I was deeply drawn to the story that was the central text of my pastor’s sermon from Easter of the Road to Emmaus. So much so that I bought a book by my friend Henri Nouwen entitled "With Burning Hearts: A
Meditation on the Eucharistic Life". I have had for a couple of years a print of theRembrandt painting The Supper at Emmaus on my desk. The painting features Jesus with the two travelers and a waiter. So, I have imagined often what it must've been like to sit with Jesus and to hear him share God's eternal love story from Genesis to the present. And how the two disciples must've felt when they realized that it was Him. [There's also a painting of the same scene by Caravaggio, an Italian artist in the 1600s, that was created about 4o years prior to Rembrandt's and has a very different look and style].
The gospel account in Luke 24 is descriptive enough to show us the power of the Word and the presence of Jesus. And this helps us as we celebrate and remember during communion each week. As the two disciples recognized Jesus as he was giving thanks and breaking bread, we are reminded that "Eucharist" means literally "act of thanksgiving" and the heart of our celebration and remembrance is being thankful. In calling us to "do this in remembrance of me" Jesus calls us to a life of gratefulness. And a life where we are continuously aware of our role in the sacred story of God's redemption, motivated by love. Without the word (and sacrament) that keeps liftingus up as God's chosen people, we remain, or become, small people, stuck in the complaints that emerge from our daily struggle to survive.
"Without the word that makes our hearts burn, we can't do much more than walk home, resigned to the sad fact that there is nothing new under the sun. Without the word, our life has little meaning, little vitality, and little energy. Without the word we remain little people with little concerns who live little lives and die little deaths." (Nouwen)
This story of the road to Emmaus shows us that Jesus desires to come to us, to give us the word spoken and explained. He desires to join us on the road, to travel with us, to remind us of our part in the big story. And to come to us in the breaking of the bread. Whether in our corporate worship, a small group or individually, we need the presence of Jesus and his words and explanations every day. This presence will allow us to let go of our hardened hearts and become grateful.
The two disciples are drawn in to the larger story as Jesus explains what is really going on. Without the word, our life has little meaning. But as we open ourselves to the Spirit living in us and the Word being spoken and explained to us, we overflow with meaning and purpose and a part to play in God’s eternal love story. Look for Jesus to appear in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine and in the sharing of the word.