Companions on the Journey
Rev. Elaine Graham
In today’s scripture reading we hear about two disciples, only one of them is known to us and that is Cleopas. The other disciple is not named which is not unusual, there is some speculation that the second disciple may have been a woman.
All we really know about the two is that they were believers, but they were not part of the original "eleven." (See Luke 24:33).
In our scripture reading this morning, we find them walking together from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a journey that was about seven miles in distance. We know that it was the third day after the death of Jesus and that the two travellers had heard from several people that the tomb where Jesus had been laid had been found empty. They had also heard about the angel, but like Thomas, they did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
Scholars speculate that it was most likely mid-afternoon when they began their journey to Emmaus and we can only imagine their state of mind, their grief, their confusion, their disappointment and their exhaustion.
As they walked together, they did what many of us do when we don’t understand something – they went over and over the events of the past week looking for clues as to what had happened and what it all really meant. The hope and change that Jesus spoke of seemed to be over. Gone was the concept of unconditional love, inclusion, and abundant life for all of creation. Gone was the hope of peace and equality.
With all of this weighing heavy on their minds, the two disciples left Jerusalem; it was time for them to go home and pick up where they have left off. Their grief was intense and overwhelming; so much so that they barely noticed that a stranger had joined them in their walk.
So entrenched were they with the events of the last few days that they didn’t even recognize the one who joined them on their journey. They did not notice that ‘Jesus had showed up’.
Jesus listened to the two travellers as they walked home and then he gently guided them through the Hebrew Scriptures reciting passages that prophesied in detail all of the things that would happen in Jesus’ life. This was done as a way to help them understand the events that had led up to this very moment in time. Surely this conversation must have lifted their spirits as they realized that Jesus had fulfilled the words of scripture, and yet they still could not see that Jesus was with them.
As they reached their destination, the two insisted that the stranger join them for a meal and stay with them overnight. This invitation would not have been unusual, for the Jewish people had very strict and very high ethics around offering hospitality.
It was this act of hospitality that provided Jesus with the opportunity to reveal himself as the risen Christ.
When Jesus took the cup and gave thanks for it the two disciples turned to look at each other and they were speechless. Their eyes were opened and they were then able to see Jesus in the stranger who had travelled with them. In a sense they were blind but now could see. In the midst of their sorrow and loss, they saw the face of Christ in a stranger – through the presence of a stranger ‘Jesus showed up’.
I passionately believe that Jesus shows up for us today, sometimes in the presence of a stranger, sometimes in the presence of a loved one, sometimes in the presence of a faith community, sometimes in a dream, in a prayer or through a piece of music.
Intellectually we know this: God is with us all the time, God is as close to us as our breath, our creed tells us repeatedly that we are not alone. And yet I suspect that in our hearts and in our deepest being, there are times when we doubt the presence of God in our lives.
This past week, the tragic violence and senseless shootings in Nova Scotia has left our country in a state of shock, disbelief, and fear. And I am sure that there were some people who asked, “Where is God in all of this”?
A prayer vigil was held this week and people across the country were invited to light candles and to pray. Being held in community, the presence of God shone through with comfort and strength. Rev. Penny Nelson, minister at Tatamagouche Pastoral Charge, said, “People and communities across our province have been devastated by the deaths of the shootings this weekend. Our hearts long to be together to comfort and mourn. Even though we cannot gather physically, we can gather our hearts together, and we can still hold vigil with all who are grieving. May these lights remind us that we are not alone, that love surrounds us and will carry us through.”
In a personal reflection, the Rev. Ruth Noble, the United Church’s Mission & Service Engagement Co-ordinator in Toronto, writes about her friend at Berwick Camp, Lisa McCully, one of the victims. “Berwick has been part of people’s lives for generations. Lisa and her sister and family grew up at Berwick, and now their children are part of the Berwick fabric of life. As I write this, I am surrounded by the scent of a candle that I bought in Berwick that has a gemstone in it. The scent reminds me of camp, and the hidden gemstone gives me hope for a way forward through the shock and grief that we all feel.”
I do not think that we will ever come close to understanding why Gabriel Wortman did what he did. Searching for answers is not for us to do. Being the light of Christ is what we are called to do.
Praying for the communities and people is an important action that we can take. Keeping the light of Christ burning in our hearts, offering hospitality and prayer all speak to the presence of God that surrounds us all. It is a comfort we can offer, an assurance that people are not alone in their grief.
Our connections with others may not be as dramatic as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus but are just as powerful.
Please don’t let fear stop you from offering prayers, friendship or hospitality to others, for wherever you go God is with you and God will guide you if you listen carefully. The Christ light is burning brightly in all of us and, as people of faith, we are called to share it with the rest of the world. As people of faith, we are called to love all people, we are called to offer hospitality and respect to all people. We are called to love and to be as Christ.
So let us go into this week ready to seek the face of Christ in all whom we meet.
Let us go into this week ready to be the face of Christ for others to see.
Let us pray: God of our journey, empower us to be a community of invitation, of welcome, and of hospitality. May we respond to your presence in our lives by walking alongside others; especially those who walk in the shadow of suffering of any kind, those who are bereaved, and those who feel as though they walk alone. Guide us to witness to your work in our lives and to the resurrections we have experienced in ways that deepen community, friendship and mutual love.