Saturday, 3 May 2014

The sacred gift

Luke 24:13-35
The Walk to Emmaus
 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
 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. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Have you ever been involved in a conversation where folk are talking about you though they don't know it's you that's with them?
That's happened to me a few times.
Usually in churches.
Folk start to talk about something the minister has done, not realising that I'm the minister.
It's not all bad.
And it can be quite entertaining!
But I never know what to do when it happens.
Should I come clean and reveal who I am?
Should I let the conversation come to an end and slip away quietly and hope that I don't meet them again too soon, hoping the penny doesn't drop?
It's awkward.
It actually happened again just yesterday. 
I convened a meeting at another church during the week.
Yesterday I went to a coffee morning in that same village.
And I heard all about the meeting - from someone who wasn't even there!
Normally in that kind of awkward situation, I'd make my escape without revealing my identity.
But, yesterday, that wasn't possible because someone else recognised me, came to greet me, and introduced me to the folk with whom I'd been talking.
My cover was blown!
But I've never been a "Do you know who I am?" kind of person.
And I always like folk to get to know me before they find out what I do for a living.
Awkward at times.

How about Jesus on the road to Emmaus?
I like to think of him chuckling inside as he walked with those two disciples.
Hearing their take on his story!
I wonder if they got all the details right?
Were there bits that they embellished, or missed out?
Jesus could so easily have said : "I know, I was there!"
But he didn't.
He let those disciples get it off their chests.
He let them pour out all their excitement and their grief and their disappointment.
He walked alongside them and he listened. 
I know that if I have something on my mind, going for a walk is a great way to work on it.
Being out in the fresh air, whatever the weather, engaged in the physical act of walking, gives space for clearing the head.
I usually like to be on my own.
Then, as I walk I can pray and process and turn things over in my mind.
But, sometimes, it's good to have a companion with whom to share.

Just after Easter last year, we went to Virginia to visit friends.
This picture was taken of my friend Beth and I, out walking.
When I saw the picture, probably because it was this time of year, I immediately thought of the Emmaus Road and the two friends walking along, sharing their stories.
Beth, too is a minister.
We had lots of stories to share.
And we knew that Christ walked alongside us, sharing our stories and reminding us of his.

Two women walked the road
And as they walked
they talked - 
of death and resurrection
of hope and promise
of faith and discernment
of love and discipleship
Sharing a vocation
that is costly and demanding
Sifting through the detritus
for the jewels that are buried.
And between them
was the risen Christ
listening and encouraging
consoling and affirming
making his presence known
in the breaking of the bread of life
- the sharing of stories
of joys and disappointments
of comfort and longings
Souls laid bare
not seeking answers
or solutions
not even congratulations
or commiserations
But simply the sacred gift
Of listening
in which the work of healing is begun.

I would just LOVE to know what was going on in Jesus' head as he listened to those disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Did he want to interrupt?
Did he want to correct the details?
Was he desperate to reassure them or comfort them,put their minds at ease?
Jesus stayed quiet.
He walked alongside them and let them do the talking, unburdening themselves as they covered the miles between Jerusalem and Emmaus.
And, only when he had heard their story, did he share his, opening the scriptures to them.
Christ waits.
Christ listens.
And then he speaks the words we need to hear.
Whether he is recognised or not.
Christ speaks and reveals Gods word for us.
Still those disciples did not know who their walking companion was.
But they had been heard.
Their healing had begun.
And they loved the way that he opened up Scripture for them.

They reached their destination and, as Jesus made to go on, they invited him to share a meal with them.
They extended hospitality to him.
And, as they shared supper together, they recognised him in the breaking of bread.
That instant of revelation.
That aha moment.
Must have been quite something.
I wonder if those disciples were busy mentally retracing their steps, going back over all that they'd said, wondering if they'd put their foot in it?
But I suspect not.
The occasion was too momentous for that.
They recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread and they immediately retraced their steps to Jerusalem to share the good news.
There was no time for sitting still.
No time for regrets.
They were custodians of a miracle - and they simply HAD to share.
Jesus could have revealed himself much sooner in this story had he chosen to do so.
Just a word would have done it.
Instead, he revealed himself by his actions.
He gave those disciples the sacred gift of listening - listening to their story, a gift that all of us are capable of. 
In the midst of grief or excitement, sadness or joy, it is a gift to listen to another's story.  
And then, after listening to their story, he broke bread with them.
And in that act, he revealed himself.
Not in clever words.
But in the breaking of bread.

The gifts of listening and of breaking bread.
Gifts that are ours to share today.
Gifts that are much more valuable than words.
Gifts that make a difference.
That reveal Christ.
That proclaim resurrection.
The story of Easter goes on and on and on.
We are called to share that story today.
Making space to listen to others.
Offering hospitality.
Breaking bread.
Revealing Jesus right beside us.
Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed!


Sharon said...

Probably because I know you and love you, Liz, this just brought tears to my eyes, especially the poem in the middle. It reminds me of what is so precious about clergy connections. This is wonderful, and so are you!

Teri said...

LOVE this. thank you for putting it so eloquently--Jesus shows up and speaks even when we do not recognize him...and there's no need for us to wonder if we said the wrong thing or not. beautiful.