April 6, 2008


We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel . – Luke 24: 21

A funny thing happened on the way to Emmaus. This story is not about dramatic revelation, about great saints (we’re only given one name), or about exotic places or people. It is about ordinary despair & disappointment. It is about bumping into a stranger on the way to work, about sitting down at a table & sharing a meal. It’s about our commonplace lives as we go through the motions, vaguely wondering where God is in all of this.

A couple of obscure, down-in-the-mouth followers of Jesus are trudging along a dusty road. Their conversation is full of despair & discouragement: life is a burden & doesn’t live up to its promises. They are not just on the road to Emmaus but on the road of life & have just experienced one more hurt, one more let down. When they meet the stranger, he asks them about their conversation & they recite their woes.

Then the two men add their disappointment: “We were hoping ….” Hoping for what? For answers to their questions, the same things we all hope for in life. Where is God? Does anything make sense? Why should I have this sickness or betrayal or accident or death of a loved one? Why don’t I have some sign that God is near?

We are all on that same road of life: some just beginning, some in the middle, & others near the end. Suddenly, in the midst or our perplexity comes the stranger with the holes in his hands who shares Himself with us. That is the point of the story. God IS here, but we don’t always know it. Here, the recognition comes with the simple breaking of bread. Here’s a story of how it came to another person.

Tom Long was on a plane headed home on a plane from a Conference & found himself sitting next to an older man who had also been at the same Conference. They struck up a conversation & at one point the old man told Tom that he had several children, one of them a son in his 30’s who was confined to a nursing home. He had been injured in an auto accident several years before & was in a permanent comatose state. The man startled Tom when he said, “We stopped loving our son. We visited him every week because it was our duty as parents, but love is a reciprocal relationship, giving & receiving. Our son could neither receive nor give.

One day when we went for a visit, we were surprised to find that he already had a visitor who we didn’t know. He was a stranger to us. It turned out he was a communion minister from the local parish who routinely visited patients in the nursing home. We saw him talking to our son like they were having a conversation. Then he took out a Bible & read my son a psalm – as if he could appreciate a psalm. They he said a prayer & gave him communion as if my son could appreciate either. Then it dawned on me that the man saw my son not simply through clinical eyes, but through the eyes of faith; he treats my son as a child of God.”

This was a moment of grace for the man with the son. The communion minister was the stranger on the road to Emmaus, revealing the presence of God, who loves us deliriously & cares about us. Sometimes, it’s a matter of practice to discern Him. The stranger, who is no stranger, is there in all the routine goings & comings on our road of life. We’re just too preoccupied with our own worries to notice. AMEN!