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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

From our Rector - May 2017

One of my favorite Resurrection stories in the Gospels is the story of the two disciples walking along the road on their way to Emmaus. Luke 24:13-35. We in the church find meaning in this story and say that clearly this is a sign of what makes us church. First Jesus opened the meaning of the scriptures to them, then they broke bread together. Indeed our worship service is like this. First we read and expound on the scriptures. Then we find Christ to be made known in the sharing of the bread together. We call this the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Scripture and sacraments: that is what makes us church. Volumes have been written by scholars on how these two things, Word and Sacrament, go together, to make up our practice as Christians. We could stop right there. But this story in Luke is also a much beloved story: One of the favorites of all the Gospel stories. It paints a picture. Of course we know what happens at the end. Even while they are still on the road, we are anticipating that incredible moment when they are sitting down to supper and at last they recognize the Risen Lord Jesus.

It is remarkable and strange. All that way, the three of them walked and talked. Even when Jesus was walking right beside them, for miles, they thought him a stranger. But when they offered him hospitality, a place to stay for the night and shared their bread with him, it was then that they recognized him. Or as the Gospel puts it, “their eyes were opened.” (vs 31)

As they near their destination, they urge him, “stay with us, for the day is past and night has come.” When, after they had cleaned up a little, and sat down to eat together, as they handed him the bread - suddenly they recognized him.

I saw a stranger yestere’en
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place;
and in the sacred names of the Triune,
(this stranger) He blessed myself, he blessed my house,
My cattle and my dear ones,
And the lark said in her song:
Often, often, often goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise.

The story of the road to Emmaus shows us once again that it is not our exceptional, unshakable faith that leads us to recognize and know the Risen Christ, but the smallest gestures of friendship and hospitality. An openness to the perspective of someone who thinks differently and sees things differently than us.

A generosity to someone unknown to us: Not only a generosity of food and a place to stay; though that is quite generous by our stand-ards, but an inviting into our home, and an openness to hear the other, suspending our own thoughts and distress and preoccupation long enough to listen and to be together. That is how they finally came to know him and to recognize him.

The story of Emmaus also tells us that it is not entirely up to us. Jesus walks beside us in our darkest hour – un-beckoned and sometimes unrecognized. We live in the Easter hope that when we are lost and alone, God finds us and walks beside us.

In our Book of Common Prayer, in the service for evening prayer, there is a prayer which echoes the words of Cleopas and his compan-ion on the Road to Emmaus. May it be our earnest prayer in this Easter season.

A Collect for the Presence of Christ Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen The Book of Com-mon Prayer, page 124.