Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 8 May 2011
Acts 2:14, 22-33; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35
The disciples on the road to Emmaus are in a very dark and gloomy place. They are depressed and confused, their hopes dashed. It had all seemed so clear to them only a week before. They had committed their lives to following this amazing man who clearly was the long awaited messiah but his crucifixion had suddenly and cruelly crushed their expectations. The narrative by which they made sense of Jesus’ life, and by implication their own, has completely unraveled. They are lost. The stranger who joins them slowly but surely pieces the story together for them, giving them a new way to look at the devastating events that have occurred. When he breaks the bread, the insight that has slowly been dawning bursts into consciousness, and they recognize the resurrected Jesus. They are so energized that they run back into Jerusalem to share the good news with the others.
A few weeks later, when Peter stands up to preach at Pentecost, he is able to proclaim the story of Jesus convincingly, drawing upon the Old Testament to give his hearers a coherent account of God at work through Jesus. He is also able to invite his hearers to become a part of that story. What the disciples had been unable or unwilling to understand before Jesus’ death has gradually crystallized into the Easter narrative, proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They have moved from the place of confusion to where they understand the story of God’s dealings with his people in a completely different light, not by inventing a new story, but by being led to understand key elements of their old story in a new way. The Emmaus story hints at two vital catalysts for that transformation – reflection on Scripture and meeting the risen Christ through the communal breaking of break.
In the Epistle reading too, Peter exhorts his readers to live lives that reflect the truth of that story. They have been saved from a dead-end journey and made part of God’s story in Christ. When they remember who they are, where they have come from, where they are going, and what God has done for them in Christ, then they can live the lives that God intends for them.
Sometimes it seems easy to do that: we recognize God’s presence in our lives and can make some sense out of the difficulties that confront us. At other times it is harder to trace the narrative thread that gives us hope and suggests meaning for our lives. I think that a fair bit of our lives is lived on the Emmaus road. The resurrection has already happened, but we don’t ‘feel’ it, we can’t make sense of things. The disciples realized, looking back, that their hearts had recognized something when Jesus was walking with them as a stranger, even though it had not penetrated to full consciousness. The psalm links the Lord’s counsel with the heart’s instruction. In bed at night, when it is so easy to be overcome with worries, we too can learn to listen to God speaking through the heart. In a time of darkness and confusion, be attentive to the ‘heart burning within’; Jesus may well be walking alongside you, but as a stranger. Walk patiently, open to the stirrings of your heart and receptive to the moment of insight when it comes. And trust with the psalmist that God will show you the path to life.