Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
One of the worst feelings I have ever felt is not knowing where the path I am on is going to lead. When we are children we seem to have dreams that reach to the stars and year-by-year the dreams seem to become less broad and more confined. Each year the dreams begin to look more reasonable and less fantastic. Occasionally something happens that gives us a chance to dream again, but often we get stuck in a rut of responsibility. I know many of you have felt this at some point in your life, at times the dreams are taken away because of the infamous glass ceiling, other times we just simply stop dreaming because it is easier to settle.
I want us to remember our dreams for a moment. The dreams that caused us to reach out in our lives, the dreams that caused us to fall in love and to have children, I want us to remember the dreams that each of us have had but have possibly pushed to the back of our minds because they were not practical. I also want us to remember just what caused us to leave those dreams behind in the first place.
I know it seems to be a weird exercise. It may possibly cause us to become a bit uncomfortable. I want us to consider this because dreams are important, often those dreams we once had were movements of the Sprit of God directing us to walk farther down the road. It becomes uncomfortable for us to consider these unrealized dreams because it causes us to consider for a moment that we may have been grieving the Spirit of God.
This is just the sort of feeling that I imagine these two disciples of Jesus were having. They were people with dreams and ideas about their future. But all of a sudden the dreams they had evaporated before their eyes. They saw in the man, Jesus, the freedom of Israel. They had become His disciples and were with the others in the upper room mourning the loss of their friend. They had seen Jesus hung on the tree, they had witnessed Him being buried and they had seen the stone rolled before the entrance to seal off the living from the dead. They had heard the testimony of the Mary who excitedly claimed that Jesus was not in the tomb. They had listened the breathless statement from John and Peter as they confirmed that the tomb was empty.
The tomb was empty. For them at that moment that fact that we hold so dear to our hearts was the symbol of lost dreams. So they began to walk home. There was nothing left for them. There was no body to mourn, nothing. They pursued a dream and everything they thought they were pursuing suddenly fell out from under their feet. So they walked.
The translators say that Emmaus is about seven miles from Jerusalem but the problem is that the actual location is not known for sure. Some of the ancient manuscripts actually allude to the possibility that the town could be as close as seven but as far as thirty miles away. I do not mention this to dispute the accuracy of the translation but show us that this was a long walk that would take the majority of a day. A walk long enough to think and to begin processing things, a trip that would allow them to talk through some of the events and try to make some sense out of it. They walked and talked to each other. They walked and considered what they would do now that they had spent the past few years pursuing something that seemingly ended up empty.
While they were walking, talking, and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?”
These disciples seemingly lost it all, and they were blessed with a gift of not recognizing Jesus right away. Yes I say they were blessed with a gift of not recognizing Jesus. I say this for a reason; by not being able to recognize Jesus right away they were able to speak freely as broken humans like most of us. They were able to shed off all the masks of who or what they were supposed to be and were able to be real. They were able to speak about the events, not having any answers and not having to make any defense for what they beloved, and could just speak openly and freely about what they hoped for and what they had lost. And Jesus walked with them and listened as they told Him the story of the mighty prophet in word and deed that they had followed and how now they are confused because the tomb was empty.
They were blessed with a gift. There as they walked along that road they were able to speak clearly their dreams and how their dreams became foggy and clouded. They were able to express the pain they felt as the chief priest handed their friend over to the authorities to have him executed, they could honestly express how they failed their messiah as they stood not knowing what to do next, and then tell Jesus why they were walking back to Emmaus. They were kept from recognizing Jesus so that they could freely express their hearts, so that they could confess how they too have grieved the Spirit and have lost a portion of their faith. They spoke openly and freely because as far as they could tell Jesus was just another traveler that did not know what was going on and it did not really matter.
Jesus listened and walked with them. Jesus could have revealed Himself immediately but instead He listened. That is a gift. You see Jesus walks with us on our journeys even though we may not recognize that He is there. Even when we cannot see past the clouds that hem us in, He is walking with us. He does not expect us to have every answer to every theological nuance, he just wants to listen and walk with us.
