Wednesday, June 8, 2011

For the Journey

That very day, the first day of the week,two of Jesus’disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this,it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying,“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.(Luke 24:13-35)

We turn to Luke's Gospel for his unique resurrection story. Two of Jesus' followers, who failed to see Him in the breaking up of their personal hopes, and failed to see Him in the breaking up of His companions, will now recognize Him "in the breaking of the bread."

As a "companion," literally, "with-bread," is how Jesus comes alongside these two dispirited disciples. Their heads are down and they see the earth without any hope for the new life they sought in the teachings of Jesus. As a companion, He joins their darkness and gently leads them through their reflections on what recently happened in Jerusalem. Their eyes are more dim than their spirits and they find it hard to believe what they saw and what they have heard about His Resurrection. They didn't see it happen, so for them, it didn't really occur.
We watch and listen to their sharing in the rising of Jesus, as their hearts burn within them while they listen to this mysterious companion. He is a "collector," a "finder" and He has risen to raise both those who seek Him and those who take the road back to Emmaus. When Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, after his resurrection, they didn't know He was with them. They were quite caught up in their discouragement. Good Friday had been devastating to the "hopes" they had. They were so down because their expectations died on that Friday. In their self-pity, there was no room in their imagination for the Good News that God was trying to reveal to them.
We very often find ourselves on our own road to Emmaus. We are absorbed in our problems, discouragements and worries, which prevent us from seeing Jesus as being with us.
We want to focus on two key parts of the story. Jesus makes the "breakthrough" in two ways. He begins by "opening up the scriptures to them." This is very much what Jesus will be doing for us during the reading of the scriptures. We have come to understand the story and to appreciate how He came to enter our lives completely. We now know the challenges we face of not wanting to embrace our lives completely, resisting our own diminishment and death. The temptations to riches, honors and pride abound. Jesus has been confronting our discouragement by revealing Himself to us and inviting us to fall in love with Him and His pattern of giving His life away. And, we have seen the "scandal of the cross" as His revelation that his gift of self is "for me." How often our hearts have burned within us!
Jesus then comes into their home with them and ritually gives them a way to recognize Him and remember Him. When He "took the bread," they must have seen Him as the one who is there to nourish them with the daily bread that He promised would sustain them. When He "blessed it," they must have remembered how He gave thanks to God and placed His life in God's hands. When He "broke it," they knew He was the one whose life is broken open to reveal servant love to us. And, finally, when He "gave it to them," they knew who they were again - His disciples. Is this not how we come to recognize Him today?
We find comfort and great joy in watching Jesus compassionately seek out those who have their hearts and hopes broken. It is so human to doubt and want to turn towards where ever our Emmaus hiding place may be. We freely turned to our own tombs, burying our frustrated plans and fractured friendships. Our self-chosen tombs can be such comfortable resting places. These men are going back, and in meeting Jesus they will want, not to go back, but to return.
We have been praying often about our own tombs and hiding places. Their walls of fear, the locked doors of self-negativity and regret, have been abandoned and yet we know their comforts and the easily-found roads back to their ever-opened portals. It is very dark in our tombs and Jesus constantly invites us into the sunshine. The word "consolation" literally means, "with the sunshine" and conversely, "desolation" means "down out of the sunshine."
The men we watch this day experience the warmth of the sun in them being invited out of their darkness. We pray this day with the joys of having been found, having been called out into the sunshine. We also pray with the joy in the awareness that He will always be gathering His followers when their hearts and hopes are broken. He has risen so that we might have confidence in His grace more than our fragile selves.

Peace and love,

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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