Road to Emmaus - ‘Faithfully following Jesus’.
I hope you enjoyed the image which accompanied the well-known story of the encounter with Christ on the road to Emmaus. The painting is by a Chinese artist, He Qi, and I think it is beautiful, colourful, and striking.
And yet.. the journey those two disciples make is far from a beautiful or easy journey.
They are grief-stricken, puzzled, desperately questioning all that has happened. It is Easter Sunday, but they have not yet grasped the Easter message that Christ truly is risen.
And so far from a smooth and easy journey, they struggle and stumble along their route, and are constantly falling over their own lack of understanding.
I think we get a sense of the difficulty they have in ‘walking the way’ in the language used in telling the story - it is so full of ‘buts’.
Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
‘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…’
‘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.’
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..”
Jesus is walking alongside them on the road – but they have so much they don’t understand, so much to ‘process’, we might say, they almost miss the revelation that the risen Christ is with them.
But.. just when all is almost lost, all of those ‘buts’ are swept away in an instant.
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 so we have another painting of the story from the road to Emmaus – this time by the Swansea artist, Ceri Richards. He bathes the risen Christ in a gorgeous golden glow – and shows us the astonishment and reverence of the disciples as their eyes are opened.
This is the moment that sends them scurrying back to Jerusalem to share the good news of how Christ had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
We have spent today hearing and discussing many ways of following Jesus more faithfully: Walking the Way and Holy Habits; exploring discipleship in new ways; seeking to support one another in the synod; and celebrating with faithful servants of Christ.
We may well find that the path for our local churches, and our own path, into the future feels bumpy and unsure – I would be surprised if you did not leave today with some questions, some feeling of ‘yes…but…’. Much as we want to follow Jesus and walk his way it is no simple matter.
Yet I hope we can look for the ‘then’ moments in our lives and our churches ‘then their eyes were opened’.
It may well come when we break bread together.
It may come as we break open God’s word together.
It can come as we open our lives and our hopes to one another.
For when we recognize the presence with us of the living Christ, our eyes are opened and our way becomes more clear.
Amen – so be it.