Reflection from Sunday, April 30/17
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Road to Emmaus
How are you at connecting the dots? When I was a little girl one of my favourite games was to play connecting the dots. You know this game I’m sure. It is made up of an almost blank piece of paper, which appears to have on it some random dots with usually, numbers or letters beside them. Sometimes there may be a clue given as to the theme of the picture (a bit like the clue given to players of the Wheel of Fortune), but for the most part the picture does not really come into view until all of the dots are connected. I recall the simple child-like delight in completing one of these puzzles, with them having almost a magical quality to them as before my very eyes a transformation of sorts would happen.
When we think of the expression, connecting the dots, as adults, what we are really speaking about is the ability to associate one idea with another, to find the ‘big picture’ as it were, to make all the parts work together to expand our understanding of a particular event or topic. Often events or circumstances are understood best in hindsight, what is it we often hear, ‘hindsight is 20-20’. And how often it is the case that we look back on something and see that almost imperceptible, delicate thread that joins what once seemed liked a random set of events.
In many instances it takes an observer, someone outside of ourselves to help us to understand these connections, a mentor, a teacher, someone with more experience, to guide us from ‘dot to dot’ as it were. It is this second circumstance that we are seeing this morning in the Gospel as Jesus meets his disciples on the road to Emmaus, and starting from Moses and the prophets, he sheds light on all that has taken place over the past three years, and especially over the past few days.
We read of Cleopas and his unnamed companion who having recently experienced the dashing of their hopes with the crucifixion of Jesus, were leaving Jerusalem behind. As would be expected, they were trying to process all that had happened in the last few days. They were lamenting how this Jesus was to have been the one, the one for whom all of Israel had waited, the one who would restore Israel to her former glory; yet now he was gone, taking with him, in an instant it seemed, all of their hope. However it is at the very core of this account in Luke 24, when all the dots are so tidily joined together, that the essential Christian story of transformation from despair to hope is to be found.
Our story as Christians as we know, is recounted annually in the cycle of our church year. All of this is done in order to give us occasion to remember who and whose we are as followers of Jesus, affording us opportunities, if we will grasp them, of recollecting foundational and indeed sustaining truths of our faith. We, of course, live in a society that has many stories running through it, many ways of understanding life and circumstances. A faith-based way of understanding life is increasingly less common with consumerism and most recently protectionism having a far greater
appeal to many. Having a story, you see in the end, is really about meaning making; the fact that with the decline of a faith-based story in our society, another has arisen to take its place only confirms the fact that we as humans need a story, for it is human nature to look for something upon which to base our lives. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that secular stories are not enough. People don’t simply want comfort they want something to believe in.
In this moment of being church and especially being church in a time of transition, are we able to recapture our story as best fits our particular situation? Can we find within our story, both the ancient drama that connects us with the past yet makes us relevant to the present? Can we be brave enough to not only believe our own story, but to believe it has an ongoing message for our times offering a bigger and a broader understanding of all of life?
In the end, it will be a growing awareness of our story and in particular the ability to make conscious in that story, both God’s faithfulness in times past, and our strengths, gifts, and abilities, that will allow us to take today’s story and project it forward. We do this by God’s grace and the leading of God’s Holy Spirit moving us out into a vision for the next chapters in the stories of our faith communities and of our world. Grounded in what has been, our next steps must be taken into what might be as those disciples on the road to Emmaus were discovering with each step they took with this stranger. The disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ transformed not only their hearts, but their very existence. That which was once unimaginable, became the guiding reality of their lives. In a very real sense, it is the power of the Gospel within our story that empowers us to move from telling the story, to becoming the story.
You know when times are challenging, there is a very seductive idea that commonly arises that, that there is a ‘silver bullet of instant success’, called by sociologist Reginald Bibby, ‘magic potions’. Sadly, the point is that one size simply does not, and cannot fit all. There is no question that the church currently finds itself in a time of change, loss, confusion, and despair, much like these disciples on the road to Emmaus, yet if in the middle of all of this we can grasp the idea of the strengths that remain to us, hope can be restored, refreshed, reborn and will prevail.
If we can intentionally allow, despite the sometimes seductive songs of despair that swirl all around us and in fact threaten to overwhelm us, the truth of the hope of our story to sink deep within us, to those places where fear of change, fear of loss, fear of death eat away at us, and if in that place we can see the reality of the risen Christ forever on the road with us, we will be changed and I believe will be awaken to what is next for us.
If we can refute, and brand as a lie, the claim that our work as church has no positive affect on the world around us, and if we can remember whose and who we are, grasping and holding on to hope for dear life, the story will go on! Perhaps it will not be exactly what we had imagined, perhaps the road will have some unexpected twists and turns, maybe even a pothole or two, yet our God is faithful, and we are called to give ourselves to connecting all the dots, connecting to all that it means to live as light and salt in this world, to carry this message of hope, and to embody hope in all that we do or say!
May this ever be our story, and may God’s grace allow us to be both fearless in our understanding and in our response in this day, in this moment of being church!
 Donna Sinclair & Christopher White, Emmaus Road Churches Making Their Way Forward (Kelowna, B.C.: Wood Lake Books, 2003) 13