Tonight, finally, after an entire day of emptiness â€” empty tombs, empty hopes â€” and after an entire day of idle tales and unanswered questions â€” â€śWhy do you seek the living among the dead?â€ť â€” tonight, finally, the risen Christ shows up in the most common place of all â€” at a table â€” to do with us the most common act of all â€” to eat. Tonight, at table, with all the disciples, we recognize Christ as we eat with him and we discover that he has been with us in every story, in every question, in all our emptiness and in every step of our way. This is the central message of Easter: that the Risen Christ is present and brings transforming light, hope and peace in every dark moment of our lives â€” disappointment, disillusionment, defeat, discouragement, despondency, depression, desolation, despair and death.
The road to Emmaus is common to us. Who of us has not looked for escape from an uncomfortable or frightening circumstance? Life frequently presents us with situations without obvious solutions or a clear resolution defined. SĂ¸ren Kierkegaard once observed, â€śLife makes sense backwards, but must be lived forward.â€ť
This certainly was the experience of the disciples in their hasty retreat from the calamities they had witnessed in Jerusalem. We all have our Emmaus. Emmaus was a place to go to escape.
Tonight we are reminded that, with those retreating disciples, Christ meets us without judgment or rebuke on the road to our escape. Hope is a fragile thing. When it withers, it is difficult to revive or re-engage. Iâ€™ve seen it so many times, as life-altering illness erodes hope as it progressively depletes the spiritual reservoir in which hope abides. But I have also witnessed how a companion who joins the journey â€” being present, supportive and attentive â€” can gently rekindle hope. Tonight Christ reminds us that Christian faith is not a destination, but a journey. Unfortunately, some people find that they are on the wrong road.
Today a large number of us believe we are on the wrong road: the wrong road in the way those we have elected to govern or legislate discharge their responsibilities; the wrong road in the way we manage our economy; the wrong road in defining and solving the
problems of immigration and healthcare; the wrong road in the way organized religion is engaged in the big social issues of our day. This Easter many of us find ourselves with these disciples as we run in search of our own Emmaus.
Yet this is what Easter proclaims: That Jesus Christ is precisely with us in those times and circumstances where we flee for escape and safety, even though we may not at first perceive it. Easter emphatically asserts that Christ is with us in our lowest moments and never distant from our most painful experiences. Christ does not wait for us to find him; he joins us as a companion on the road. Through that companionship he helps us retreating disciples to understand that we have not been abandoned, that evil has not yet prevailed, and that death is not yet the victor.
Who would expect Jesus to be walking along a nondescript road in the middle of nowhere? Easter is trying to make it a lot easier for us; Easter urges us to expect the unexpected. Emmaus invites us to expect that God will
indeed seek us and find us; that it isnâ€™t our indomitable faith or our deeply-rooted spirituality that connects us to the risen Christ but rather our openness to the many simple ways in which Christ presence is continually accessible to us through the companionship of others in the ordinary circumstances of our lives. Ordinary circumstances, like when we open ourselves to one another in community. Ordinary circumstances, like when we share a simple meal of bread and wine.
The road to Emmaus may be long and uncertain, but it is not always what it seems. In Christ, you see, we never walk that road alone.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia.