Writer Elaine Wainwright shared this text something like this, and it spoke to me. The story’s beginning “immediately grounds the people in the material of the road, the distance and immediacy of all that has just happened.” Two of Jesus’ disciples are walking together on the road from Jerusalem to the nearby village of Emmaus. The evangelist does not initially name the two disciples so that they could be any disciple, male or female. We can all enter this story in the corporeality of our bodily experience.
Then another traveler joins the two disciples on their Emmaus journey, and he asks what they are discussing. The narrator tells the reader that this fellow traveler is Jesus, but the disciples do not recognize him.
This raises the issue of seeing. The disciples see the person but do not see his identity. This can prompt us to reflect on our facility for seeing. How much do we take for granted without seeing? How might our relationships change with a new seeing?
God’s creations are wonderfully and fearfully made. When God creates something, it is not by chance but planned out perfectly. That does not mean one’s life will be perfect…it does mean God sees us as wonderfully made. This is good news, especially when this mad, evil, sad world and those in it can deem you ugly, unfit, flawed, and so much more. All of God’s Creation is wonderful. God looks upon Creation as precious and has innumerable thoughts toward us. When you look at your neighbor, those with whom you come in contact, what would it be like to see them all with a new lens? A lens which overlooks outward appearance and embraces the heart of those on the same path we call life. You, yes you, are valued, seen, and please know that you are loved.
The two travelers, one of whom we learn is Cleopas, tell their new companion the story of Jesus of Nazareth. Their account of Jesus holds together the human and the holy. Jesus is placed in a geographic location — being of Nazareth, a small village in Galilee, and the disciples call him a prophet because of what he said and did before his death.
The two men were shocked that Jesus (the stranger on the road) did not know all that was going on in the town. They asked Jesus, “Where have you been? Are you not from around here?” And after their questioning and sharing Jesus’ story of the crucifixion, they turn around and invite the stranger to dinner. They welcome Jesus as an unknown person to sit at the table of blessings and unconditional Love. Saying we don’t know you, not sure where you came from, but you are welcome to share your presence with us here. People of the Living God, this is what is called radical hospitality. As it was offered to Jesus, please know that your Conference Staff extends our hospitality and revolutionary love to each of you.
We can allow our hearts to burn within us as we walk with the Risen One and have our eyes opened by words and actions of gratitude. In the simple but sacred ritual of breaking and sharing bread in hospitality, they Saw the Risen One, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Their eyes were opened. They had a new lens to see Love in the flesh.
At the heart of the Emmaus story is an urging towards deeper faith and connection to Jesus Christ: to recognize and discern, not just to see in the instant… Like Cleopas and our companions, we need to open our eyes to what is before us and what is deep within us, knowing that our output in society can reflect our input and internal battles. Not only do all of us need to see others who are on this journey called life with us. There is a deep need for you, me, and us to see our value, gifts, and talents and love ourselves as much as God loves us. God looked at you with a wide lens that surpassed the surface and said that you are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of the Holy One.