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Road to Emmaus

By Rebecca Riggs, Communications Manager – Office of the Synod, Uniting Church in Queensland.

What seems a very long time ago I was the sort of heartbroken you can only be in your early 20s – sitting by the edge of the road waiting for a bus. Everything was a bit blurry in the midst of my struggle and I couldn’t think or see straight or hear clearly. A group of young people walked past – energetic and joyous. I hunkered down away from the joy but must have flicked my eyes toward them. ‘God loves you!’ one young woman called out and I shrugged and looked away embarrassed by the connection. At the time I didn’t feel like it meant a thing, I didn’t feel happier or more free, I didn’t feel more loved or better in any way. I admit I might even have been annoyed by her casual joy – she didn’t know what was going on for me, she didn’t know just how broken my heart was or how lost I felt.

And yet…  I remember that moment to this day … it was a flash of a bright lamp, a taste of wondrous salty salt.

Sometimes Jesus is walking with us, but we do not recognise him.

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. [Luke 24: 13 – 17 NRSV]

I can only imagine how heartbroken and lost the followers of Jesus might have felt after the crucifixion. Their hopes of a redeemed Israel had not been fulfilled in the way they expected. Their own church priests and leaders had handed Christ over to a bloody and brutal torture and death. How could ‘Hosanna’ have turned to ‘Crucify him’? They seem astounded and confused by the stories of resurrection, not yet willing to hope, not yet able to understand.

It is not always easy to speak about the things we do not understand or to ask the stupid questions, but I love how often the disciples do that – it makes me feel much better! I really wish I was with Cleopas and his friend on that road – 7 miles, so maybe 2-3 hours of listening to Jesus. Jesus brings to them (and to me when I can hear) insight into the bigger picture, new connections and a new perspective, a new direction from which to see our life and our experiences. We are all of us sometimes ‘foolish and slow of heart’ but Christ continues to tell me the Truth in so many different ways each day.

This story reminds me to seek God in all things and in all circumstances, particularly when I am heartbroken, weary, or lost, because God is there whether I can see or not. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, [ Jeremiah 29:13 NIV]. That takes open spaces in the busy day – intentional spaces between tasks and words and breaths – a pause to notice who is by my side and to take note of what I hear. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us – ‘We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.’

Finally I give thanks for that young woman’s joy and hope and the choice to call out the truth into someone else’s despairing moment. I hope I am sometimes brave enough to do just that, to recognise Christ’s presence and to celebrate it within challenge and struggle and also of course in times of ease and joy. The two men finally recognise Christ as he vanishes from sight and they share the excitement – ‘Were not our hearts burning within us on the road, while he was opening the scripture to us?’ [Luke 24:32]

So with a burning heart I simply repeat her words – God loves you!

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