They did not know Jesus at that moment, yet there He was. This speaks volumes. As we as a culture enter into a new era of history, an era that many call post modern or post Christian, this speaks directly to our condition. We in this Meeting and others throughout the church have had dreams and ideas of what the church should be and do yet all around us we see the world seemingly slip away out from under our feet. We are those disciples walking to Emmaus unable to see that Jesus is walking with us and about to reveal something amazing soon. Jesus is walking with us listening to our pleas and prayers waiting for us to calm ourselves so we can listen.
There is a second view that we can take. We are entering into a new era and maybe we are walking because the church we thought we were getting into has turned out to be something totally different than we hoped. We are walking away from faith because we just do not see any hope in it any more. Maybe we have turned our back on God even because we placed all of our hope in Him, and He seemingly let our hearts get hurt. So we are walking venting our frustrations out to the air, screaming our pain to the darkness of the night yet even there Jesus is walking right there by us letting us speak and waiting till we calm ourselves so he can reveal something amazing soon.
This new age of history is frightening because we really do not know what will come of it. Where will the church be? And where will we as believers be? Will we fade away into obscurity? Or is there something else around the bend? We are the disciples walking to Emmaus. But we are also bearers of the Light of Christ. For those that do not have faith we bear the Light for them to see, but to be able to speak to them we first have to walk along the road with them, meet them where they are at and just keep walking as long as it takes. Not arguing or defending a position but listening, hearing them pour out their souls so that after a while they are able to calm down and let God reveal something to them.
Jesus walked with them and let them talk. They spoke of the rise and fall of their prophet and their dreams, and then there is an opening for Him to speak. He opened the scriptures up to them, beginning with Moses and all the prophets; He interpreted to them the things spoken about Him in scriptures. He explained to them in a way they could understand. Starting from the beginning and building from there. He did not just jump in and begin to debate, but listened first. This tells us a great deal about Loving God, Embracing the Holy Sprit, and Living the Love of Christ with others. It speaks about prayer, worship and ministry. Before we are able to pray and hear clearly from Christ we first have to remove the distractions. Jesus let the disciples vent before he spoke. We too need to be real getting our concerns out of our minds and off of our chests so we can then relax and listen to the Word of the Lord. This also speaks to us about ministry, to be able to encourage others in their faith we need to allow them to speak first, listen to them and only after we listen can we begin to speak.
As they neared the village the two disciples invited Jesus to stay with them. They invited Him to their homes allowing the conversation to continue. They had walked a great distance with this man they had had a very deep conversation and yet their eyes were still closed, but when Jesus broke the bread and blessed it they knew that something amazing happened before their eyes. They had seen the risen Lord, the dream they once had had died but now it was resurrected into something new.
I began today speaking of broken dreams, or dreams that various aspects of life caused to become unobtainable. These men lost their dreams but the power of the resurrected Jesus caused those dreams to take on a new form. Something changed on that walk down the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It was on that journey that they began to realize that their dreams were not God’s dreams, that in their zealous faith they had skewed the truth of the Gospel to make it fit into their own personal ideologies, but God revealed to them the truth along that path.
Our wisdom can only take us so far, eventually we have to let go of our dreams so that God can convert them into something greater. The dream they had was a restored Israel, but God converted that dream to be even greater, not only Israel but also the entire world and universe. This is where I want us to examine our dreams and our ideologies. I want us to be honest with ourselves and be willing to admit that we in our dreaming and in our unachieved dreams have allowed ourselves to take control of things and have not allowed God to work through us. I want us to examine these things, speak them out to God and get them off of our chests but after that let us listen to the still small voice of the Lord our ever-present teacher and guide. Let us let Jesus Himself open up before us the amazing possibilities that He has been preparing us for. And let us in this time of Open Worship journey down that path with Jesus.