A Sermon From All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Briarcliff Manor
Sermon preached by the Rev. Timothy E. Schenck, Rector, on April 10, 2005.
Based on Luke 24:13-35 (3 Easter, Year A).
Traveling lends itself to conversation. A long car ride is the perfect opportunity to catch up with a spouse or a child. There’s something about the passing countryside that makes a ride on Amtrak conducive to chatting. Parents of teenagers tell me the car is the perfect place to have important talks with their kids. Mostly because they’re trapped. And when I’m not refereeing disputes and threatening to “turn this car right around,” family trips are great opportunities for quality time with our boys.
The story of the Road to Emmaus is a journey narrative. And a perfect opportunity for great conversation. Luke tells us the distance between Jerusalem and Emmaus was “about 7 miles.” Certainly plenty of time for this “stranger” to explain the salvation story to a couple of disciples.
It’s not clear why the disciples were going to Emmaus. Or what was there. Shopping, nightlife. But it doesn’t really matter. Because in a sense, we’re all on the Road to Emmaus. There are moments of our personal and collective journeys when we don’t recognize the presence of Christ in our lives. And yet there’s Jesus, walking with us even when we fail to recognize him. As with the two disciples, he’s in our very midst even when we don’t see or acknowledge his presence.
That great poem St. Patrick’s Breastplate – attributed to the saint himself – is a wonderful reminder of Christ’s presence in our lives. A wonderful reminder of Christ’s place along our journeys. “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.” Our journey itself is the Breastplate. We can walk boldly with faith, despite any obstacles we may encounter along the way, precisely because Christ is behind us and before us and beside us. That’s the power of the resurrection. Whether we recognize or fail to recognize the risen Christ he is with us. Just as he was with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus.
The journey of life is, in its essence, the Road to Emmaus. Our personal destinations are not what matters as much as recognizing Jesus along the journey. The journey itself is the destination. And those we meet en route, our fellow pilgrims, need our love and attention. Life is all about the journey. It’s about entertaining the angels in our midst, recognizing that each person we encounter holds a piece of the risen Christ.
We don’t always get the Road to Damascus. You know, the one where Paul was blinded by a great flash of light as he met Jesus. Our journeys are usually less dramatic, but no less powerful. Because nothing is more compelling than recognizing that we walk with Jesus at each moment, at each step of our lives. The road to Emmaus reflects the ordinariness of our journey. God’s entrance into the world in human form, his cross and resurrection all sanctify the ordinary. Because the risen Christ walks with us throughout the mundane, all is extraordinary. There is no ordinary life. There is no ordinary existence. There is no ordinary time. All is blessed and infused with the spirit of God. And that’s the miracle of the journey.
Coming face to face with the risen Christ is the equivalent of coming face-to-face with God. The disciples along the Road to Emmaus experienced this. But the Easter miracle is that this is not limited to the first Christians, to the actual witnesses of Christ. It’s not a matter of being in the right place at the right time. They’re not “luckier” than the believers to follow or somehow more blessed. We too come face-to-face with Christ. Jesus is made known to the disciples in the breaking of the bread, just as he is made known to us in the breaking of our communion bread. The presence of Christ transcends the experiences of the first disciples. And it’s why we can say with the utmost conviction that Christ is indeed behind and before and beside us. Which makes the very journey of our lives miraculous.
© The Rev. Tim Schenck 2005