Were not our hearts burning?
Second only to Mary’s encounter of the Risen Jesus, is this story from the Gospel of Luke, lovingly called The Road to Emmaus. It is a story of relationship, remembrance, and hope.
Two friends walk slowly towards Emmaus. They are consumed by the conversation they are having, so much so that they miss that a third person joins them.
But I imagine their first steps out of Jerusalem. There was quiet as they walked.
The quiet of sorrow where no words can alleviate the darkness.
They thought of what brought them there. Jesus, their hope, drew them to Jerusalem just after the crowds laid palm branches and cloaks as they would for the Roman elite.
Upon the wind, these two caught whispers of crucifixion.
I imagine them, standing transfixed as the crowd called for Barabbas to be freed.
Watching from the city’s gate they saw as Jesus was lifted high on the cross.
They didn’t want to get close, they didn’t want to watch their hopes die
a painfully public death?
They must have been known to the disciples, for they heard the women’s story of the angels.
But they did not believe. They couldn’t. For all they saw forced their eyes to close (with
tears), their hearts to lock, their dreams destroyed.
The silence didn’t last long as they walked and kicked at the dirt. It was Cleopas who spoke first, wondering about the life of Jesus, this Messiah, and soon a fierce debate was struck about the One who was made an example of. For those in the Roman State wanted to ensure that others like him, and those who believed in him, knew what happened with those who went against Caesar (Mark 12). Grief filled words turned to deep theological discussion. They spoke with so much passion, they barely noticed as a third person entered the conversation.
It’s almost like a stage play:
Imagine a darkened stage, except for a dim light upon two friends, down front. Their conversation draws everyone in, as no one notices the third player, quietly entering from the wings. One isn’t sure it’s even a person until he steps into the cast-off light, emerging from the shadows to startle everyone, audience and players alike, with the innocent question:
“What are you talking about?”
Soon, all the attention is on him as the spotlight widens, drawing him from the shadows as the friends sorrowfully question him,
“Are you the only one in Jerusalem
who hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days?”
It was through the city streets. It was heard in the temples and homes alike. Death. Just one more reason to stay in line. Keep your head down. Don’t question authority. Don’t listen to fake news declaring Messiahood. Surely he must have heard something. He must know. But the stranger asks anyways,
“What has happened?”
I think to meaningful conversations in my own life that have been as powerful as the one that was shared on that Road to Emmaus. Conversations of transformation. Words of life. I think to the time that I shared with my minister that I thought about entering the ministry. I might have been the ripe old age of 16 when I first heard that calling, and shared that burning of my heart of purpose and hope. I can no longer remember her response, but I’m sure it was something like,
“What has happened?”
That question invites sharing.
Such a beautiful question asked by the stranger allows Cleopas and his friend to tell of what they experienced in Jerusalem these last few days. When my minister asked it, I was able to talk about the before and after, of what it felt like, and they strange new reality I found myself in. There is power in that sharing. For those of us blessed enough to have had people enough to ask such an open ended question, to listen with patience, and to continue journeying with us through that question, together we have been transformed.
This is our Christian hope, for our faith requires relationship.
While there are moments that Jesus encourages us to a private faith life (Matthew 5:6) (Mark 12:41), it is through conversation (John 3) (John 4) (Matthew 26) and connection that Jesus teaches. It is through where two or three gather in Christ’s name (Matthew 18:20) that the presence of Jesus unites them. In more than 140 characters and Facebook posts, we connect our lives, share the very essence of our sorrow, and answer the sometimes challenging, of
“What has happened?”
The miracle of our lives is in the sharing of them. It may seem small, but when we connect our hearts with one another, when we unite that which burns within us, when we join them to one another even in the midst of sorrow, we experience the true meaning of life.
This is what this Emmaus text is about. It’s less about the miracle of resurrection, and more about the conversation shared on the road that fills the disciples with hope and restores their faith, and the act of breaking the bread which opens their eyes to the miracles which surround them.
For we walk through life with our eyes shut.
We get so distracted by grief, that even when reading the resurrection stories we miss two miracles. To the women going to the tomb were already amazed by the guards’ absence and the stone rolling away, those two “smaller” miracles opened them to the reality of what was to come. Yet they go missed by us. We are dazzled by the life in place of death. We are astounded for the hope it brings, and we go from Easter services ready for our God to catch our attention with the-next-big-thing. But I think, the more powerful are the “lesser” miracles that we take for granted.
I am not a baker – and after us praying over the dough last week, kneading into it the concerns of our hearts and the pains of the past – I prayed during service, and continued praying as I brought it home after lunch, dividing it into four loaves, praying one of them might turn out. When I bake, I tend to burn. Or undercook. Or both at the same time. I’m talented in my ineptitude. So when I put the loaves into the oven, I prayed that I didn’t have to run out and buy something this week to pass off as the loaf we prayed over. When all four loaves came out, both looking like, and smelling like, bread…I giggled – that was a miracle (in my world).
The miracle of yesterday’s Garage Sale – meeting people I may not see again for another year, but who still remain faithfully devoted to this act of mission and ministry here in this place. And for the time and energy spent all week.
When I got up this morning after days and days of cold bitter rain, the sun warmed my cheek as I came to church.
I hit every green light on my way here.
These little miracles seem trite – but they remind us to open our eyes, raise them from the dirt, wipe away the tears, and see the mystery of being which calls to us daily. And so I ask you…thinking about your week, what miracles caught your attention? What miracles caused your eyes to open? Or your heart to burn?
Today, we gather around this table, to share the miracle of hope at this table. The miracle of this feast is in the ordinary. Bread and juice. Things you’d find in your own homes.
We share in this communion, in this Eucharist, as Henri Nouwen says as
The word “Eucharist” means literally “act of thanksgiving.” To celebrate the Eucharist and to live a Eucharistic life has everything to do with gratitude. Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift, a gift for which one is grateful. But gratitude is not the most obvious response to life, certainly not when we experience life as a series of losses! Still, the great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist and live in a Eucharistic life is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately linked with its fragility and mortality. We can experience that every day — when we take a flower in our hands, when we see a butterfly dance in the air, when we caress a little baby. Fragility and giftedness are both there, and our joy is connected with both.
For we give thanks out with the ordinary miracles of life and love, bread and juice, faith and hope. We give thanks as we unite our hearts in words of faith saying:
We are not alone, we live in God’s world.
We believe in God: who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
 Waiting for Godot (?) by Samuel Beckett
 Nouwen, Henri, With Burning Hearts, p30. http://www.moederkerk.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/With-Burning-Hearts.pdf