“The Road We Travel to Our Emmaus”
Have you ever had an “aha” moment? Sometimes I have them – I think I have a really clear grasp on a situation or problem and God says – no, listen more, they’ll get it. I’ve even had a thought about what needs to be done to cure cancer, then I feel like the angels say – oops wrong person – lol! Although in all of this I know the revelations about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the “aha” moments I truly treasure.
“On the Road Again, Just Can’t Wait to Get on the Road Again…” The Emmaus road on the day of the encounter in our text was possibly an everyday occurrence, except Jesus was with these two disciples this day. The Emmaus road on this day was filled with people trying to make sense of the tragedy of Jesus’ death. The word about His death was everywhere. Not unlike what it must have felt like for several days after Pearl Harbor, after the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers, or the fears that come now during this pandemic, it’s a pensive mood, maybe even a time of desperation. The road that’s traveled in these times is how people learn to get by day by day.
These disciples, these followers of Jesus, are walking away from Jerusalem, hopes dashed, what ifs swirling through their thoughts. Then, He appears. The story was they didn’t recognize Him or more puzzling – they were prevented from recognizing Him. Leaving this question aside, the disciples seem mad and irritated at this stranger beside them. How can you not have heard, how can you not know? They didn’t know their walk to Emmaus was about to become the road they need to get by day by day.
When my daughter was a fourth grader a classmate died at from burns he got while trying to stamp out the leaves they’d set on fire. As they returned to school, before the days of crisis counseling and sensitivity to such events, their teacher was determined to stick to the lesson plans for the day. All of them were struggling to keep focused because of the death of their classmate and friend. In that time they were most likely taught to keep doing what they needed for each day and not given the opportunity to grieve. Someone said to them – “Well, we all have to die sometime.” My daughter had a tough time sleeping weeks, fairly sure death would or could happen at any minute. After all, weren’t the bedtime prayers – “If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take?”
Death is not the only thing that can leave us puzzled and irritated. The inability to lose weight or stay the course in a disciplined lifestyle that will help us make a healthy change comes to mind. Or the inability to do some of the fun things we like to do that make the daily tasks more bearable. We all know people who don’t cope well when they don’t get what they want. Look at new mothers and fathers going without sleep who find themselves barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Even as they thoroughly enjoy this little blessing everyone is fawning over, many a parent has said after the fact of birth – “No one told us about this.” They become travel weary. Their road has changed and they have a new “road” with all its challenges.
Further, church life can be this way too as we ask – “Why did we make this change, it was good enough the way it was, wasn’t it?” “Why do we now have to allow coffee and water into the sanctuary, what do you mean that we do it to be more welcoming?” Or even the comment – “Who gave permission to do it this other way?” Mostly these statements reflect confusion and perplexity more than a desire to control things although it can be the latter. At this point in time we all want a bit of control – control over whether we stay home or go out, control over whether we wear a mask or not, control over who we see and don’t see. We want to choose our road and how we deal with day to day challenges.
The disciples say to Him – “How can you have not heard, how can you not know?” Apparently, it’s pretty easy. For more than 2,000 years now, we find ourselves and our forefathers and mothers, easily confused. The story of Adam and Eve and why the apple can’t be eaten was confusing. Abram and Sarai with an angel telling them she was going to get pregnant at ninety years of age, well, that was confusing for sure. What about Moses and Aaron, and the people Israel, in the desert? After all that was done to release them from the house of bondage a golden calf was made when Moses was up on the mountain too long for their liking. The list goes on and on. I must confess, even this Emmaus Road story fits the profile, with the words that the disciples were prevented from seeing Jesus and then their reward for not being allowed to see is being called – “you foolish people.” Really? That hardly seems fair. But it does seem to be the condition of humankind — dazed and confused on which road to take. It isn’t any wonder that the disciples fail to get it. They’re not supposed to recognize Him until the right time. So Jesus reminds them… didn’t you hear how this was supposed to happen? Instead of being confused, you should be convinced… God is in charge… not you. It’s like Jesus is saying – I know the road you should travel, follow Me.
Interestingly, the light dawns on the disciples as they gather at a table, breaking bread together. It wasn’t at a business meeting or in the Upper Room or even a church council. It wasn’t at a table where a decision was to be made on whether or not to put new curtains in the education wing. The light dawns sitting at a table breaking bread together.
I enjoy watching the growth of small groups of Christians gathering for wine and talk of Jesus. Remember the days when many faith traditions couldn’t drink anything with alcohol in it because it was taboo. Like most taboos people begin to realize that having a glass of wine isn’t the problem. We come to realize that if Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine maybe the rule we made about never drinking anything was off the mark. Like the disciples and Jesus sitting at the table, breaking bread and drinking wine, these Christians had their eyes opened. Maybe if we gathered more often, not to vote on things, but to just fellowship together, wonder aloud together about Jesus and have a beverage, whatever your choice, we might better find the insight for what we’re called to do on God’s behalf. Maybe we’d learn to be less judgmental and have more empathy. Maybe we’d find the right road.
Please, don’t take what I just said as me approving in anyway the abuse of alcohol, or suggesting to someone who is struggling with alcoholism, that drinking is okay just because Jesus did it. However, please understand that we must stop being so uptight as Christians about where faith conversations can be invited. There are many a decision made in a bar about which road to take. Why not be there to help them find the right road or at least present the opportunity?
I learning to not mind if someone brings coffee into the sanctuary, even if it might stain the carpeting. They’re here, and I want them to be here. I really don’t mind if someone has tattoos or piercings all over their body. I want them to be here. I don’t mind if a parent with a child that is “out of control” comes here, doing their very best to honor God. I want them here even if the crying is disruptive. I don’t mind if a teenager comes in dressed in very little because that’s the style this year, or if they’re dressed in black from head to foot, or if they’ve colored their hair any or all the colors of the rainbow. I want them to be here. And most importantly, I want us to go where they go –
to the sports fields, to the casinos and bars, to the school events, under the bridge with the homeless, or volunteering for the jail ministry whether to the inmates or to their families, because our Jesus chooses to walk with all of us regardless of where we are. We are the faces and voices of Jesus, sharing words with one another on the road and breaking bread and drinking wine together with one another at our tables.
This scripture reminds us that when we find out something about Jesus it should lead us to immediate action just like it did for the disciples who ate with Him. It should lead us to becoming excited enough that we go and tell others what we’ve found out, what we’ve come to know, what our aha moment has taught us. This story, while its likely reason for inclusion into the gospel was to reconfirm that Jesus arose, should remind us to make one more time the theological statement we make each Easter – He Lives. It’s also about the fact that once we really get it we can’t wait to help others find the road. We may not have the original disciples to run back to but we do have our faith community and our neighborhood to talk to about Jesus. We have people to talk to, to run to, to tell them that Jesus lives, and He can make a difference if we follow Him down the road that leads to a day to day life traveling to Emmaus.
It does start with us acknowledging that as we are walking on our own Emmaus roads mostly questioning, irritated, focused on other things, this is not the end of it. Jesus comes to disrupt us — to help us see him — to focus on the gift God has given. Go tell someone. Become irritated and focused on other things no more. Sit down, have a meal with Jesus, those who follow Him, those who need to find the way –
and then go on where it leads – down your own road to Emmaus. Amen.