Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The questions Jesus asks along the road.

The Third Sunday of Easter
Year A
Luke 24:13-35

Standing in a high place you lose details but you get the whole picture in one sweep. Let's get right down to it, shall we?
Jesus breaks bread in the presence of two disciples and opens their minds through an exposition of the Scriptures. The downcast disciples are heartened by the encounter and go on their way much refreshed.  

That’s it – the Road to Emmaus seen from a height. 

The vicar in me wants to own this passage.  It’s about us, isn’t it?  Announce it on Facebook.  Stick it on the website.   This is what we do every Sunday – word and sacrament in one stop.

Which is precisely the problem with looking at anything from a great height.  Up here, things become small enough to slip into your pocket.  Small enough to be useful –  or perhaps misused, appropriated and domesticated.

There’s a mystical element in this passage from Luke which ought to growl at you as you attempt to slip a leash on it:   What do the disciples end up knowing and how do they come to know it?  Jesus joins the two troubled disciples on the road but they do not recognize him.  He expounds the Old Testament to them in considerable detail but it is not until he makes the physical gestures of breaking bread with them that they suddenly realize who he is.  Once recognized he is immediately taken from them – he passes from their sight and they find themselves alone but overjoyed.  They seek out the company of other disciples who have encountered the risen Christ.  They share their experiences.  It is not an easy story to summarize.  Mystical experience is hard to speak about.  If you boil it down to a few points you suspect you’ve done something unworthy. 

A few details which your bird’s eye view missed:  It’s not by accident that everybody is walking during their conversation and not sitting in a pew.  And - it is central to the passage that Jesus asks the disciples what they are talking about amongst themselves and that their unveiling of their problem is a part of the solution. 

I repeat:  Jesus is inordinately interested in what the disciples are already talking about:  "What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?" he asks. 

He’s apparently more interested in them than we are, oftentimes, in our own people. Why do we treat visitors, new members or "passers-through" as shoppers with empty grocery carts to whom we offer the valuable goods of the Church -  the creeds, the Mass, John 3:16, the social life of our parish, bells, hymns, incense or even the minister’s personality?

Most of the New Testament encounters Jesus has with people are genuine conversations. When we do take a positive step forward, we discover that the previous tumult is not negated.  It’s part of the process and why Jesus, sometimes, asks questions.

The details are important.

He met us on the road.
He wanted to know what our struggles were.
He reasoned with us over time.

We were conscious of engagement and love – love which made the next part possible.