Rev. Alex Wilson
April 26, 2020
Rev. Alex Wilson

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          As soon as it happens, it's all over. Easter has come and gone and we are again on the road. The Emmaus story of Luke, which is unique to the gospel of Luke, is one of my all time favorite pieces of scripture. It contains everything! Fear, doubt, unease, surprise, mystery, all of which reinforce the very real humanity of what scripture is for us. Rather than being relegated to some yesterday of cute ideas, scripture remains a living, human experience, and stories like today remind us of that. We have all been challenged at some point in our life with what to say about something we really care about. We have all been challenged at some point in recognizing someone we know. We have all been challenged at some point with relationships. We have all shared in meals, remembered our friends, and felt the excitement of a rekindled connection. Something that in this time of isolation feels odd, and yet there is something even more deeper going on, which is the journey which takes us to Christ.

          Emmaus is a town. We can’t really tell where it is, geographically. We know generally where it is, outside of Jerusalem, but it's not all that clear. What is clear is we are on a road, a road that we have been on before together. Think about it for a moment, Mary and Joseph traveled on a road, Paul was converted on a road, Jesus traveled along a road into Jerusalem, up to Golgotha, and into the tomb. The process of travel, therefore, is important. On one hand, travel is as much about going somewhere new, as it is about getting out of where we currently are. Which given our current arrangements feels like a cruel reminder, and yet there is still more to it than that. When we travel, we travel often to experience something new, to see something, to arrive somewhere that has a purpose for us or brings us rest and joy. We research all the options, circle all the cultural hotspots, and make lists of things we need to see while we are there. Travel then becomes a commodity, something we consume. However, the travel we experience today in scripture is one of preparation, preparation within ourselves for what's about to happen.

          Think about it for a moment, all the times we have journeyed in scripture together have been about opening a space within us for what's about to happen. From the liturgical season, to the physical movement towards the manger, to Damascus, into Jerusalem and more, we are surrounded with experiences and examples of preparation. Indeed, when I went on pilgrimage to Taize in France or even to the monastery in Boston, the well known road I traveled to these locations became a sacred path of inner development. What will I encounter?  How will I share and receive what's happened in my life since I was last here? What am I looking for in going? Questions just like the two on our road today, so caught up in the surrealness of their experience at the tomb that they don't know what to say or do. All they know is to walk, to walk and encounter. Something which I think speaks to us today, as we all race back to our normals and put this pandemic behind us.

          Encountering Jesus in this post tomb moment, is a helpful reminder that not even the disciples easily recognized him either. Things had changed, the world had been turned upside down, and the normal of what it meant to live with Jesus no longer made sense. So to be on this road and have the two travelers not recognize Christ, just like Mary at the Tomb, and Thomas in the upper room, reminds us that in the changing contexts of our life not only is Christ always with us in the most inseparable way possible, but that our eyes must also change to see him. Changing our eyes is about putting on our glasses to see a more refined image of Christ active in our lives, which is what happens when we share Eucharist together. We see more clearly, because of what we receive, the presence of Christ in our lives which is pushing us, nudging us, to see the new life which is blossoming around us on this road, a road which leads more deeply and faithfully into him.

          There is a lot of worry right now about how to measure life in the midst of this crisis. How do we monitor work? How do we measure attendance at church? How do we measure recovery? Among other questions. Now while important, I think that keeps us trapped in the interior conversation of disciples on the road, trying so hard to figure out what to say about what they’ve seen, rather than trusting that the story of what we’ve just seen is actually as integrated into us as our own breath, blood, and saliva. The experience of the resurrection is just like that of our breath, our blood and our saliva. We can’t survive without it. What that means then, is this road is not about rushing back to a normal we design, but seeing the normal that is already around us right now.

          The new creation, the new Eden, which began at the tomb, is taking root all around us. Oil prices are plummeting because we are not driving our cars. Bike sales are skyrocketing, line ups at garden centres are longer than the grocery store. Smog is clearing. Salmon stocks are replenishing. Water is clearer than ever before. Our world is recovering around us because we are not abusing it in the same way as before. And the most important thing, of all this ecological recovery, is our world is not falling apart because of it, despite what opponents suggest. The end of oil dependency is not causing the world to stop, we are simply finding ways to live differently and thrive because of the new patterns we are choosing to adopt in our isolation. Yes, the widespread economic chaos is a world falling apart, but the trees are still standing, the birds still flying, the sun still rises and sets, and we still breath. So I think the question before us today, as we walk this road to an unknown destination, as we try and figure out how to respond to this crisis, to find our new normal, we get a real chance to spread the active good news of Christ in the way we choose to show up to this challenge.

          But how do we show up to this challenge? We eat. Key to this narrative is the meal, the hospitality, the food, given and shared because of how it breaks down our walls and opens us to the vulnerability of Christ in our midst. Not only is this key to the narrative of this morning, but it is key to our lives. When we feed spiritually on Christ, we are taking into ourselves the very essence of the living kingdom of God. A kingdom where we are fully alive, with burning hearts full of the radical love of Christ’s presence in this world, made clearer through the refining fire his presence in our lives creates. He burns away the fear and shame within us, giving us a radical life that will not be silent in the midst of this new creation all around us. But that is a challenge, that is the challenge of the Eucharist, in that what we receive, inwardly, pushes us out just a bit further in our world to be more fully who God created us to be. So as we spiritually approach this Eucharist this morning, wondering what it is we will encounter, and how it is we will share what we’ve seen and heard today with those around us, let us rest within our burning hearts refined with the knowledge of Christ, and let us use those hearts and this Eucharist to continue to live the life God wants us to return to after this pandemic is over, a life of fullness, relationship, joy, and giving. The church, you and I, are a movement of people who follow Christ, a movement on the road of faith this day in a world terrified to trust itself, stuck in the road and struggling to feed itself. How will you choose to show up in the world this week, because of the presence in this meal you have received today in your heart from God?