A journey without distance

Luke 24:13-35

Do you remember that old standard, written by Duke Ellington and Bob Russell, and covered by Etta James and Louis Armstrong, and more recently by Tony Bennett and Michael Buble, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” These lines sound strangely familiar: “Thought I’d go to the club.  Made it far as the door.” 

Now I don’t think we do a lot of clubbing here at South Congregational Church, but it is true that we and most of our friends on Cape Cod, “Don’t get around much anymore.”  My world is pretty much a triangle from our home in Centerville off 28 to Matt and Ingrid’s in Osterville off Bumps River to Craigville and Covell’s Beach, and an off hour visit to the church. I’ve ventured to the bank and the Alltown gas station, and that’s about it. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”

Today’s scripture takes place on a long walk from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus.  It’s Easter Day, the day of resurrection, and two of Jesus’ followers are taking the seven mile trip back home.  They are confused and weary as they walk along.  

The last week has turned everything upside down, and nothing’s certain anymore. The joyous crowd on Palm Sunday, and their dream of Jesus taking power and creating  a new world order.  The growing tension and conflict in the city, with sides being drawn, and the Romans ready to pounce at the least sign of social unrest.  The arrest and crucifixion, and their own abandonment of their teacher.  And then, the amazing news from Peter, John, Mary of Magdala and her friends – something they couldn’t verify personally – that the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive.

They are joined  on their walk by a stranger who seems initially to know nothing about current events but then shares the big picture of God’s vision for history, opening them to the spiritual and moral arc that will outlast every Caesar, Herod, dictator, and compromised religious leader.

The two hour walk has been long – yet they are hopeful as they hear the stranger’s words.  Though they are tired, they invite him for supper, and then as he says a prayer, praising the creator of bread and wine, their eyes are opened, and they see him as he is – the Risen Jesus.

Though we don’t get around much these days, we can identify with this journey story.  You see, we can all take a journey without distance.  We can be transformed – and see the world with new eyes – without leaving our homes.

I suspect our eyes have been opened over the past two months – the impossible has occurred – the greatest nation in the world has been brought to its knees by a virus. Though we speak words such as “we’re all in this together,” it is clear that old patterns of injustice are still at work – the rich will get richer, and the poor will continue to struggle to stay safe and to obtain their daily bread.  We weary of the bickering and bloviating at the highest levels of government, and states having to set up James Bond schemes to get face masks for physicians and nurses.

And, our eyes have been opened to other things – the simple acts of kindness from neighbors, the importance of store clerks, farm workers and letter carriers, the risks taken by doctors and nurses, the dedication of first responders and truck drivers.  Crises can bring out the worst in us and also the best.  

I thank our church for increasing financial support for local missions to families and the homeless community, and for 15 large bags of clothing from the Thrifty Niche to ensure dignity and health to our vulnerable neighbors.

Our eyes have been opened to goodness and grace.

As I see this story, it is an invitation to see God right where we are – to have our eyes opened to holiness in our easy chairs and kitchens. To recognize that even in our living rooms, we are standing on holy ground.

The two friends saw Jesus because of an act of hospitality. Tired as they were, they would not have seen him unless they invited him in for supper.  

Everyday, even in our homes, or walking the down the hallway of our apartment building, or driving to the market, and shopping, gloved and masked, we encounter angels unaware.  We see Jesus in all his disguises. Even sheltering in our homes, we may behold holiness as we view a White House news conference and pray the for the reporters, scientists, and political leaders.  We may encounter divinity in the letter carrier, the neighbor walking her dog, a solitary pilgrim on the beach…when we open our eyes, our vision changes – from “God was in this place – and I did not know it” to “God is in this place – hallelujah, she is here with me.”

New Testament scholar Marcus Borg tells the story of arriving late in Jerusalem and then traveling to Emmaus.  By the time Borg and his friends arrived, everything was shuttered.  But, a resident of the village told Borg, “Don’t worry, there’s another Emmaus a few miles down the road.”  Borg concludes that Emmaus can be everywhere – revelation is not limited to our church sanctuary, a holy book, or encounters with holy people.  God reveals Godself in every meal, every encounter, every face, in the osprey and the ground hog, in the canary and the canine, in the cat and the caterpillar, in the citizen and the immigrant. You will find God today – in the breaking of the bread here online and God’s nurture at your home this evening.  Open your heart, welcome God in, and you will be on holy ground