Sunday, April 26 – Reading: Luke 24:13-35
Let’s think for a few moments about the story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus. Do you remember their marvelous response after figuring out that they had been walking with Jesus all day? Did you catch it? Thinking back, the travelers said this: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
“Were not our hearts burning within us?” What a thing to realize: that what you needed most had been beside you and that the sense in your heart had been right. “Where not our hearts burning within us?”
Now, let’s not be mistaken, the two travelers had done a good job on the road. They displayed a lot of courage.
They were willing to welcome a stranger into their conversation. They were honest about their disappointment. They admitted their astonishment at how things had unfolded in Jerusalem. They didn’t pretend to be in control. And notice that they were willing to listen to this stranger. They recognized his wisdom even if they didn’t recognize his face. And they showed hospitality. Yes, the two travelers had done a pretty good job on the road.
But it was only after the opportunity had come and gone. Only after the thing they wanted had slipped from their grasp without them knowing what they had. Only after the stranger broke bread, prayed and vanished. Only then did they realize who had been with them all along. And they looked back and they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us?”
This isn’t uncommon. It’s usually after the great adventure that we realize how alive we felt—how our perspective on things had changed. I have a vague childhood memory of being on a family trip when our car broke down on some remote road between Kenora and Winnipeg. Cellphones didn’t exist. It was summer. It was hot. The car had no AC. The bugs were so bad we couldn’t open the windows.
A passerby said he would call a tow-truck when he got to the next town. The tow-truck never came. The sun went down. There was no joy, only worry. But after—“were not our hearts burning within us?” Didn’t we learn something about what was essential? Didn’t we end up experiencing the hospitality of strangers? Didn’t it change who we were? Didn’t those two days leave an impression unlike any other pair of days?
We are all on the road. We are living with the loss of what was and the anxiety of an uncertain future. And we are tired of it! We want to arrive. We want normal restored. We want . . . but we are on the road.
Here’s the question the text puts before us today: When we look back, where will we see that God was present in these moments? When we can once again break bread together, when we can once again gather and pray, what will we realize about the now? When we look back on this, what will see? What parts of our present reality will we identify as being of God? How has God been giving us a new perspective? To what part of this experience will we point to and say “were not our hearts burning within us?”
The story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus encourages us be hopeful about the future. It also invites us to carry the expectation that God is teaching us something right now. It suggests we might sense it in our hearts. Amen.