St. Mary Nanoose Bay
April 26, 2020
Luke 24:13-35 (The Road to Emmaus)
Lord Jesus, open to us the scriptures: make our hearts burn within us while you speak. Good morning my friends! It’s good to be with you this morning!
On Friday, in “God Calling” a devotional I read daily I found “Remember that rarely to the human heart do I speak in words.” How does God speak to you?!
Today, in our gospel reading from Luke, we hear the story of two distraught disciples walking away from the scene of the confusing crucifixion and purported resurrection of Jesus. A stranger joins them who speaks directly to their confusion by interpreting scripture for them – putting the disturbing events into a hopeful context.
When they invite the stranger to join them for the night, and he shares the meal with them, blessing and breaking the bread, they are suddenly able to recognize him as their beloved Jesus. And then he vanishes.
How does God speak to you?
Have you not had moments when your heart burned and you felt a holy presence, or when you woke up with your heart pounding knowing with clarity that you did something wrong and need to make amends?
Have you had the experience where the words from a novel or article leapt off the page and took your breath away? Or can you remember a time when you were shaken with the unbearable beauty of a sunrise or mountain vista or the sleeping face of a loved one?
God speaks to us in so many ways. And if we try and cling on to an experience, it vanishes. Just as Jesus vanishes from the disciples.
It can difficult to ever recreate the feeling of that “God moment” in full. But we remember it, and we cherish the memory, and we want to open our hearts to the next unexpected visit of the divine.
This is what we do every Sunday when we’re able to gather in church as a community and engage in the Great Thanksgiving. We want to remember that God moment when Jesus was with us. Except, in this case, we are able to recreate that moment and have Jesus with us. And we prepare for that moment by reading and listening to Scripture; to help us remember and to be open to whatever Jesus is offering us in that moment.
Sometimes the moment of Communion moves us deeply, other times we don’t feel anything. It’s not important because sometimes we feel the presence of God, other times we don’t. It doesn’t mean God isn’t present. It probably says more about our openness. I don’t know. Regardless, we believe as Christians, partaking in Communion, that we are receiving whatever it is God is giving us through Jesus. And that bread feeds us in our journey of life; in our growth in wisdom and love.
This road to Emmaus reading is especially poignant for me because it was one of several key moments in my conversion. When we moved to Victoria in 1987, we started attending the Roman Catholic cathedral with our two young sons. Over many months, I became aware of a yearning as I watched people go forward for communion. That slight pull on my heart increased over time until I felt tears sting my eyes every Sunday when people went forward and I was required to stay in the pew.
That pull, that yearning, became a strong desire that moved me to begin the process of RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) – a year-long program that helps participants decide if they want to be baptized. I enjoyed the course but remained undecided as to baptism until one rainy evening midway through the program. We were sitting in an over-heated room listening to a priest talk about scripture. I was starting to feel quite sleepy.
The priest picked up his bible and started reading a story I had never heard. It was called “The Road to Emmaus.” I suddenly felt alert. I was drawn into the story about disciples who are joined by a stranger who is curious what they are talking about. They can’t believe he doesn’t know about the disturbing events that everyone else seems to know about. The stranger learns how unhappy they are about their smashed expectations. They had believed that this prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, was going to free them from the oppressive rule of the Romans. But he ended up being executed like a common criminal.
I found the story fascinating. I could see the drama unfold in my mind’s eye. And then something strange happened. When I heard the words “They urged him strongly, saying ’Stay with us …because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over,” I my heart explode in my chest. It pounded wildly. I looked around assuming the others must be having the same experience. But the others looked pensive or sleepy. And then the priest read the words, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road….?”
And in that moment, I knew in my heart of hearts that I had never been alone; I had never walked alone. I had always been accompanied by someone or something that was trying to explain my life to me. I just hadn’t been able to recognize Jesus; that he’d always been there beside me. So, without a shadow of a doubt, I knew I was ready to be baptized. And the rest is history.
A burning heart, a burning conscience, a tingling feeling, a breath of air, a sense of presence. We’ve all had moments when we have felt the Divine.
And when we don’t feel the Divine, our faith reminds us that it is us that are not aware, God’s presence is always with us. In that we can trust.
During this time of Covid, my sister, who lives alone, has had some health issues. And so we decided to speak every day, as she was concerned about my and Jim’s journey with the virus and we have been concerned about her well being. One day, there just weren’t enough hours in the day to find time to check in with her. So I emailed her. She wrote me right back, a lovely email that ended with “Take it easy. Please don’t feel like you need to call everyday. I feel you by my side regardless.”
I think this could easily be a message we could send to God or Jesus “Please don’t feel you need to call everyday (although I do love hearing from you!). I feel you by my side regardless."
And once we can gather again in person, and we share in the blessing and passing of the bread, I’m sure our desire, which has been building over these weeks of abstinence, will make known, more deeply, His Presence that feeds and sustains us.