Today’s text involves walking. According to the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology there are at least nine possible locations that are candidates for the Biblical town of Emmaus. We simply don’t know where Emmaus might have been. Emmaus is nowhere precisely because Emmaus is everywhere. Each and every one of us have travelled along the road to Emmaus, our own road.
I love to walk. I spend my walk observing the world around me and my own inner thoughts. I often use the time for reflection, prayer and personal centering, taking in God’s energy of love and sharing it with others. I once came across the saying, “It will be solved in the walking.”
Today’s reflection is based on my thoughts during my very own Emmaus walk. I’ve had invisible company on the Road to Emmaus.
It’s so easy to imagine, those two disciples striding down the Road to Emmaus that we can almost hear them talking, maybe even arguing about what happened. What on earth were they to make of all this! Now, Jesus was gone, and the Roman Empire was still oppressing them, still inflicting such pain and hardship, still killing them. Was it all a mistake? Had they been fooled by some kind of cruel hoax—were they wrong to put their hopes in this man from Nazareth? They had trusted Jesus believed in Jesus, followed Jesus. Their lives had been changed. Jesus had confronted corrupt powers. Jesus had charmed great crowds. Jews and Gentiles alike responded to the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Rich and poor had come to Jesus, believing in Jesus’ healing power. Now Jesus was dead. Some said they’d seen Jesus, alive! were they confused by their own grief? Were they delirious? And what did ‘resurrection” mean?
We can hear these two friends wrestling with each other and with their own hearts on the road that day!
We can imagine the questions they might have had. We can feel the agony they might have experienced. This story of wrestling with unanswerable questions was written at the turn of the first century, but the wrestling continues in the hearts and minds of so many of us.
Just as the first century writer of this story struggled to understand the apparent death of Jesus of Nazareth, perhaps many of us are also struggling to understand many issues we face personally or as a church community. Perhaps we are concern with the survival of the Christianity during this time of decline of the church? I wonder what do people think of us as Christians?
While I was traveling along the road to Emmaus, I was joined by my invisible travel companion called Mahatma Gandhi (not in the flesh). What I read about his life filled my thoughts. Gandhi was a Hindu who studied all the great religions of the world and after completing an exhaustive study of Christianity he came to the conclusion that Christianity was the most compassionate, most loving, most complete form of religion and the best way to encounter the divine, and so he resolved that he would become a Christian. Then he went to church, and in the church, he discovered a great chasm between the teachings of Jesus and the way Jesus’ followers actually lived, and so Gandhi resolved to become a Christian just as soon as he actually met a Christian. So how do people see us? A group who believe in the same things? How about advocates of peace, climate change etc. How are we different.?
Struggling with my thoughts I was by another invisible companion. Her name is Karen Armstrong a theologian; she’s one of the world’s authorities on religion who has written dozens of books on the religions of the world. I learned from her that religion is not about believing things…religion is about behaviour. Religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you do something; you behave in a committed way and then you begin to understand the truths of religion and religious doctrines are meant to be a kind of summons to action; you only understand them when you put them in to practice.
Armstrong, states that “In every single one of the major world faiths, compassion: the ability to feel with the other is the test of any true religion. what has become known as the Golden Rule. “Human heartednesses.”
We are living in a world where religion has been high jacked. We equate faith with believing things as if that is the main thing that we do.
Religious people have become more concerned with being right rather than behaving with compassion. Is Religion failing us at the moment? “Any ideology or religion that doesn’t promote a sense of global understanding and global appreciation of each other is failing the test of our time. How true this is in our current situation today. We are in it together not only locally but globally.” (Karen Armstrong).
“This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.”(Dalai Lama)
This crisis shows us that we are not separate from one another — even when we are living apart. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to exercise compassion and help.
As we travel this road to Emmaus, it becomes less and less important for me to believe in a certain way and vital that we behave with compassion. God is not dead. God is alive and well. God walks with us on the road. God is our companion on the road. Perhaps we will be able to recognize the divine presence that dwells in the stranger and the stranger will be able to recognize the divine presence that dwells in us.
It’s time for us to reclaim the Christianity that has been high-jacked and resurrect compassion so that our faith can be a pathway to peace. Believing that God is alive is not the point. Behaving like God is alive is the beginning of compassion. For those of us who call ourselves Christian, recognising Christ, recognizing the divine in the stranger is the pathway to justice, peace, and mercy.
Through life, I want to walk gently. I want to treat all of life – the earth and its people – with reverence. I want to remove my shoes in the presence of holy ground. As much as possible, I want to walk in peace.
If life is a journey, then how I make that journey and how I walk through life is important.