In the Gospel of Luke, we encounter a profound and transformative encounter known as the Road to Emmaus. This narrative, which Pastor Liza taught on this past Sunday, found in Luke 24:13-35, captures the essence of the Christian faith and serves as a powerful allegory for our modern lives. As a progressive Christian church, we believe in exploring the relevance of biblical texts in the context of our contemporary world. In this blog post, we will delve into the Road to Emmaus and uncover its valuable lessons for our spiritual journey today.
The Journey of Disillusionment:
The Road to Emmaus begins with two disciples walking dejectedly, consumed by disappointment and shattered hopes. They had placed their faith in Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, and now their hearts were heavy with grief and confusion. In a world filled with trials, it is easy for us to relate to the disillusionment these disciples felt. We too encounter disappointments, loss, and uncertainty that can shake our faith and leave us searching for answers.
The Encounter with the Stranger:
As the disciples walk, a stranger joins them. Unbeknownst to them, this stranger is Jesus himself, yet their eyes are kept from recognizing him. The conversation that unfolds during their journey becomes a powerful lesson on the transformative power of dialogue. In our modern society, where division and polarization seem rampant, the Road to Emmaus reminds us of the importance of engaging in meaningful conversations with others, even if they hold differing beliefs or perspectives. These encounters have the potential to open our hearts, challenge our assumptions, and transform our understanding.
Opening the Scriptures:
During their walk, the stranger opens the Scriptures to the disciples, explaining the prophecies concerning the Messiah and helping them make sense of the events that had transpired. Today, we have a wealth of knowledge and resources at our fingertips. We can engage in the study of scripture, explore theological ideas, and deepen our understanding of God's message. Just as the disciples experienced enlightenment and clarity through studying the Scriptures, we too can find guidance and revelation when we approach our faith with an open mind and a thirst for knowledge.
The Breaking of Bread:
As the disciples reach their destination, they invite the stranger to join them for a meal. It is during this simple act of breaking bread that their eyes are opened, and they recognize the risen Christ. The Eucharistic symbolism in this narrative emphasizes the significance of communal worship and the sacraments within the Christian tradition. Gathering together as a community, sharing meals, and partaking in the sacraments can nourish our spirits, remind us of Christ's presence, and renew our faith.
Transformed Hearts, Renewed Mission:
Filled with the joy of their encounter, the disciples rush back to Jerusalem to share the good news with the other disciples. Their encounter with the risen Christ has transformed their hearts and rekindled their sense of purpose. Similarly, the Road to Emmaus invites us to reflect on our own faith journeys and consider how encountering the divine can transform us and inspire us to be agents of love, compassion, and justice in the world today.
The Road to Emmaus is a timeless narrative that speaks directly to the human experience, offering valuable insights for our contemporary lives. As a progressive Christian church, we embrace the call to engage with the world around us and draw inspiration from biblical stories like the Road to Emmaus. May we walk together, with open hearts and minds, as we journey on our own roads to Emmaus, encountering the living Christ and sharing the transformative power of the Gospel in our modern world.
In an increasingly interconnected and diverse world, interfaith dialogue has become a pressing need. While some Christians may question the compatibility of engaging with other faith traditions, I firmly believe that embracing interfaith dialogue is not only possible but essential for fostering understanding, promoting peace, and sharing the love of Christ without compromising the Gospel.
Embracing the Great Commandment: As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Engaging in interfaith dialogue allows us to extend this love to people of different faiths, fostering mutual respect and empathy. It is an opportunity to build bridges, break down barriers, and promote harmony in a divided world.
Learning and Growing: Interfaith dialogue provides a unique chance for Christians to deepen their understanding of their own faith. By engaging with others' perspectives and beliefs, we gain fresh insights, challenge our assumptions, and develop a more robust understanding of our own Christian convictions. This enriches our spiritual journey and equips us to articulate our beliefs more effectively.
Demonstrating Christ's Love: Engaging in interfaith dialogue allows us to embody Christ's love and compassion. By listening attentively, valuing others' experiences, and engaging in respectful conversations, we demonstrate the transformative power of Christ's teachings. It is an opportunity to share our faith authentically and, through our actions, invite others to encounter the love and grace of Jesus.
Building Genuine Relationships: Interfaith dialogue provides a platform to forge meaningful relationships with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs. By engaging in dialogue, we discover our shared values, aspirations, and concerns, fostering connections based on respect and mutual understanding. These relationships become avenues for witnessing Christ's love in both words and actions.
