Speak to our hearts and strengthen our will O God so we may love and serve you today and always. Amen
The seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus isn’t all that great a distance. It certainly was not an unusual distance for people to travel during Jesus’ time. But, oh what a lot happened on that short walk to our two travelers from this morning’s Gospel.
Imagine how Cleopas and his unnamed companion must have felt as they walked home, back to Emmaus, from Jerusalem. Likely they were puzzled, depressed, and despondent, maybe even feeling betrayed and angry. They must have been at least a little afraid… after all Jesus, the person they thought was the Messiah, the one they expected to save them, the one they had been waiting for — was dead — he was going to redeem Israel, they had thought. But no, he was crucified for being a threat to those in power and now those who followed him also could be seen as a threat to the established authority. Imagine the turmoil they must have been in … and in addition to all of those emotions what must they have thought and felt after hearing that Jesus’s tomb was empty and that the women who had found the tomb empty had been told by angles that Jesus was actually alive! Yes, they must have been an emotional mess.
I imagine we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. Found ourselves confused, angry or disappointed and sad – maybe even a total emotional mess. We all have our own journey and I suspect have found ourselves on our own road to Emmaus at some point. Seven miles may not be a huge distance but it can be a huge expanse when we think we are alone and we can’t find our way out of the mess. That road can stretch on for what seems like forever to an horizon we don’t think we will ever reach.
Scholars have determined that there are, or I should say were, several villages named Emmaus in the first century, but the same road led to them all ….. and that road from Jerusalem to Emmaus is still there today, albeit now a modern highway. It is a pretty desolate road, desert on either side with the occasional new illegal Israeli settlement interspersed, but mostly it is just a ribbon of road running through the desert. I remember thinking that it was sort of boring when I traveled down it in our tour bus….. It is a road worthy of matching the feelings of hopelessness and aloneness our two walkers must have been experiencing when they were walking in bewilderment and mourning Jesus’ death when they are joined suddenly by another…. And then they were not alone. They would never be alone again.
They did not recognize Jesus when he joins them on the road. We don’t know whybut for whatever reason, they didn’t. However, by the end of their meal they had recognized Jesus. I find the end of this Gospel, the part where we are told the two turn around after dinner and return to Jerusalem to tell others of their encounter with the risen Jesus, wonderfully reassuring. Right away they return to the community they had just left …. they have to share the good news…to affirm their stories with their friends in their community. Can’t you hear them saying, “He has not left us alone. He has risen indeed.”
You know there is a reason we all come together on Sundays — as a community—to hold and support each other with God’s love, in good and sad times — as part of the body of Christ — as Christ’s own. We journey together in this realm, on this pilgrimage of faith to reach our destination in Christ. This Gospel story moves from two despondent travelers walking alone, to their return with fire in their hearts, to be a part of creating the beginning of the Christian community.
And isn’t that just what we do when we read scripture together or when we hold each other in prayer and in love, and, when as a body, we take communion together? And isn’t that what we are doing today, when we welcome new members into the faith through the sacrament of baptism, as they begin their Christian journey? Today we will celebrate, I hope with fire in our hearts, 7 new Christians in their new birth in the Kingdom of God, as part of the body of Christ, which is the Church….
In just a few minutes we will all, as a community, promise to support these children in their life in Christ. I hope these kids never feel disoriented, afraid, or think they are alone … that they are never so overwhelmed that they can’t recognized that they are not alone……. But I hope if that day does happen, we will remember that we make promises today to help them. I hope we remember that even though they are beloved children of God, they undoubtedly will have moments when they find themselves on their own road to Emmaus and they will need others to hold them and remind them that they are not alone. We are there. As the body of Christ, the church is here. But most of all we need to help them know and believe that, as our two travelers discovered in today’s Gospel and as we read at the close of Matthew, and throughout our Gospels, Jesus is there and has promised that he will be with us always – to the end of time. No matter what.
Even when we think we will never see the light again, through our baptisms we are children of the light. And our journeys, even when those journeys include time spent traveling on our own Emmaus road, just as those early disciples in Emmaus and Jerusalem experienced the presence of the Risen Christ, so we recognize that through his Holy Spirit, he stands among us today. For we are Easter people and the love of Christ will lead us to each other and to God.
Thanks be to God.