Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | May 4, 2014

2014.05.04 “Walk and Talk” – Luke 24: 13 – 35

Central United Methodist Church

Walk and Talk

Pastor David L. Haley

Luke 24: 13 – 35

May 4th, 2014

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Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven milesfrom Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”  He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiahshould suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”  So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”– Luke 24: 13 – 35, from The New Revised Standard Version.

Walk and talk,” they call it. “Walk and talk” is a story-telling technique used in films and TV, in which (guess what? The characters hold a conversation as they walk. The most basic form of “walk and talk” involves one character joined by another, but can include such variations as walk and talk relays, in which the original characters leave the conversation and new characters join, leaving whoever is left, walking and talking.

Nobody does “walk and talk” better than Aaron Sorkin, of West Wing fame. A few years ago, on the website Funny or Die, some members of the West Wing cast did a reunion, as a public service announcement for walking.  To watch that reunion, click here.

Of course, Aaron Sorkin didn’t dream up walk and talk, we all do it. Maybe at work or at school, or anytime we are lucky enough to have a family member or friend go for a walk with us. Is there anything that makes the time or the miles go by faster, than to talk as we walk? And yes – like Sam and Toby – there were times where we were so busy talking that we walked past where we were going, lost in our own world.

And yes, when we walk and talk, not only do some of our best ideas come to us – as they do with President Jed Bartlett – but the walking sometimes becomes secondary. Often, our conversation matches our pace, and before we know it, we may even find ourselves pouring out our dreams and disappointments.

That appears to be what happened late in that day long ago, on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection, when two of his disciples walked that road to Emmaus, without him, of course, or so they thought.

Nobody knows exactly where Emmaus is, (there are four possibilities), but in some ways, we all know where it is, because all of us have at one time or another walked the road to Emmaus.  Barbara Brown Taylor, in her characteristic clarity says:

“It is the road you walk when your team has lost, your candidate defeated, your loved one has died – the long road back to the empty house, the piles of unopened mail, to life as usual, if life can ever be usual again.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, “Blessed Brokenness” in Gospel Medicine (Cambridge: Crowley, 1995) p. 20-21.)

As the two disciples walk, they talk, about all that has happened.  If we could join them, some questions of our own might be in order.

Why did they leave, and where were they going? Both Matthew and Mark suggest all Jesus’ disciples, except for a few women, got out of town fast, and back to the familiar and safe territory of Galilee, where it had all began. After all, as Jesus’ followers, they were now suspicious also, and “get out of town fast” seemed like a plan.

But apart from personal safety, wouldn’t you want to stay and find out what happens, especially when there are rumors circulating that the tomb is empty? It just goes to show you, that when even Jesus disciples’ heard his tomb was empty, they didn’t think “resurrection” as the most likely explanation, anymore than we would. The “wrong tomb,” graverobbers, even wild beasts, but not resurrection; there must be some plausible if not acceptable explanation. And so, for this reason, almost all of Jesus’ disciples left Jerusalem in despair and confusion. “We had hoped,” they said, their disappointment and despair hanging over them like a cloud. We don’t blame or judge them for it; at some time or another we’ve probably used the same exact words, not only about our dreams, but about a marriage, a job, even a child.

Perhaps the most glaring question we want to ask them is, “When Jesus joined you, how could you not recognize him?” The text says “their eyes were kept from recognizing him,” but what does this mean?  Is it that their disappointment and grief was so great, they simply could not see the truth before them? After all, most of us have learned from personal experience that spiritual blindness can result from many things, such as never having been taught the stories of faith, being at the bottom of a pit of depression, struggling with bereavement or abuse, or being imprisoned in anxiety?  At such times in our lives, we often can’t see the truth before us either.

And so they walk and talk with Jesus – pouring out their hopes and disappointments to who is to them a mysterious stranger – until they arrive at their destination.  By now the sun is setting, and even though he is a stranger, they invite him in, saying:

“Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.

The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.”

Well, that’s not actually what they said, that’s what Henry Lyte said when he wrote the hymn “Abide With Me,” – one of our favorites – in 1847, just three weeks before he died of tuberculosis.

It was then that it happened. Seated at table, the tables are turned, and what happened next amazed everyone: suddenly the Guest became the Host.  He took bread; he blessed it; he broke it; and he gave it to them, and their eyes were opened. (Don’t you love the way the Italian master Caravaggio portrayed it here, with their shock and surprise? If you had been there, your eyes would have been opened too, because it’s the same thing we do here every Sunday, when we celebrate Holy Communion.

But it’s not only that: think about the four parts of the story: 1) they are met on their journey, 2) they have the scriptures opened, 3) they share in a meal that reveals Christ, 4) and they are then sent to share and live the good news, which they did, racing back to Jerusalem to tell the others, “We have seen the Lord.”  That should sound familiar too, because this is what we do every Sunday, when we gather for worship.

You see, as we saw last Sunday with the story of Thomas in the Gospel of John, by the time the Gospel of Luke was written, some 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christian believers were experiencing the same problems we Christians experience today. The risen Christ was not to be seen; nor had he returned, as many had expected. Furthermore, life was often difficult, sometimes disillusioning and disappointing. So in what sense was the Risen Christ present? Christ was with them in worship (“Whenever two or three gather together in my name, I am with them.” Matthew 18:20) And, even more specifically, Christ is with us in the celebration of the sacrament. (“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19)

So this wonderful story, this “walk and talk” on the road to Emmaus, is not just a story written for early Christians, it is a story written for all Christians, when we – like them – wonder if Christ accompanies us on our journeys of disappointment and despair, our road to Emmaus.

ImageIn February of 1988, Chicago’s Catholic Cardinal at the time, the saintly Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, preached on the TV show, the Chicago Sunday Evening Club.  I wish I could say it was a “walk and talk,” but it was not.

But it was about this story, the story of the Emmaus Road, that he preached. He said, what many pastors might say:

“My life is not so very different from your own. My specific responsibilities as a pastor may vary from yours, but I face the same basic human issues as you. I get caught up in the maelstrom of my work or ministry. I am sometimes bewildered and perplexed by rapid changes in society, both at home and around the world. It’s no secret that I live — by reason of my office and, some tell me, by my very nature — in the “fast lane”. It’s just as easy for me to lose my way on our common Christian pilgrimage as it is for anyone else.”

“Like you, I have sometimes wondered, “Is this all there is to life?” My thirty-six years as a priest and twenty-two as a bishop have been marked by a search for the Lord, by a sincere concern to live my life in accordance with His gospel. But, so often, my search seemed to lead me into darkness rather than light. I felt buffeted and bombarded by problems associated with my ministry. I often felt I was walking alone.”

“Then one day I encountered the Emmaus story in a new way, and it had a profound impact on my life…. As I reflected upon it in prayer, I began to realize how often I looked elsewhere for the Lord rather than right in the midst of each day’s journey!

“In light of the Emmaus story, all of us come to recognize that we do not walk alone! The Lord Jesus is with us. Through His word He helps us keep on the right path. Through the breaking of bread each day He feeds the deepest hungers of our heart and spirit….The Emmaus story helps us understand the Lord’s presence where, often before, we had experienced His absence….From this beautiful story we also learn to recognize Jesus in the “strangers” we encounter on our journey, that is, in our fellow pilgrims, in all our brothers and sisters….” My prayer for you is that you will find it in your own story, as I have.”(Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (1928–1996), “The Journey to Mature Discipleship”, The Chicago Sunday Evening Club, Program  #3120, First air date February 14, 1988)

May we find this story in our story; may our hearts burn within us in the hearing of the word; may Christ be recognized among us in the breaking of bread.  Amen.

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