The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke, the 24th Chapter
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” This story, has about a million forks we could take. There are probably about a million sermons you could find in this story too… or one obnoxiously long one I suppose… but that’s not my plan. I just want us to take one. Cleopas is thought to have been Joseph’s brother… the same Joseph that took his enormously pregnant wife to Bethlehem where she gave birth to Jesus. But unlike Cleopas, there doesn’t seem to be even a whiff of a reference about who the other disciple might have been walking on that road to Emmaus. But what if that’s not an accident? Perhaps, the other disciple remains unnamed, so that you and I might more easily imagine that the one walking down that lonely road, filled with pain and fear into a completely unknown, uncharted, unexpected future… is us.
Put yourself in the sandals of that unnamed disciple. Imagine yourself walking away from what you dared to dream would be the salvation of the world… walking away from what you hoped beyond hope was the Kingdom of God coming to replace the painful, oppressive, brutal and life draining kingdom of Caesar… Imagine yourself walking out of town, out of hope, out of courage, out of ideas, out of any notion of living a life-giving life.
As you imagine yourself walking that horrible path, Jesus comes. But don’t just throw that meeting aside, looking for what comes next so fast… take a moment to REALLY look and see HOW Jesus comes. He doesn’t stop you in the street. He doesn’t shout at you or hold up a sign or give you a tract. He doesn’t threaten you with violence, banishment or the fires of hell… he doesn’t ask you to imagine yourself dangling by a thread over an abyss or even tell you that walking out of town in your pain and fear is wrong or unfaithful.
Take a moment and really see what Jesus does here… he just slides up next to you and ol’ Cleopas, falls into step with the both of you, and walks that exact same walk. He doesn’t look to change where you’re going or block your path, even though the path you’re on is a path of pain and fear. You and I walking along a terrible road… running away… walking in fear… moving away from what we hold dear… none of those are paths that keep Jesus away from us. Whatever the path we’re walking, Jesus slides up next to us and walks along with us the whole way.
That’s how the risen Christ worked then. That’s how the risen Christ works now. There isn’t a road he won’t slide up to you on. There isn’t a path too rough that he won’t join with you and walk all along the way. There isn’t a journey that he won’t take with you. There isn’t a valley too dark and shadowy that he won’t walk with you all the way through it to the other side.
And as he walks along with us he doesn’t preach at us. He doesn’t proselytize or pander or prophecy at us. What does Jesus do? He listens. Just listens. He asks us to tell our story and he doesn’t interrupt. He listens. He doesn’t tell us it’s a wrong story or a bad story or a story that shouldn’t be told or isn’t worth hearing. He listens… and only when that story has been told does he take us by the hand and say, “Wow! THAT is some story. I wonder what that story you just told me would look like from over here? Why don’t you put that story down right there for a minute… just right there in the middle of the road... and come over here with me and take a look at it from this angle. How’s that story look now?”
The story we have to tell isn’t “wrong”… It’s our story… our experience… our hurt… our frustration… our disappointment… our grief, lament and pain… but the way we see it today, isn’t the only way it can be seen. Every story we have to tell has countless angles from which it can be seen and just like our story, this Emmaus road from a different angle shows us the truth that Jesus slides up beside us and walks with us along EVERY road we walk in this life… good roads and bad roads and every road in between, whether we can see him or not, he is there! Every story we have from walking those roads is a story worth telling… a story worth listening to, and a story the Risen Christ has the power to turn from darkness and death into light and life.
There’s one more fork in this road I want us to take. If you can stretch yourself enough to see yourself in the unnamed disciples sandals, I wonder if you might also see yourselves... all y'all together... in the Risen Christ's sandals as well? Together we are the Body of Christ you know, so what might it look like for us as a church to slide up on the folks out there, walking their roads of pain and fear? What might it look like for us, as the Body of Christ, to really listen to our neighbors tell the stories they need to tell? What might it look like for us, as the Body of Christ, to see the roads our neighbors walk, slide up to them right where they are, hear the stories they need to tell and walk with them down their difficult roads? The promise of this story is that when we do that... when we walk together down that road... when it's time to sit down at the end of the day and break bread... in that breaking of the bread, together, we will see God. Amen.