Strengthening Christian Witness: Engaging in interfaith dialogue enables us to represent Christ faithfully in a pluralistic society. By demonstrating a willingness to listen, learn, and engage, we break down stereotypes and misconceptions that can hinder effective evangelism. We become ambassadors of reconciliation, reflecting the reconciling work of Christ and presenting a winsome witness to those of other faiths.
As Christians, we are called to engage in interfaith dialogue without compromising the Gospel. By embracing such conversations, we demonstrate Christ's love, foster understanding, and strengthen our own faith. Through interfaith dialogue, we can build bridges, establish meaningful relationships, and contribute to a more harmonious and peaceful world. Let us approach interfaith dialogue with humility, grace, and a firm foundation in the Gospel, knowing that engaging with others' beliefs does not dilute our faith but rather enriches it and magnifies the transformative power of Christ in our lives.
As you know, we have begun an in-depth study/discussion of Mark’s story of Jesus. Starting with this blog, I will post a short reflection drawn from Mark’s text that will seek to connect to our own lives (echoing the comment made a couple generations ago by Karl Barth, to read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other).
Mark refers to his message as “Good News” or “Gospel” (evangelion). In so doing he began a new genre of literature, but he borrowed the concept from the political world of his day. This word was a technical term for news of a victory, usually and paradigmatically, a military victory.
In the Roman empire it was associated with political news and propaganda, for example, used to announce the birthdays of emperors. Mark’s Good News is a narrative sermon (not simply a collection of historical facts and summaries), and the question it gives the reader is not only what we should know, but how we should live. The language (like much of theology) is not only informative, but also formative, and therefore performative. And this inform—form—perform —inform… relational dynamic is ongoing, a virtuous circle meant to fuel the disciple’s life.
When Jesus calls his first disciples, he does not go to the usual suspects: teachers and religious leaders, or wealthy and powerful men. He does not go to the center of cultural, political, and religious power (Judea, Jerusalem, the Temple precincts). Rather, he goes to the margins, the periphery, the “Appalachia” of his time and place, to Galilee, and there enlists four fishermen (Mark 1.16-20). Something the reader cannot help but notice is how abruptly Simon, Andrew, James, and John, drop their nets and follow him. He calls them to follow with the rationale that Jesus will make them “fishers of men” (people). And they leave their businesses and families “immediately” (a word Mark uses 41 times in his Gospel). You can see the father of James and John—Zebedee—slack-jawed and holding the net, staring at his sons as they walk off with this stranger.
Read in the ordinary way, this passage just seems like a clumsy effort to be succinct, and an example of the no frills and fast-paced way Mark presents his story. But perhaps we can see the abruptness of the calling of these first four disciples as a kind of paradigm. After all, we too are called, but are not ready for all that awaits us. How could we be? It does not matter if we grew up in the church, went to Sunday School, got baptized, and spent plenty of time in prayer, worship, and Bible study. When we receive Jesus’ call, we are far from entirely aware of what it means and where it will take us. Like the fishermen, none of us are the “right” kind of people. Jesus’ call is always urgent, and an uncompromising call to break with “business as usual”—the social order and conventions that God broke into history to overturn. Jesus was God’s answer to Isaiah’s yearning and plea to God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” (Isa. 64.1). The Reign of God (“kingdom of God”) inaugurated in Jesus is an abrupt calling in, and upon, our lives too. In his The Cost of Discipleship (p. 61), Dietrich Bonhoeffer notes that the calling of these four men demonstrates Jesus’ authority as transcending conventions and calculations about being “worthy.” He also points out that this story is a reminder that faith (trust) does not precede obedience to Jesus so much as obedience precedes faith. For these fishermen and for us, the question is, Will you follow? It is on the following journey that our faith and trust develop.
In a world with violence and injustice swirling around us at every turn, with claimants to authority beckoning us from every angle, with false and empty enticements of “good news” that abound, it is truly good news that we can grow into a life of trust, grace, love, and power as we journey with the One who calls us each step of the way. Step by step. The song Tú Has Venido a la Orilla (Ceasár Gabaráin, 1979) places us at the Sea of Galilee,
You have come to the lakeshore,
looking neither for wise nor for wealthy,
You only wanted that I should follow.
You know that I own so little,
In my boat there’s no money or weapons,
You’ll only find there my nets and labor.
O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me,
and while smiling, have called out my name.
Now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me.
Now with you I will seek other shores.
Do you hear your name?
Thanks for reading,