Peace and Grace to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
One does not simply walk with God without something happening. It's funny how God can be in the midst of our everyday lives, and even be there when we least expect it. Even something as ordinary as long walk can turn into some deep and moving when God is involved. Today's passage is interesting, because it moves away from the disciples, and focuses on Jesus and two followers, rather on the disciples. Today's text is a personal favorite of mine, one in which Jesus walks with his followers, and helps them to come to a better understanding of what God is doing. So let's take a look.
In the text this morning, we hear about a time soon after Jesus' death and resurrection. Two of Jesus' followers were walking away from Jerusalem, towards the town of Emmaus. Now, as people do, they were talking about recent events. In my opinion, it's the sign of a good friend when you can talk to them about religion or politics, or in this case, both. As they were walking and talking Jesus came up and asked them what they were talking about. At first they didn't know who this person was, and were surprised that he hadn't heard the news, and so the two followers proceeded to tell Jesus about what they had heard about him, his death, and his resurrection. I imagine Jesus trying to hide a smile and think “oh, so that's what you've heard about me.” The two followers also confessed that they were still having trouble believing all of the things that had happened. So Jesus goes all the way back to the story of Moses, and tells them everything that had been said about Jesus. Now, you have to understand, they had seven miles to walk, so Jesus had a good amount of time to tell them the whole story. I couldn't fit all of that into one sermon, so you'll have to come back next week to hear more.
So they arrived in Emmaus, and the two followers invited Jesus to stay because it was almost evening. So Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his followers to eat. Now, where have we heard that before? It was at that time that the followers were able to recognize Jesus. But when they did, Jesus pulled a Houdini on them, and suddenly vanished. The two followers were left there, astonished. I imagine them sitting there, trying to figure this out.
“Wait was that...?” “Yeah...” “And did he just...?” “Yeah...” And so, when they realized that it was Jesus, they wasted no time. They got up, went the seven miles back to Jerusalem, and told the Eleven disciples that the resurrection really had happened, and that Jesus and told about their experience with him on the road.
So, what do we do with this text? Well, today I want you to know that God is walking with us. I had an experience of walking with God two summers ago when I went on a five day walk in Spain. Let me start out by say that my wife is smart and knows five different languages, and I do not, so I was prepared to walk by myself for those five days. We went to Spain to gather data for the book she's writing, and while we were there, I went on a five day hiking pilgrimage on a part of the Camio de Santiago, or as we know it, the Way of St. James. It's a pilgrimage that started back in the 9th century, has a variety routes that lead from France and ends in the city of Santiago, where Ana and I were staying. I had a lot on my mind at the time and thought: “You know what? Five days is the minimum that one needs to walk to get a cool certificate. I can do that!” So, I packed a backpack, some money, and my music player, and set out.
The first day went great, I was going along, passing all kinds of other pilgrims on the trail. The second day was a little more rough. I started feeling sore in my legs and feet. By the third day, I was dying. I was limping pretty badly, and it was fairly obvious that I was forcing myself to keep going. It didn't help to see roadway signs for cars that were could be to the final destination city in a matter of hours where I still had two more days of hiking. I finally broke down, and thought, you know, if I still feel like this tomorrow, I'm calling it off. I tried my best, and that's all I could do. I prayed that I would have the strength to keep walking, but didn't honestly know if I was able to keep going. But then something happened. It's hard to explain, but I came to find out that the other pilgrims on the trail take care of each other. An Italian that I met offered me his expertise in medicine to help ease my pain. A pair of Canadians told me they would keep their eyes out for me to make sure I was okay. And at one point, I got to share the trail with a German about my age who needed to share parts of his life story and so we passed the time chatting as we walked.
Dear friends in Christ, life is a journey. While I was praying for Christ to show up during those five days, I didn't think it would come in the form of other travelers. You see, our God is a God who walks with us, in good times and bad. And even as a I was hobbling along, it was God who was giving me strength to make the next step. God was also in the kindness of others who walked with me and around me. I've learned that in this world my own strength and my own wisdom will fail and will not always be enough. But God brings good news to us, making us strong where we are weak. So, as you go on your way today, talk with your fellow pilgrims and travelers. It is their stories and their kindness that is a reflection of what God is doing in our lives. Just as Jesus walked with followers then, he walks with us now. And for that we can turn and say:
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Vicar James Anderson