Easter is joy for it touches our souls. Such joy is a gift that understands that through the Resurrection of Jesus, our Easter faith makes our hearts glad & our flesh live in hope. But sometimes that deep joy is just not recognized, like with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. But in that encounter on the road, their eyes & hearts are opened by offering love and hospitality to the stranger Jesus in their midst.
Here is one author’s retelling of that story…
“Two pilgrims on the way to Emmaus find resurrection in the walking! Fatigued and depressed by the rapid-fire events of Holy Week, they are returning home for rest and regrouping. They had expected a different outcome than crucifixion. Even the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection are unsettling, far more than they can integrate into their experience at the moment. A third pilgrim joins them. Hidden from their recognition, they journey toward home with the Risen Jesus, not knowing that their own resurrection is as close as the next footstep. Still, engaged in conversation, they gain a new perspective on the events of the past week through the telling of scripture.
On the way to Emmaus, moving with Jesus, they discover a new world of possibility. Something is drawing them forward; something is drawing them toward new life, although they are not yet conscious of it. Along the pathway, God is constantly giving us visions and possibilities, guidance and inspiration, and occasionally we notice it. Like the well-known poem “Footprints,” divine guidance and protection often come when we are least aware of it.
Still locked in the prison-house of grief, the two pilgrims do something amazing. They reach out in hospitality, although their hearts are breaking, spirits flagging, and bodies worn. As Jesus prepares to walk on to his next destination, they invite him to supper. And, in this interplay of call and response, they come to know him in the breaking of the bread. But, like Mary of Magdala’s story, they also cannot hold on to the Jesus they knew. As soon as they recognize him, he vanishes from their sight. Mystical experiences come and go. Moments of assurance are fleeting. Inspiration is transitory. Health is temporary. But, God is in each detail, filling it with holiness and then moving onto the next and inviting us to follow. Faithfulness is in the remembering but also in movements that create new memories and new possibilities. As the Emmaus story notes, hospitality is the open door to creative transformation and an expanded vision of possibilities.” [Bruce G. Epperly from Process & Faith]
Emmaus is about rediscovering that Easter joy, a joy that will lead us to new memories and possibilities, new hope and life, as we see Jesus in the Scriptures and the breaking of bread.
“No dark fate determines the future - we do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and recreate our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.” From the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the Book of Joy. It is about finding joy and life in what we do…
Heather Lende is a reporter for Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska (population: 2,000). Her beat: obituaries. Her 20 years of covering "last words and good lives" has been, to her surprise, a rewarding and illuminating experience. She writes in her book, Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer:
"Writing obituaries is my way of transcending bad news. It has taught me the value of intentionally trying to find the good in people and situations, and that practice - and I do believe that finding the good can be practiced - has made my life more meaningful.
"After an elder who has been housebound and incapacitated by a stroke for twenty-five years dies, I find time to sit on the sofa and look through family albums with his widow and admire how handsome he was in his World War II uniform and how happy they both looked on that beach vacation the year before he was stricken. When twelve-year-old twins lose their mother to cancer, I will quote their father praising them and tell how he plans to take them on a family drive across the country to see their grandparents. And perhaps hardest of all, on the snowy winter morning when I meet with the parents and siblings of a young man who drank too much one night and shot himself, I write down how very much he had loved to swim in the lake in front of their summer cabin.
"I understand why you may think that what I do is depressing, but compared to front-page news, most obituaries are downright inspirational. People lead all kinds of interesting and fulfilling lives, but they all end. My task is investigating the deeds, characteristics, occupations, and commitments, all that he or she made of their 'one wild and precious life,' as poet Mary Oliver has called it."
Heather Lende's obituary beat is really about the story of Emmaus: pointing out the presence of God in hidden lives, revealing God's love in the love that is experienced between people along the roads we all travel. We all have our Emmaus-like experiences of fear, confusion, dread, worry, even death. But along the way, Christ makes himself known in our midst in the loving support of family and friends, of our community and parish.
In the words of the Dali Lama: There's a Tibetan saying: 'Wherever you have friends that's your country, and wherever you receive love, that's your home.'”
On the road to Emmaus, we find our friendship in the stranger, our home in the hospitality of the other, we find Jesus in our midst in this journey, as we read scripture and break bread together.
“In taking one another's hand, we take the hand of Christ, who leads us to whatever Emmaus we need to go. Christ travels with us on our own road to Emmaus; Christ is present in the broken bread of compassion and healing we give and receive from our fellow travelers. Easter faith is to recognize the Risen One in our midst: in our wanting to understand, in our struggle to make things right, in our brokenness.” (Jay Cormier)
The promise of Resurrection & the gift of Easter joy is now, for Christ has been raised from the dead and so are we. May we hear in the salvation story, our story, and see our lives renewed by our Risen Christ. For our Risen Christ is present with us as we journey together on our roads of Emmaus, living out of the joy we have been given. Amen.