April 23th, 2023 “The Road to Emmaus”
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
The Road to Emmaus - I love this story! It is one of the stories that feel so real. A story that does not grow old or stale in the telling. It is one of those stories that I can visualize. Here are two of the disciples walking along. Bowed down with grief but at the same time marveling at the things that they have heard and experienced. They are talking it over. They are talking it through and trying so hard to make sense of all of this.
And then they encounter a man on the road and they walk and talk together. The disciples share the story of what has been going on in Jerusalem and in return the stranger on the road gives them a bible lesson. The best Christian education program there would ever be.
The risen Christ explaining the scriptures.
But the two disciples are still missing something. They do not know who this man is. As the walk goes on, as the lesson continues it is getting late and it is time to find something to eat. The disciples were hospitable men - come and have dinner with us. Come and share our meal, come and continue our conversation. And the stranger takes them up on their offer of hospitality and they dine together.
And it is in the breaking of the bread that they recognize their teacher, their friend, their Messiah. And as soon as that happened Jesus was gone. They got what they needed. Jesus provided for them once again. They learned. In their enthusiasm they get right back on the road and hustle for Jerusalem so that they can share their story.
Have you ever been asked about your “Road to Emmaus” story? Has someone ever asked you about a time of conversion or having your eyes opened to faith?
I have. It happened many years ago when I was first exploring the possibility of ordained ministry. And though I have forgotten many many things - this question stayed with me. The question was asked in a somewhat smug way by someone who was tasked with trying to discover my suitability for ordained ministry or put another way - did I truly have a call to ordained ministry or was it all in my head.
The problem was I did not have an answer for this question. There are many things I do not have an answer for. But I felt a real sense of panic. I needed to be able to answer this. I had to come up with an answer - it was a test. And I felt I was failing it miserably.
I did not, I still do not have a blockbuster “Road to Emmaus” story. And that day I really wanted one! I wanted to show that I got what they were asking for - when I really did not! I wanted to prove that I was in the right place & that what I felt was a sense of call was in fact valid and real.
My mind went blank. My answer was probably tepid and faltering.
How on earth was I supposed to answer what my experience of the risen Christ was? What words could or should I have used?
Some people come to faith in a blinding way like Paul. Others find faith over time. Sometimes it is the witness of others - like the women who went to the tomb and then shared their experience with the others. Sometimes faith comes like it did for Thomas after questions are raised and then answered.
I think that faith is like a river or stream, there are currents that come quickly and move things along. Sometimes there is a blockage, a downed tree or a beaver pond that stops the water and sometimes makes things stagnate. Sometimes we have an experience that is so awe inspiring or immense that the waterway swells to bursting like in a spring downpour or flooding from snowmelt further upstream. Sometimes the water reaches a low point - our faith reaches a low point where we no longer have words to express what we feel and we can only sigh or be silent and pray that the drought time will end and we will feel the strength of our faith once more.
We often describe faith in terms of a journey. When we do we acknowledge that growing in faith takes time and effort and often it means that we need the assistance of others. This is why faithful people gather in community. Because we need the support of others. Our stream or river of faith is not on its own. There are tributaries that join here and there and the flow of the water is stronger for it.
All these years later I would definitely answer the question about the Road to Emmaus differently. I would say that I would have loved to have had the experience of being instructed by Jesus - that it would have been amazing to have had my eyes opened as the disciples did. But I would also say that my walk on the road is a long one. A walk that will (hopefully) take my whole life. I might say that I have been blessed to have been joined on this path with many many people who have deepened my faith in ways that perhaps at the time I did not recognize. I would say that the opening of the scriptures is a lifelong pursuit. I might say that the way scripture speaks to me today will be different at another time or in a different place or because of a new life experience.
All of these thoughts are with the benefit of years and thought and learning and reading and I am grateful for the time I have spent on the Road - how about you?