Monday, May 9, 2011
St. Luke 24: 13-25
Headed to Emmaus, the mood of the disciples could not have been more somber. They had seen their hopes and prayers, their best wishes for a restored Davidic dynasty and for an end to foreign rule of Israel dashed on a hill outside Jerusalem. The man they thought would be king, the rabbi with the healing touch and fire filled words that was welcomed in the city with shouts of Hosanna, was put to death on a wooden cross and, after three days, it seemed all was said and done. The road from Jerusalem was a road back to reality, to whatever each had left behind to follow the carpenter they called Christ. They were men disappointed by the outcome, disappointed by hope and by extension, though they may not have dared voice it, disappointed with God.
Does this not happen in each of our lives? A prayer not answered as we thought, a project that comes to no fruition, the relationship on which we had placed our hopes falters, the new job so full of promise turns out to be a source of stress and despair. Our faith filled prayers and struggle not leading us to the outcome we had envisioned takes a toll on our convictions. Disappointment and perhaps a bit of shock when, despite the prayers, well intentions, love and great faith do not lead to the healing of a loved one, or perhaps as we face the loss of a parent or close friend. We can relate to the disciples in route to Emmaus, sooner or later we all seem to find ourselves in a similar journey.
It is a source of great comfort that Jesus himself came near them, and tough they did not recognize him the journey was changed by his presence. The commiserating over the sad events becomes a conversation about the happenings and they transform from people mourning for Jesus, mourning for lost hope, to people engaged with Jesus; walking and talking with Him. Even as they discussed the Scriptures familiar to them, their hearts burned within and new insights became apparent which they had not considered before. I have to believe that Jesus, that God does this in our very lives, even as we come to difficult times in our journey of faith. When we feel that we are disappointed with God, or that he is disappointed with us, when our hopes seem feeble and our faith less than a mustard seed, Christ still comes near. When we have trouble understanding or believing, God does not abandon us, but even as in this journey to Emmaus, though he was not recognized he comes near!
There are times, much as it was with these disciples that our eyes are veiled and our ears seem to be closed to the love and presence of God in our lives and in the world. Sometimes it is difficult to see past a problem we are having, past a temptation, a blessing or a test. We focus on it almost to the exclusion of all else. More often than not we are caught in mental models which affect the way we perceive reality and the world around us. “
In the words of Peter Senge: “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior”. Perhaps, the disciples were unable to see past the limitations imposed by such and could not recognize the Christ, nor find in the Scriptures they knew the insight to give them hope and renewed faith. We too are limited by our own mental models which color our perception of what is, how things should be, how and why we believe and do the things we do as Christians, as Episcopalians. We would entrap God within our own limitations as if such a thing were even possible or feasible. Fortunately Christ comes to our aid! In his life, parables, ministry, and miracles, he constantly challenged the mental models, the limitations people imposed upon themselves, others, and on the love and mercy of God.
For people who thought they knew all about the sacred, Jesus reframes for them what is allowed on the Sabbath, what kind of prayer is acceptable to God, the Holy One of Israel he called daddy, he included women and outcasts in his inner circle insisting he came to seek the lost. When it came to explaining what the proper place for worship was he told a Samaritan woman it had nothing to do with places but with worship in Spirit and truth. Here on the road to Emmaus he challenges the mental models of the disciples and opens for them the scriptures, so they could see beyond their naïve, parochial triumphalism over Rome , to find the suffering savior, betrayed , crucified but then coming to His Glory. His very presence challenged the limitations imposed by the reality of human death….by the power of God He is risen!!!!
The journey leads the disciples to a table where, as Jesus blesses and breaks bread his atonished travel companions recognize him even as he disappears from their view. For the early Christians this story was often seen as a metaphor for the Eucharist, Jesus opens the Scriptures and blessed the bread! Word and sacrament intimately united in the journey of the Christian. I can think of no greater place to challenge our mental models than at the table of the Lord. Weekly we come looking beyond the physical elements of bread and wine towards a reality they communicate, the body and blood of Christ. Weekly we see across the altar people from all races and persuasions and walks of life eat of the same bread, drink of the cup and, despite their diversity, somehow members of one body, part of the same family, children of God.!
I love this story, it begins with people on a sad journey of disappointment and loss of faith. These are transformed into people walking and talking, engaged with Jesus, people whose hearts are once again warmed with hope, people whose understanding is opened, their eyes recognize Jesus and they become heralds of good news! May it be so in our own lives!