Walking Towards Emmaus, Walking Towards Home…

Luke 24:13-35

I took a walk this afternoon.

A long one, like I used to take before the world turned upside down.

I yearned for exactly what I found. The bracing wind, the sun on my face, the bright colors of spring flowers. I wanted so to be distracted from the heavy thoughts which mark too many hours of too many of my days, and for a time I was — smiling up at the squirrel who watched my every move from his precarious perch on a flimsy branch overhead — pausing to take a picture of the remnants of a snow-person, no doubt crafted by small hands in the mid April snow the day before, only to be melted by the warmth of the sun later.

Walking gets me out of my own head sometimes and I yearned for this today.

And yet, in most ways, I expect, it was a very different sort of walk from the one Cleopas and the other disciple took that Sunday afternoon so long ago.

For one, they did not walk alone.

No, each one had a friend with whom to sort out the meaning of all they had witnessed over those last days. And weeks. And years.

And more than this, there was no effort whatsoever to try to set aside that which so filled their memory and imagination now. It was too soon, of course. And what they had seen too horrific to even think of stepping away from it just yet.

And yet,we do not hear the content of their conversation, not really. Not until they offer Jesus the outline of all these last years, these last days, had held. Indeed, at most all that we can tell from all of this is that they are stuck in the story where it had ended for them: In all they knew to be true, yes, but also in the account offered by some women that Jesus was somehow alive. But which, apparently, they could not quite comprehend, and did not yet really believe.

I have been where they were, of course. In some ways I find myself there right now as perhaps you do, too. I am often, quite often, entirely consumed by my surprise at finding myself here. And yes, I am taken down unexpectedly by grief nearly every day.

  • As I sat with my phone pressed to my ear listening to the anguish in the voice of one who is charged with ensuring the safety and health of staff and residents in her charge. And who could not lay hands on things she desperately needed to do so.  Gowns and oxygen and enough healthy staff to carry it off. I could only cry and pray…

And I was not the same…

  • Today as I walked through the grocery store trying to see around my steamed up glasses for the mask that I was wearing, a text came through telling me that one of ours was being tested for the virus. Right then. I stood still, unable for a moment to remember why I was there. Moments later the word came through that it was negative and while I breathed a sigh of relief…

Even so,  I was not the same, only going through the motions then to pick up what I needed before getting on with my day…

  • This morning I made some calls. First to one recently widowed who had found it hard to come back to church before all of this happened, and who misses it so much now, he aches… And to another who is having to do a stint in rehab after a hospital stay and whose grief overwhelms as she misses loved ones who cannot come to see her now…

And I am not the same…

  • A few days back I offered a blessing via FaceTime for the re-engineered stem cells a young man in our congregation would receive. And yes, for all of him, his parents and family who walk so closely with him, and for all of his team seeking to beat back the cancer which has changed his world, their world. Once I was done praying, I got to watch as they warmed the cells, hung the bag, and began to infuse them into him with all the healing promise they could hold. And yes, in the quiet as we watched and waited,  I found myself having to wipe away tears of hope and fear. And love…

And I am not the same…

For this is one of those times, it seems to me. This is one of those experiences which you and I will always think of as “before and after.” Before this pandemic our life was like this. And after? Well, we cannot really say yet, for we are not there yet, are we? All we know, all we have, is this ever growing awareness that it will never be quite the same as it was. We are still on that walk ‘home’ to Emmaus. We are yearning to meet Jesus on the way, to have him help us make sense of it all, to gather close around a table and to glimpse him in the broken bread. We wish we were on the other side of all of this where we could be running back to Jerusalem, too, with the most remarkable news: that it all makes sense now that Jesus is alive once more!

To be sure, we will get there, to the other side of this. The pieces will surely all fall back into place again — if not precisely they way they were before, then at least in a way we can all live with them. Or at least this is my deepest prayer.

For now, though, I cannot help but wonder if you and I are still on those first steps towards home:

Where we are fully feeling our grief and confusion (and yes, perhaps, some measure of hope in these discoveries as well) at all we have come to see and hear and feel and learn in these last days:

  • In the certain truth that more binds us together than keeps us apart as we all, every one of us, recognize our vulnerability to this particular virus: COVID-19.
  • In the realization that some of us are more vulnerable than others — those who work so hard and make too little to keep our store shelves stocked, to harvest our vegetables, to butcher and cut and pack our meat, to clean up behind us in hospital corridors and nursing home rest rooms…
  • In the recognition that whole groups of people are more susceptible to this than others — those who cannot shelter in place, who have no little or no health insurance, and who for their whole lives have not had access to fresh, healthy food which can fend off the underlying conditions which make it more likely this virus will take a deadly hold…

Maybe it is so that we are still only on those first steps towards home.  Indeed, perhaps it is for you and me to stand still in the shadow of this suffering cross for now and to listen for the voice of Jesus to help us make sense of it. Maybe for now we are to listen deep and hard for that voice so that when the day comes when we are on the other side of all of this, you and I and perhaps through us all this broken world might be transformed to more surely reflect the promise of Life which the disciples ran back to Jerusalem with that Sunday night. That first Easter Sunday night.

It is not an easy walk we are on now, not for any of us, and not for some of us more than others. We dare not fail to pay attention to what is ours to learn as we journey towards home. Already we are not the same. And I cannot help but wonder how God will continue to change us as we go!

In the meantime, may Jesus come to us on the way.

May he somehow still and always meet us on this broken way.

  • How are you experiencing your walk to Emmaus this year? Do you have companions on the way? Are you walking alone?
  • Is this walk marked by grief or hope or both?
  • Is there wisdom in staying in the shadow of this suffering cross for a while yet? Why or why not?
  • Have you met Jesus on the way yet? If so, what have you learned in that encounter?

4 comments

  1. Jane Uzzell says:

    Thank you so much for your prayer in response to my husband being in ICU–was it only last week? On Wed. he got off of the ventilator, but the bone & blood infections ravaged his systems. We pray that his kidneys start up–but with dialysis a modern miracle, more than that, last night’s nurse asked me to pray that Steve start moving his arms and pumping his feet by himself. He has to be able to do 3 hours–spread out over a day–of p.t. every day in order to be assigned to the hospital p.t. unit. Otherwise, he will be dismissed to a nursing home. I know that alive and in the nursing home is still a livable place to be, but . . .my prayer to God is to please let Steve start moving, even a bit, by himself. My daughter works with high school special needs students, and by divine intervention, she was working on putting together a gross motor exercise notebook for a student for next year. The blessing of thanks is for her creating Dad specific exercises from what she already had put together. Blessings of thanks also for all of those praying for Steve’s recovery, for the staff that is so lovingly taking care of him, and for the fact that Norfolk, NE, has had 6 covid cases at most, but our hospital’s been in lock down for over a month, so it’s not close to Steve and the staff. Prayers of thanks to you, too, as you minister to your members as the minister at my church does to me. Thank you. Thank you for Dancing with the Word, for your ministry, and for your prayers.

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