Questions for Reflection
With Brief Excerpts from the Sermon:
Talking With Strangers
April 30, 2017
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Sermon Excerpts & Questions
You know the way to Emmaus? Where do you go to forget? Frederick Buechner sees Emmaus this way. It’s wherever you go to forget. It might be an addiction. It might be an activity — buying a new car, reading trashy novels, binge watching on Netflix, or maybe only talking to our “peeps” – the people from our tribe. Funny thing. Have you ever noticed, when we go to our Emmaus, we’re leaving something that we can’t quite leave. It’s like being on the I-695 loop forever. Never really arriving. Never really leaving. Just repeating, a negative loop from which escape (or exit) seems impossible.
Questions: What does Emmaus represent for the city of Baltimore? Its residents, rich or poor, or somewhere in between? What do you make of the population decline in Baltimore City?
Could it be that if Jesus comes to us under the signs of bread, or wine, or water, or as a vine and its branches – many of which you could probably find at home or in your garden — could he also come to us as a stranger? And I mean by that a stranger in the most radical sense possible: An Other so profoundly unlike our ordinary experience that we are, in some way, turned aside from what we take as the only path given to us, to an alternative possibility which we had not considered? That in some way, Our Stranger from Heaven opens us up to a resurrection reroute?
You know how the GPS system works: You get going down the wrong road and the GPS system doesn’t say, “You idiot, you’re going the wrong way!” Maybe it should. But it doesn’t. The screen goes blank, as if it’s in a strange land, and it says, “Rerouting” – and that’s the grey space of being a stranger in a strange land.
Maybe today’s text is giving us a resurrection reroute – and that grey place is where we do some thinking out loud.
Questions: What do “resurrection reroutes” look like in life? Relationships? Politics? Church? How do we know they are “resurrection” journeys? Can we know?
Maybe that’s what we are – beggars for God. Maybe we should carry cardboard signs out of church this morning, with the words, “Come into my home you poor, you tired, you weary, you downtrodden, you persecuted. Take shelter in my house and sit at my table. Stay with us for a while. Let us break bread together. God bless you!” It would be a foreign tongue in America’s political and economic streets. A reroute of resurrection proportions.
Think of it – Presbyterians, cardboard signs in hand, panhandling, pleading with the poor, for the least of these, begging, and imploring that we might be givers of bread and shelter to strangers in a strange land.
It might even be a strange tongue in church.
But, then again, we talk with strangers here . . . strangers we have come to know as friends. Even God.
Questions: How does this image strike you? Have you seen anything like this before? If so, where? If not, is it possible? If so, what would it look like? Or what would it not look like?