Recall the familiar Easter story of the travellers on the road to Emmaus. Their world had just been turned upside down and inside out. Jesus of Nazareth, the one who had been sent by God, who had displayed God’s glorious power, spoke God’s truth, and taught the people God’s ways, had been cruelly killed by the Roman authorities, executed in the manner reserved for political agitators – by way of crucifixion. The travellers described him as a “prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…” In fact, they had hoped that Jesus was the promised Messiah – “the one to redeem Israel.” But now he was dead and as they grieved his death, they also grieved the death of their hopes for the ushering in of God’s realm and the deliverance of the people. Indeed their world had turned upside down and inside out.
And then a ‘stranger’ joined up with them as they walked along. This stranger listened to their story of loss and grief and turmoil. And then he proceeded to remind them of the stories of their faith, from Scripture, pointing to the words of ancient prophets and God’s past acts of deliverance culminating in the life and ministry of Jesus. Then as they neared the village of Emmaus, they invited the stranger to stay with them as it was almost evening. And it was there at their home that they recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread, in the sharing of a meal.
Archeologists have not discovered this town of Emmaus. Perhaps the reason for this is that Emmaus is not just one place, but indeed, is ‘every place’. It is a place and a time in which two travellers recognize the risen Christ in their midst; it is a place and a time, in which we recognize the risen Christ travelling with us. it is a journey we all take; and a destination at which we can all arrive. For we have, all of us – every one of us -- travelled a similar route filled with grief or fear or trouble or disappointment or confusion – a route we take in the aftermath of our world, our lives, being turned upside down and inside out. We are sharing such a journey now, as individuals, as congregations, as communities, as nations, as a world while the covid-19 pandemic turns our lives and our world upside down and inside out. The story tells us that in the midst of the pandemic, as in the midst of any hardship we experience, the risen Christ is with us if we have eyes to see.
As Christ did for the travellers to Emmaus, Christ continues to do bringing God’s word of hope; God’s promise of new life; God’s resurrection power to bear upon us. Think of where we see the risen Christ in the midst of this pandemic. Do we recognize Christ in the friend or family member who phones us or FaceTimes us or drops groceries off at our door? Do we recognize Christ in the exhausting and selfless efforts of health care workers treating those afflicted by the covid-19 virus? Do we recognize Christ in those who continue to provide essential services such as grocery store clerks, truck drivers, firefighters and police officers? Do we recognize Christ in those strangers with whom we wait in line standing two metres apart as we do our weekly shopping? Do we recognize Christ within ourselves as we reach out to those in need with concrete assistance or even with a smile or a wave or a kind word to another who must keep his or her distance?
Even as we find ourselves alone and isolated in our homes, the risen Christ is present in Spirit. After the two Emmaus travellers recognized him, Jesus ‘vanished from their sight’. They didn’t need to see him; they knew he was still present to them. In John’s gospel Jesus prays to God for his disciples then, and his disciples now, saying, “Father, I want those you gave me to be with me, right where I am….that your love for me might be in them exactly as I am in them.” (Messenger Bible. John 17:24-25)
In this season of Easter and always may you be comforted, strengthened, encouraged, and uplifted by the presence and the companionship of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.