re mourning. We’re in grief. We’re fearful and we’re confused.
We’re walking and we’re in conversation. We might imagine that this is a solemn or quiet conversation, one where we’re quietly speaking our minds, but the Greek tells us that was NOT that kind of conversation. The Greek tells us it was intense. It was passionate. It was an argument. It was a debate. We are wrestling with one another (and we all know that when we wrestle with one another sometimes it does a little damage to relationships). I also know that there would no surprise why somebody else is curious about what we are talking about.
As we’re walking and talking, a stranger walks up to us “what are you talking about” (echoing Thomas’ own question from last week).
“Are you the ONLY stranger in Jerusalem that doesn’t know what happened? Our world as been shaken apart.”
Instead of responding with an equally confrontational response, the stranger just says “what things”.
“We had a teacher, who was a great teacher. We thought he was the long-promised messiah, a savior. He was arrested, beaten, crucified, and his body laid in a dark tomb along with our hope. And this morning, the women in our group went to anoint the body and they came back with this delusional, crazy talk about the body not being there and him being resurrected. Some of the other disciples went and checked this out and they found the empty tomb but no risen Christ. So, not only are our hopes in a dark tomb, but now our hope is gone and missing.”
The stranger with a term of endearment “oh how foolish, how silly, how slow to understand you are!” He starts opening the word to us.
We finally arrive at Emmaus after seven miles of walking. The stranger continues ahead. We urge the stranger to stay. He takes a loaf of bread, blesses it, breaks it, hands it to us, and the light bulb goes off; its Christ. As soon as we come to that realization, proof Christ is gone, vanished.
We make that seven mile journey back to Jerusalem to witness to the other disciples who say “we know. He was here and visited Simeon as well.”
It is an interesting story and take about our own journey in a post-Resurrection world.
I wonder how often we’re walking upon our own path arguing with one another because our world has fallen apart for us, but not realizing that the world as a whole has not been changed.
How often are our eyes closed to the other?
How often are we seeking answers that are right beside us? right in front of us? and yet, we are blind to it.
How often are walking down this path blind?
How often do we have those moments when we go ‘ah huh! Christ is here right now!’ and as soon as we make that proclamation, it is as though Christ has vanished and our daily, ordinary life and moments are back?
How often are we like the disciples on the road to Emmaus?
How often are we like those disciples?
I invite each one of us this Easter season and beyond to embrace that road to Emmaus, to ask those questions, to seek that understanding, to be in healthy conversations with others about it. Conversation that foster understanding and our relationships bringing us closer to recognizing Christ’s ever-present presence both through our seeking and our relationships with God, with neighbors, and our world, as well as our ordinary moments.
May we hold on to the promise that even if we do not feel Christ’s presence right next to us, if our eyes are not open and our hearts not open at that moment, we can have confidence that Christ is always revealed at two times: (1) the proclamation of the Word (which can be written, verbal, and in action) as well as (2) [the sacraments through] the water of baptism, and the bread and wine of Holy Communion.
May we embrace this path, may we embrace this road, and may it lead us deeper into our understanding of God, neighbor, and the world. Amen.
The scripture was Luke 24: 13-35.
The sermon was originally preached on April 30, 2017 @ Gloria Dei, Kelso WA