I was talking with a friend recently
who had been going through a pretty difficult time for a stack of reasons.
And they joked with me that they thought it was
like their brain had shut down a bit and was only half working.
They were forgetting people’s names, missing appointments for events, losing things they had put down.
For them it lasted quite some time not just through the actual moment of the stress, grief and confusion but a bit of time on the other side of it as well.
And then, slowly, things began to be a bit clearer again.
In Mark, when the disciples are out in the boat,
and the storm is threatening to toss them overboard and overwhelm them
Jesus walks out to them on the water
and at first they don’t recognise who it is.
In John’s gospel, when Mary goes to the tomb on Easter Sunday
and she is in the midst of both grief and confusion
she see this man standing there, and doesn’t recognise him,
thinking instead that it is the gardener
In Luke, when Cleopas and the other traveller are heading to Emmaus
they are still quite distraught about what has happened on Good Friday
and the way that their hopes and dreams had been dashed
and in that state, they do not recognise the person who is walking alongside
Somewhere in the gospel stories, there is the strong suggestion
that we have to work hard to be able to see where God is active.
It seems to be a suggestion that we can miss it.
Maybe we miss it when – for whatever reason – we focus back in
on what is going on with ourselves, our emotions, our disappointments.
Maybe we miss it when – through stress and grief and trauma – our eyes and hearts become blurred.
Have you ever wondered when you heard this story from Luke
why the 2 people were on the road to Emmaus that Sunday?
I wonder if it was their home and they were just heading back there.
I wonder if it was the place to escape to because life was too difficult
I wonder if it was a place of safety because they thought they were in danger
I wonder if it was the place of refreshment – a time out to clear the head
and get ready for whatever was next
I wonder if it was a place of quiet retreat –
where they could attempt to make sense of a non-sensical experience
I wonder how many of us are taking a wander down the Emmaus Road today
without even necessarily realising that we’ve started out on the journey.
Maybe only half thinking. Maybe too sad to think. Maybe escaping
maybe just plain confused because there is too much going on to process.
The hessian off this side of the cross is the same hessian we used in Lent
Then it was used as the cross road – inviting us to think
about whether we were going to head off and stay with the place of death
or head off down the path that Lazarus took to new life
Here the hessian – this path of confusion and sadness –
makes its connection with Easter
Just like the Easter experience of last week with Thomas was an experience in the middle of not really being sure about everything the Easter experience of this week is in the middle of grief and sadness and confusion and lost hopes
Easter is a reality
But it is the stranger in the middle of this confusion that makes the difference
It is the one whom we weren’t expecting who starts to make the connections
It is the one we don’t know well who shows us the presence of the risen Christ.
Carvaggio sets the scene of his painting and the time of insight – The time when the two travellers realise that Christ has been with them. But the painting invites us in to the scene
The fruit is there at our chair. The arms welcome us to the meal.
William Willamon in one of his writings on this passage also invites us in”
“If you want to experience the resurrection of Jesus Christ in your life,
where you live, just get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other
and head down the road. Follow the way.
But please, go with a bit of imagination.
Walk with the expectation of the possibility of surprise.”
My prayer is that as you walk your road to Emmaus with the grounded reality that we share day by day you will go ready for the possibility of surprise and a willingness to experience the presence of the risen Christ.