a brief reflection on Luke 24:13-35 offered before our potluck luncheon last Sunday. During the meal we all shared stories of a journey or a meal that was revelatory or strengthening.
by Ellen Sims
Two metaphors are tugging at one another in this story. The Christian life is the journey and the meal, movement and stasis. Just as Jesus walked along the road to Emmaus with Cleopas and another unnamed person, so we can feel accompanied through our lives by the spirit of God. Just as Jesus was made known to the disciples in the breaking of bread, so we can experience God’s presence when we share bread with others. We recognize Jesus in the everyday journeys we make in life. And we recognize Jesus in the everyday meals of life.
We might have preferred a post-resurrection story where Jesus enters grandly on a golden cloud amid trumpet fanfare—or at least, as in Matthew’s Gospel account that we read Easter Sunday, a dazzling angel who stuns the soldiers prior to Jesus’s first appearance to the women. But Luke’s first sighting of the risen Jesus is simple, ordinary, pedestrian, if you will. He revealed himself not in some demonstration of magic or might but in the sharing of a simple meal.
Jesus comes to us . . . along life’s journey and amid life’s everyday routines God is known to us . . . through our traveling companions and our basic human hungers.
The holy is experienced by us as we move forward into new territory. And as we repeat, over and over, the daily rituals that feed our bodies and souls:
on the road and at the table
in plain conversation and sacred words of blessing
among strangers and with dear friends
in times of grief and days of celebration.
Jesus comes to us . . . God is made known to us . . . the Spirit of love and life is active in us . . . when, as Cleopas expressed it, our hearts are burning, when the familiar scriptures are opened to us afresh. Sometimes our sadness prevents us from seeing Jesus and BEING Jesus for those needing hope and help. Sometimes fear clouds our vision. But as we travel through life, as we receive nourishment to continue, this story emphasizes not only Jesus’s ongoing presence but also the necessity for companions on the road and at the table.
Here is a balance needed in our spiritual lives—to move forward so we experience new vistas and resist getting stuck in religious thought that came become idolatry and also as we remain grounded in traditions and rituals that form us even when we reshape and extend them. Our habits of prayer, for instance, become a default setting. When we’re overwhelmed by the unexpected and unwelcomed change, we have words and ways that center us. Here’s the rhythm of religion: repeating stories and rites of old while forging ahead into the ever-newness of God.
Where are you now in your spiritual life? Journeying out beyond the familiar or finding comfort in the familiar? I hope at Open Table you have opportunities to travel new roads and to eat a familiar meal.
Below is a prayer I offered at last night’s rally and candlelight vigil to uphold the Affordable Care Act:
God of health and wholeness,
May our hearts be healed with the compassion that Jesus demonstrated, he who turned no one away because of a preexisting condition, not even the man blind from birth. May our actions reflect the justice of Jesus, he who restored the lepers’ health as well as their place in the community. And so we pray not only for the healing of frail, injured, and ill bodies and minds—but also for right priorities, just laws, and sensible processes to reduce the virulence of prejudice, stigma, ignorance and greed. Amen