Luke 24: 13-35
What have you discovered along the way?
We knelt at the cross. Ran to the tomb. Today we walk on the road to Emmaus.
While we’re often in a hurry to get to the destination, some of the most profound moments are stops or challenges along the way, those planned or spontaneous. Moments where a connection is made that will be seared into our memory for years to come. Often these connections may involve music, laughter, listening, a meal, even tears, lament and support foster these shared moments of connectedness.
What have you discovered along the way?
In the book entitled Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor writes,
When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives, the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say,
“Here, I guess, since this is where I am.”
In the Walking
Even amidst todays pandemic living, these are wise words. They ask us consider the gift of the present moment even as we transcend from it. I suspect, for many of you, daily walks and outdoor time help to embrace the present. They are source of wellness. A moment for our souls to find peace, nourishment, and new life even in the midst of upheaval. Walks have a way of re-connecting us. Our senses open to the gift of connectedness given to us by the Creator.
Now I know, not all of you are able to walk, but it’s likely you walk in other ways. Your mind takes you on a walk as you look out the window and see people passing by, or a story takes you to a place you’ve been before, or you could try going a journey as you trace a finger labyrinth in the comfort of your home.
So my friends in Christ, let’s take a little walk together, like the disciples. Walk, talk and accompany me in your minds eye for now. Let’s discover ‘it’ along the way. Our eyes have already been opened.
A journey the size of the disciples, about 11 km would take a few hours at the fastest pace and lengthen from there. If we set out from the church, would walk us to the Synod Office to drop off our benevolence and hear a word of hope about how other churches are doing, from there we go onto Martin Luther University College for a pit stop of mind opening brain nourishment before heading off to St. Jacob’s market to sit down at the table together. I wonder how many friends and strangers we would meet along the long road. Who might be the strangers to join our journey?
As we walk, smell the springtime fresh air awakening with the carpet of yellow dandelions and purple irises at your feet. Farmers fields remind of the food about to be planted. A little more connected to food we are these days, as we learn everything is not at our fingertips as once before. Bird song chirps a melody of the next generation about to hatch. Robins dance together in the air while spring streams continue to trickle water downhill. Tiny buds continue to grow with the sun as they promise. In an instant the earth will blossom hope; full spring coverage and colour. Winter starkness will end for now.
Yes, our eyes are open. God’s good creation is bursting along the way. We notice the gifts of nature, others and even ourselves.
As we walk, awareness of joy mingles with cautious apprehension and uncertainty. We come alongside the occasional friend and the odd stranger. Some strangers are stranger than others. Yes, the path in which we tread is shared path. Mindful of each other we engage. Waves, head nods, eyes speak sometimes before our mouths. Connect us in this shared road of upheaval. Hand painted rocks along the path bring cheer. Signs on lawns and windows show support for workers at the front. We’re all in this together. Yes, it is the same crisis but not the same for everyone. We are walking on the same road but we all walk in different shoes. And so we are genuinely curious as to how our neighbour is doing. And we genuinely grateful for those kind and compassionate neighbours who make us smile.
Walk time is a source of comfort at any time, but especially in these times of upheaval and crisis. Walking in God’s good creation opens our spirit to connection with the world around. In nature, somehow it’s seems more difficult to feel isolated, at least that’s my experience. It seems easier to remember to whom we are connected and to give thanks to the creator of it all. Gratefulness blossoms in us.
We pause for a moment to answer the question, about where we want to be in our lives, and this time we respond,
“Here, I guess, since this is where I am.”
On the Road
I am not surprised in the least that the disciples story involves a lengthy walk. Walking is a spiritual practice that gathers and redirects our focus toward the divine. Walking is like prayer, the noise of the world is hushed while the connections of our heart beat louder. Yes, walking is a spiritual journey that grounds us in the source of life and how inextricably connected to each other we are. You, child of God, are a small yet immensely important part of this vast creation.
It’s also no surprise that in the walking the two meet Jesus. On the road to Emmaus, the disciples walk in the valley of utter shock and deep grief. Gone, is someone who really saw and loved them. Changed is the deep connection with Jesus they’ve come to know. As they walk on the long road, a stranger joins.
What’s marvellous is that the stranger makes no assumptions about the two. The stranger does not presume to know what they are going through but leaves it open to them to start from the beginning. And so on the long road, I imagine a lot of very good listening happening. The two disciples telling the stranger about the love Jesus had for them and all that had taken place and the promises Jesus made. All the while, as they walk and talk, the stranger is opening up God’s word to them. Their hearts are burning but it’s hard to recognize this heart on fire for God in the midst of a long journey. Their hearts burn within because of 'it' (connectedness).
When they finally come to the village at evening, the stranger walks ahead about to go on his way but the two offer an invitation. Faithful in the least, they are. Welcome is this person who was a stranger only earlier that morning. The two reach out and invite the stranger now friend to their table. At the table, in the very ordinary elements of bread and wine, the stranger is recognized.
The risen Lord gives them open hearts to receive the gift of accompaniment even from a stranger. The stranger becomes a friend.
The friend is Jesus.
The Stranger Stranger
It’s remarkable, Jesus continues to show up even after the cross. Made known in the stranger who has been tagging along for the entire journey. Made know in the meal. In retrospect the accompaniment becomes clearer. The two experience retrospective heartburn as they ponder the connections along the way.
We might wonder together, who has joined us as we navigate the physically distant road of COVID-19?
Who are those people who have shown up for you during this time?
Who have you showed up for?
What strangers have been tagging along?
Like the disciples, it doesn’t take long for some strangers to be invited to the table. It’s fair to say, not all strangers receive the same invitation. The challenge is, that in this vast and diverse world we are also connected even to the stranger stranger. You know, those stranger strangers who continually make your jaw drop in disbelief or who scare you with irresponsible talk, action or wild theories. Yes, we are also connected even to the stranger stranger. Even though we are all connected, it behooves us sometimes to imagine real connection with the stranger stranger.
Brene Brown, has some sound thought on what real connection is and is not. Devaluing the same people, that’s not connection. That’s common enemy intimacy. Some people bond over this. An enemy is decided, maybe political or social or even familial. The connection is about bonding over dislike of another. We’re all guilty of it. We’ve all done it.
However, this type of collective intimacy comes together at the expense of others by devaluing and this does not heal the spiritual crisis of disconnection. It does quite the opposite by feeding it. Brown suggests, that while this intimacy is often intense, immediately gratifying and an easy way to discharge outrage and pain, it is not, however, fuel for real connection. And that’s what we’re all yearning for. These types of connections, she argues actually leave us more depleted and empty.
Real connection involves sharing, risk and vulnerability. Real connection involves showing up for each other in moments of joy and pain. Real connection means we are connecting to one another, even having fun together but most importantly, real connection means that we believe that connectedness is true and possible for all of us. That’s the game changer, children of God, this connectedness is possible for all.
Maybe the time has come to walk courageously into IT.
It is written that,
It is solved by walking. What is “it”?
If you want to find out, then you have to do your own walking.
God accompanies us even as a stranger. We are not alone. Intricately connected, we are.
May your walks fill you with the springtime hope of persistent resilience.
May your hearts burn within as God accompanies you.
May the peace of our Risen Lord calm you o weary walker.
May our connectedness with each other and God be strengthened,
as we are being renewed in the source and giver of life, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Altars in the World. Barbara Brown Taylor
Braving the Wilderness. Brene Brown
Quote: Augustine of Hippo