April 30, 2017 Luke 24: 13-35 The Reverend Anne Anchor – Deacon
May these words and these thoughts that I share as a Deacon of your church be true to your word, gracious Lord
I found this quote from Scott Hoezee on the Centre for Excellence in Preaching
“After his wife died, C.S. Lewis once wrote that he thought that his grief might be less if he intentionally avoided the places he and his wife Joy had frequented by limiting his travels to only those places where they had never been together. So he switched grocery stores, tried different restaurants, walked only along streets and paths that he and Joy had never taken. But it didn’t work. To paraphrase Lewis, ‘I found out that grief is like the sky above—it is over everything’ “.
In light of what CS Lewis wrote I wonder if perhaps the disciples were as they walked the road to Emmaus ‘switching grocery stores’, ‘walking along streets and paths that they had never taken to try to calm their grief.’
One thing common about grief is that no matter how we handle it, we long for the end of that deep deep sadness and of that feeling of loss and we look for a new way of moving forward. That new way will often give us something to hold onto as we develop a new relationship with that person, something we can live with.
As I grieved the death of my dad, over 20 years ago, I settled deeply into a grief of the heart. I grieved with my mom as we talked about dad and as we cried together many times. I frequently listened to the song ‘One Sweet Day’ by Boyz 2 Men and Mariah Carey with my daughter and we wept together
As time went by my mom felt the need to go to Grief recovery. At one session the facilitator said to us … “there must come a time when you will need to ‘let go of your loved one’ “. This comment was a real struggle for me as I processed it, it was a real trigger to my emotions and I finally said … ‘I will never ‘let go’ of my dad, he is a part of me, he is a part of my children, he will always be a part of my life’ As I paused to calm myself down I was finally able to share that I believe it is not about letting go of our loved one, it is about building a new relationship with them, a new relationship that enables healing and acknowledges the continued presence of that person in our lives.
This gospel contains two stories of the continued presence of Jesus. The first is a fleeting moment in time when they were talking and processing ‘all these things that had happened..’ I can imagine they are tossing around many ideas about how they had been let down by their teacher, and that perhaps what they had heard as they travelled with Jesus was not true and how they were sad not only at his death but at their feeling of abandonment. Perhaps they felt as CS Lewis ..
“that grief is like the sky above—it is over everything”
As the disciples walked and talked they were searching for a way out of their grief and searching for a way to make sense of all that had happened. Perhaps they were searching for a way to build a new relationship with their Lord and teacher.
But as an image appears to them they are challenged to think about what they are saying as they hear ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! …’ …. How slow of heart … In these words alone they are reminded that it is not by logic and reason that one believes but through the heart.
The second encounter remains today and will remain as long as there is Christian community. Through a reminder of an evening meal they had shared together this presence was about to do something that would enable them to understand who this was. The author of Luke writes ….. ‘When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them’.
This searching for understanding of who Jesus is to us is a life journey for ourselves personally and for us as a community. We sometimes have those moments when we believe we have encountered Jesus or the Spirit of Christ.
These encounters may be in those little moments of life when we are offered compassion and caring simply through the smile of another that brightens an otherwise dull day; or perhaps it may be when we look into the eyes of a new born and realize that they are looking beyond you as if to say… well this is different, I wonder what this new place will be like; perhaps it is in that moment when you are offered a thank you from the homeless person to whom you have shown compassion; perhaps it is on that Sunday morning when you look around you at church and realize that the Spirit of Christ is shining through each person around you; perhaps it is at the table of God when you are fed and feel nourished in a new way as never before. Some of us may have encountered the Risen Christ in a Road to Emmaus experience but those happen rarely. If we are prepared to open our hearts, we know that we can encounter the Risen Christ as we share at the table and break the bread and remember that Jesus told his disciples, do this and remember me.
There may be times in our lives when we begin to walk the Road to Emmaus, despondent, sad and longing to understand a death, a loss, an injustice, and we long to understand our grief, our hurt and sense of unfairness. Hoping as CS Lewis wrote, “ that his grief might be less if he intentionally avoided the places he and Joy had frequented by limiting his travels to only those places where they had never been together. “ We long for release from our pain and even though opportunities to do so abound around us more often than not we miss the signs of hope along the way. And then the time comes when gradually some light, some hope begins to break through and our eyes are no longer closed to this light.
My heart tells me that I do ‘see’ Jesus in the actions of Social Justice of others. I do ‘see’ Jesus in the love and compassion of people within this community. I have seen the Spirit of Christ in the awe and mystery of being in contemplation. Yet I still at times long for Jesus to come physically near to me.
We can never give up on the hope that we can and will encounter The Risen Christ. Our faith is based on not only a belief in rebirth, in new life but on the meal of remembrance that we share.
As the disciples eyes were opened as The Risen Christ broke bread, so may our eyes be opened to new life and hope, as we continue to build this community together centered around the table and broken bread. As a community we are in the process of forging a new vision and new relationships. We have grieved together through many different losses over the past few years. Now is the time for us to move forward in the hope of a renewed vision of what it means to be in a new relationship with the Spirit of Christ with one another and with this community of Port Moody.
I think Ronald Rolheiser Roman Catholic priest, teacher and writer says it better when he writes about this Road to Emmaus experience ….
“Hope is still more real than death.
In our hurt, we are struggling for words and grasping for trust.
We need to remain on the road to Emmaus.
The stranger still stalks that same road.
In his company we need to discuss our doubts, discuss the scriptures and continually offer each other bread and consolation. At some moment too, our eyes will be opened. We will understand and we will recognize the risen Lord. Then the dream will explode anew like a flower bursting in bloom after a long winter.
We will be full of a new innocence.
Easter Sunday will happen again.”