Luke 24:13-31 - The Road to Emmaus
The Rev. Bob Fisher
Some years ago, I was fortunate to travel to East Africa with a group of ELCA Communicators. We toured parts of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania to see some of the economic development projects our mission support and Lutheran World Relief made possible.
We talked with women who were managing a micro-loan program for female entrepreneurs; lending them money to make bricks, raise cows or chickens, or fish.
We saw how deep-dug brick latrines replaced literal holes in the ground, protecting water supplies.
We explored schools and systems to catch rain before it hit the ground.
We saw how the church was helping farmers to be more efficient and help young people orphaned by HIV.
And we worshipped.
Yet the impact of the trip for me is summed up in two moments. On our first day, we visited Yustina and her children in their stick-and-thatch hut.
As we were parting Yustina offered our group a large bag of pawpaw, fruit that she would ordinarily take to market to help feed her family.
A few days later we visited a trade school for boys. After watching the school in operation, we were invited in for lunch with the teachers and students – a bit of chicken and some vegetables steamed in a leaf of some kind.
Though there was not much food, after grace the director insisted that our rather large group go first to the buffet, even though there would be meager pickings for those who came last.
In the midst of all of the good work God was doing through the church there, these moments still stand out to me because they were times that Jesus became personal.
Though we were focused on the good being done, Jesus revealed himself in simple, radical and sacrificial hospitality – the breaking of daily bread.
Cleopas and his traveling companion were looking for Jesus in the wrong places. They expected a victorious redeemer, not an executed criminal. When their hopes were dashed, they were – for a time – unable to see Jesus in the ordinary. He had fulfilled their hopes and more – but they could not see it yet.
“We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” they lament. They are walking home to an uncertain future, their worlds turned upside-down and their energies and dreams seemingly for naught.
We find ourselves in a similar space today, sheltering in place, unsure what a new post-pandemic normal might look like. We too had hopes. We had hoped that our medical, economic and political systems were prepared. We had hoped that our jobs would be secure, and our small businesses would thrive. We had hoped tomorrow would look like yesterday.
In the midst of “if only” and “what next,” Jesus comes to us as a fellow traveler. He isn’t fixing or changing the things we can see – illness and death, quarantine, and financial hardship are still around us.
Jesus comes in the forms of doctors and nurses and paramedics and grocery and housekeeping workers, in people sewing masks, food pantry volunteers and restaurants turned to making meals for first-line workers.
Like those first disciples, Jesus is made known to us in acts of healing, in moments of bearing one another’s burdens, in serving, in the preparing of bread.
Jesus did not assure Cleopas and friend that the world would be the same. In fact, the disciples were changed forever by this encounter.
We, too, are not guaranteed a return to “normal.” Yet Jesus is here; we are loved; we are ok.
And like the disciples still locked in that upper room, when the wait is over, we are called to follow Jesus in changing the world into a place more healing, more reconciling, more just and more inclusive – one that looks more like the world God dreams for us.