Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life on the road - the Sacrament of Absence.

(Random thoughts for Sunday's Contemplative Service)

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from 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 Messiah should 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.

Do you remember a time of feeling close to God?  When conversation with God flowed naturally and easily? When you never worried about whether God was listening or not? I've had times like that, and I imagine that was what it was like for those two disciples before they left Jerusalem....before the crucifixion. Suddenly an event happens and their experience of Jesus is radically altered. They are left with nothing but abandonment, disillusionment and frustrated expectations. ....We had hoped.... 

So they leave Jerusalem. Their place of experiencing Jesus is now just a cruel reminder that Jesus is no longer there. Their connection with Jesus has been severed and so they walk the road to Emmaus...not seeing that Jesus is walking with them. They pour out their hearts to this stranger on the road as they journey together.

At Emmaus an amazing thing happens. Jesus reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread, and then he vanishes. This is a new Jesus, a different Jesus to the one they knew in Jerusalem. A Jesus who apparently is not bound by the laws of Physics.

I have lived in Jerusalem - the place of connection and certainty, and I have lived in Emmaus - the place of new revelation and understanding. However I think most of my life is spent on the road, journeying between the two. I feel content in Jerusalem and then something happens and my connection to God is lost. Sometimes I can pinpoint something specific, but most of the time I cannot.

Life on the road scares me. I want to live in Jerusalem or Emmaus. I want the certainty of the past or the joy of new revelation., but I am learning to be o.k. with the unknowing. Remembering that I have walked this path before makes it easier to journey this time. I am learning that the absence of God on the road can be a sacrament - a visible sign of Divine grace. The grace to allow us to stumble, change and grow. The grace that chooses to journey along with us incognito. The grace that speaks through the mouths of strangers. The grace that invites us into maturity. The grace that empathizes with us feeling abandoned by God because He has felt the same. 'My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?'

Where are you? Jerusalem, Emmaus? On the road? 
How do you feel about where you are?

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