“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”. Luke 24:25-33NRSV
I would urge you to read the entirety of the Road to Emmaus story; Luke 24:13-34. The Emmaus story is perhaps my favorite story in Luke. Last month I spoke of LIGHT at the end of the tunnel. The Emmaus story is us moving out of the darkness into the light and how we do that!
Imagine walking down the road or...
Luke doesn’t say why the two disciples were on the road to Emmaus. They may have been going home, going there on business, or just going there to get away from the terrible things they had witnessed in Jerusalem. We all have our Emmaus, we do! It is the place we go, in order to escape: the golf course, the garden, a bar, a movie, North Captiva, Amelia Island, your hot tub, the river, the boat, or in a plane. Emmaus may be buying a new suit, shoes, sunglasses, new clubs, new rod and reel, new tools, or a new car. Emmaus may be immersing yourself in your favorite music or reading a new book (or two). Emmaus may be going to church on Sunday and expecting those old familiar songs, prayers, texts, flowers, scents…then again maybe the new experiences. What is your Emmaus? Emmaus is whatever we do or wherever we go to make ourselves forget that the world is a crazy place. I’ll date myself now... perhaps your “Calgon Moment.”
I believe that our risen Lord always meets us on the road to our Emmauses, in the ordinary places and experiences of our lives, and in the places to which we retreat when life is too much for us. The story comes with a warning to us however, that the Lord may come to us in unfamiliar appearances and when we least expect him. It is right in front of us, in plain sight, yet we still fail to recognize it.
Experiencing God’s presence is not meant as a private gift. It is never meant for us alone... we are called to share the experience. Neither in the discovery of the empty tomb nor in the discovery of the identity of the fellow traveler is there the familiar command to go and tell which is typical of other resurrection appearance scenes. Nevertheless, in both... when revelation is received there is immediately and spontaneously a yearning to return from the empty tomb and shared table to share the experience joyfully with others: “He is risen”; “He is alive”; “The Lord has risen indeed”.
These words may seem an idle tale to others, but to those of us who have witnessed God’s divine presence in our lives at a tomb, or on a lonely road, or in hospitality extended to a fellow traveler, the events are a transforming reality.
Folks, Easter is not over at sundown Easter Sunday. It stretches into the rest of our lives. The women could not call back the angels, and the two disciples might never meet the stranger again, but it would not and does not matter. Life would never be the same. All the rest of the story will be an extension of the Easter reality: The Lord is risen, and he comes back to meet us on the road to Emmaus. That is one of the reasons I love Bible studies. Through the study of Scripture, we find our hearts “strangely warmed,” and we recognize him in “the breaking of the bread.” How can we not go and tell? Bible study gives us the confidence and the very foundations of our faith. The word of God is revealed... God’s very essence is revealed.
When Jesus reveals his heart, our hearts are set on fire, he sets it ablaze! When that happens, we worship, we hunger and thirst for the word, we yearn to tell the story. Just like a fire needs to be fed, restored, we need Jesus Christ to reveal himself again to us so that our hearts are set on fire. We need to have the fire reignited in our hearts... we need to be re-energized. Isn’t that what part of the Easter celebration is all about? Jesus reveals himself time and time again to set our hearts on fire.
Isn’t it in that fire that we see the light? Indeed, we do. Jesus always takes us from the darkness into the light. That is what Jesus does in the days between Easter and Pentecost... we travel, we get reacquainted, we get re-energized, we get empowered to tell and retell the story. We get “heart burn!” When our hearts begin to burn our impassioned response is kindled. I have seen that in the weeks following Easter Sunday... more and more of you are filling the pews! The choir is practicing and YOU are filling the pews!
Folks, in just a few weeks, Pentecost, May 23rd, we will begin to worship at full strength... a full bonfire. We will be able to see each other’s faces and experience the smiles that have been absent for so long. We will come back together, and things will feel the same. The same burning desire, the same burning spirit. Oh, there will be some things that are different... no passing of plates or passing of the elements; we won’t pass the peace as we did before (we will offer that peace of Christ at the beginning).
The important thing to understand is that after a year of isolation and separation we move
from that darkness to the light. Easter Sunday was the spark let Pentecost Sunday be the