Bible Text: Luke 24:13-35 | Preacher: Rev. Jenn Geddes | < >
I have heard that many of us, now that we have more time to spend at home, are reading more books. While I wouldn’t say I’ve been able to read as much as I thought I would I do appreciate that I have a little extra time, particularly in the evenings to read. I have my favourite genres, most of which are novels, most of which involve some kind of travel or adventure. Perhaps a little known fact is that I wrote a thesis paper for my undergraduate degree in Religion in Culture entitled, Buddha Between the Lines: How the Beats introduced Buddhism to North America. Both the novels and poetry of the Beat Generation, a literary movement of the 1950s, were obsessions of mine some twenty years ago. The defining novel of the Beats is Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, a story that follows a drifter and poet across the United States. There was a time in my life when I definitely wanted to follow in those footsteps and just hitchhike my way to all kinds of places. I wanted to be on the road. By the way, the closest I ever got to hitchhiking is catching an Uber in Toronto. And currently the closest any of us should get to any kind of travel is sitting at home and reading books about road trips.
Today’s Gospel passage deals with two important and reoccurring themes found throughout Luke, both of which we can not do at this time. The first is indeed being on the road, travelling together and the second is eating together. First, throughout Luke Jesus is either on the road or tells parables about people on the road. In fact, 10 chapters in Luke are dedicated to Jesus travelling toward Jerusalem and the section is called “the travel narrative” among most scholars. For Luke, Jesus’ constant movement is important to the Gospel. Even the metaphor of being on the road or on the move inspires theological imagination. Travel can either bring us together or keep us apart. Right now the appropriate restrictions mean that we should not be travelling at all, which means many of us are separated from family and friends.
In this story two disciples are leaving Jerusalem and making the seven mile journey to Emmaus, not a particularly long journey but one that doesn’t actually make a lot of sense. Why are these two disciples leaving Jerusalem? It doesn’t really say except that they were talking to each other about the recent events. You all know how much I like to walk. A good walk helps me figure things out, whether I’m walking back from a pastoral visit and I need to touch base with God or if I just need to ruminate over a sermon idea. I do my best thinking and praying while walking. Despite the fact that Jesus had told the disciples to stay in Jerusalem, I suspect these two disciples need to process the past two weeks and so they embark on a little walking road trip.
Like Mary’s experience that we heard a couple Sundays ago, on Easter morning, the eyes of the two disciples keep them from recognizing that Jesus has joined them. I don’t really know what that means. How do our eyes prevent us from recognizing someone so familiar? Perhaps a lot had to do with their grief, they certainly weren’t expecting Jesus so when he does show up it is so out of context that they don’t recognize him. In Luke’s Gospel all that happened before this story is that two angels told the women that Jesus has been raised. No one, thus far has actually seen Jesus with their own eyes- so it is understandable that the disciples wouldn’t be expecting him.
I appreciate how sad and incredulous the disciples are when Jesus asks about what they are discussing, basically stating, “have you been living under a rock? Do you not know what has happened over the last few days?” But the depth of their grief and sadness is revealed when Cleopas states, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel”. They had invested their hope in Jesus and at this stage they are so completely discouraged by their dashed hopes, sure some of the women among them have been told that Jesus has been raised, but are we supposed to believe everything we are told? Then this “stranger” reveals to them his interpretation of events starting at the very beginning with Moses and moving all the way through the prophets to this present day. It sounds like Jesus talked for much of the 7 mile walk, easing and opening the disciples’ minds. A good walk can do that.
As they approach Emmaus Jesus looks as if he is going to continue on the road. But the disciples invite Jesus to stay with them. Notice an interesting twist that takes place as we hit the second important and reoccurring theme in Luke. The disciples offer hospitality to Jesus as they invite him to stay the night but as the table is set the roles are reversed, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them. While it is us who must invite Jesus in, it is Jesus who makes us feel at home. In the moment that Jesus does these familiar actions the disciples’ eyes are opened and they recognize him.
Almost as often as Jesus is on the road in Luke, Jesus is eating, often eating with people who others declare as sinners or unclean. In Fact, in Luke chapter 7 Jesus is accused of being a glutton and drunkard because of how much he eats and with whom he eats. But what is fascinating is that it is not Jesus’ presence that opens the eyes of the disciples, it is in his sharing of food with friends, it is in his hospitality that they recognize him. Jesus breaks down cultural barriers when he eats.
How can we be a church on the move when we should be staying at home? How can we be a church that demonstrates this transformative hospitality when we must not eat together? I don’t actually have final answers for either of those questions. I want you to think about them as we continue to live in the light of the resurrection during a pandemic. But be aware, things have been very busy and moving forward among various ministry initiatives at CVPC, particularly within the 2020 Vision Committee which is moving forward on further discussions about a residential building project on our property. Perhaps right now a lot of us are at the “we had hoped” stage of our physical distancing. We had hoped that by now we would be worshipping together. We had hoped that we would be able to gather with family and friends once again. We had hoped that things would return to normal. But the message in our Gospel today is that Jesus walks with us, even if at first he is hidden from our sight. It is true that we can not gather physically as a congregation and it is true that we can not extend the kind of hospitality through food that we have been known for but while walking and bread breaking together are not possible we can still share in all kinds of ways how Jesus accompanies us through this time and always. Amen