Together on the Road

Today in Luke’s gospel we hear Jesus encountering two disciples on the road.

These two disciples are walking along the road, when Jesus comes up and goes along with them as they travel from Jerusalem, where he has just been raised from the dead, to Emmaus a little village a few miles away.

This is a road trip like none other and it makes me think of all the road trips I have taken with my family and of all the road trips you have been on with the people in your life, and then I immediately think of the question from the back seat.

Sarah is so good when we go on trips – she packs books to read, games to play, snacks to eat, songs queued up to listen to and sing along with – but from the back seat, inevitably, comes the question: are we there yet?

And children can make the one syllable word ‘Dad’ four syllables…

Da-a-a-d… are we there yet? 

From the perspective of the kids, it’s gotta be uncomfortable to be strapped into a seat and not know how to make sense of miles and speed and distance and time.  Are we there yet?  How much longer? When are we going to be there? 

Well, these are all the questions we’re asking.  I am, for sure.  I hear them from you.  We don’t want to be so uncomfortable as we are on this journey and this road trip (of sorts).  We want to be there: and ‘there’ is that place and time when all this is over and we can return to life as usual and get out and stretch our legs in the world.

We want to be to the place where we have a vaccine, where we have testing, where people can get e the medicines they need, where the economy is good and trading and flowing, where we are able to be together in person.

Right now, these are all just hopes.  Things are not as we want them to be.  And right now, we are struggling, I think, to believe that our hopes can become a reality.

These disciples – Cleopas and his friend – they had hopes. They had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem Israel; the one to restore not just the economy but restore the entirety of their beloved nation that lay dormant and in ruins – but with news of Jesus’ death these hopes shriveled up and died too. Their hopes had been dashed.  Their hope was shattered. Their hope was squashed.

Little do they know, Jesus is the one who is on this road trip with them, the one they’re talking to as they travel – and as they travel he does more than appease and distract them with some silly games sent to the backseat – he opens the scriptures to them and helps them understand what it means for him to be messiah…

Its too bad we don’t know exactly what Jesus said as he unfolded the scriptures, but he might have said:

Like Moses led the people out of slavery to freedom, I have freed humankind from sin and will bring you into the promised land of joyous friendship with God.

He might have said: like Jonah rescued from the belly of the fish, like Daniel rescued from the lion’s den, like Joseph brought up out of the pit – God redeemed me from the pit of the grave – and now I will hold your hand and bring you out of the pit with me to new life.

We don’t know exactly what he said, but we know Jesus unfolded the scriptures for these disciples and how they point to his life, death, and resurrection, and then Jesus comes into the home of the disciples – a powerful word to us, as we are seeing that, in the same way, Jesus is with us in our homes as we worship this morning.

And then Jesus is makes himself known to the disciples as he breaks bread with them – a powerful word to us as we remember that in the same way he has made himself known to us in the breaking broken of the bread — and as we hope that he will again when we’re together in person…

So Jesus is present in the home and in the meal, but what I think is the best news for us today is that Jesus is with these disciples on the road… when these disciples look back on all that happened on this surprising day, what do they say to each other?

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road.”

Jesus was with them on the road, and he is with us ON THE ROAD: In this time of journeying through all this — in our times of being stuck on a road-trip we didn’t choose, in our hopelessness, in our questions, in our turmoil.

God is with us.  God is with us in this place of being uncomfortable, as we as we fumble with attempts at distract ourselves – videos and jigsaw puzzles – and all these things that can be pleasant, but in most cases, are not what we actually want to be doing. God is with us as we continue to ask ‘when are we going to be there?’

God is with us on this journey, speaking his word to us, caring for us.

And we can talk about getting back to normal, but the truth is God’s people have always been on the road…

They were on the road fleeing a famine when they arrived in Egypt, Moses led the people on the road though the brutal wilderness, they were on the road, taken to be slaves in a far-away land during exile, and in Jesus’ time the famed roads of Rome came and cut through Palestine bringing occupation…

Through the generations God’s people have lived through plagues, the rising and falling of kingdoms, favorable and unfavorable times, with all their accompanying turmoil, persecution, and danger…

And through it all, God has been faithful.  Through it all God has been our hope, our strength, our guide.  He has heard out prayers and our cries whenever we called.

As the psalmist says:  our lives are precious to God, as are our inevitable deaths, when we lay down this life to rest in God and await the fulfillment of the promise that all this perishable life will be raised imperishable, and that all creation will follow in the footsteps of Jesus, held by his loving hand — we will be born anew through the living and enduring word of God.

This Jesus, who was destined before the foundation of the world, holds our destiny – to be with God after the foundations of this world have fallen.  We stand on God’s eternal love, we travel in his grace, we are accompanied along the way by his faithfulness.

And the truth is we might long to return home to a kind of normal before this pandemic hit, or we might long to arrive to a new normal where we can forget this time of being strapped in so uncomfortably to our immediate surroundings, (but we can’t know about timetables and outcomes)…

We do know that God is with us on the journey.

This is a promise.

And I just wonder if it maybe that we could begin to think about how we are going to tell about this time after it’s over.

The two disciples Cleopas and his friend – after Jesus comes alongside them and appear to them – we hear that same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem and they told what had happened on the road…they told about how Christ appeared to them and accompanied them.

I hope that in the midst of this, we can tell about what God is doing during this time. And talk about how Jesus has accompanied us.

I hope one day we will tell how God used our congregation members to provide masks and refine the design for these masks with each new batch made getting upgraded features – elastic on the back and a snugger fit over the nose.

I hope one day we will tell how God used our congregation to continue to give food through HHOPE pantry and how we wrote grants to secure finds and prepare for renewed ministry beyond the quarantine.

I hope one day we will tell how one member of our congregation decided to throw a Thanksgiving feast for his family – even though its wasn’t November – just because he wanted to thank God.  So he made a turkey and all the trimmings and had thanksgiving, and that was inspiration to us all that we can all ask:

How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things God has done for me? I will lift the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all God’s people.

I hope one day we will tell how, during this time, God inspired us to worship him in our homes, creating new pathways for reclaiming our homes as the primary place we worship God day by day. 

I hope one day we will tell how God gathered us three times a day online through the many weeks to pray together for each other and the world.

I have all these hopes…you have so many hopes….

Jesus is our hope, and holds all these hopes we have and many more and carries them to the heart of our Father, and, in the meantime, even as we wait, Jesus is one the road with us…  

So that even now, because God is faithful, we can give our witness, we can tell the story, we can come together to live for the one who saves us, loves us, and accompanies us thorough it all…

May you take comfort in the faithfulness of God…

May you know Christ is with you on this road…

May the Spirit set our hearts on fire with love one another and the world God loves…

And may all our hope be found in the one who is the hope of the world, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

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