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Emmaus – An Experience and a Place; our minster, Rev.David Shearman poses a question

Do you know where Emmaus is?
There is an Emmaus Road, just outside of Pembroke, Ontario.
There is an Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Just outside of Allentown, in the
Lehigh Valley.
If you were to travel today to the Holy Land and to ask to be taken
to Emmaus, you would probably receive a bemused look from your guide.
“Emmaus… yes.” And then you would be taken to a place where, as
your guide would tell you. “Tradition says that this is where Jesus met two
of his disciples and they recognized him in the breaking of bread.”
The problem is that in the Holy Land there are at least nine sites
in and around Jerusalem that lay claim to being Emmaus. Only four of those
sites have any scholarly possibility of being the real Emmaus and none of
these places can be dated further back than the time of the Crusades, about
1000 AD.
There is another site, however, which seems to have been recognized
by the early church. It is called Emmaus-Nicopolis. It fits many of the
scriptural criteria for being the biblical Emmaus. And most importantly, it
has a much longer history, with a church dating back to the fourth century.
Archeologists have discovered the ruins of several churches on the
site, beautiful tile mosaics and, most importantly an outdoor baptistry. The
early church only used outdoor baptistries in places where there was a
bishop in residence and bishops only resided in towns and cities significant
to the faith.
But does our knowing where Emmaus was located really have any
importance to us two thousand years later?
When Luke 24:13-35 carries us back to Easter night and we find
ourselves in the company of two followers travelling away from Jerusalem in
despair or depression or fear because, along with the rest of the disciples,
they (and we) consider the witness of the women an idle tale.
We are content with a dead Jesus.
Upset, yes, angry, a little; but we know what we know: he is dead.
Is it even possible we want him dead because then we can forget all the hard
stuff and all the frightening stuff and all the demanding stuff?
Whatever we are thinking, whatever has brought us here, we are on
the road to Emmaus (which may not even have been a real place) and a
stranger catches up with us. We offer this stranger our story and our
hospitality. But something happens. As we tell the stranger our story, in
return we are given a better story and divine hospitality.
That’s Emmaus. It’s not just a place but an experience. And it is
the defining experience for the Christian.
What this text tells us is how hard it is to trust the word of
someone else, and how essential it is to experience for ourselves the living
presence of Christ. It’s not about memorizing scripture or knowing the
foundational statements of belief. It is being asked to commit ourselves,
instead, to a journey during which we will stop to share bread with a
stranger by the side of a road, and meet the Risen One in person.
That’s where Emmaus is. Right there. Right in the middle of our
daily living.
Then 1 Peter 1:17-23 says it all over again: We know who we are and
whose we are because we experience Jesus present in the way we live with one
another.
Do you see the difference? Our faith lives in each one of us and
shows itself, not in our good deeds, but in how Jesus is present in the way
we live with one another.
I like the way Donald Schmidt, a minister living in Hawaii says it.
The assumption undergirding Peter’s letter is that we were not
ransomed into the servant community in order to talk about theological
conundrums or to attend committee meetings, but to live as people
manifesting truth, love, and obedience.
His understanding of obedience, however, is not the kind of
soldierly obedience which comes to mind. Schmidt draws our the Latin roots
of the word: (from the Latin ob-audire: thoughtful, whole-hearted
listening).
That’s where Emmaus is. It’s not just a biblical place. It is not
just ruins on a dusty road, waiting to be excavated. Emmaus is a place in
our hearts and in our lives. It is a way we are called to relate to each
other and to love and listen to each other. Emmaus is right here.
In the last month the United Church of Canada, the Anglican church,
the Presbyterian church and the Roman catholic Church, along with the
Assembly of First Nations has initiated, along with the Federal Government,
a five year process called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on
residential schools. It is hoped that by allowing those who were hurt by
this experience to tell their stories and to have their hurt acknowledged,
healing can begin and reconciliation begin to take root.
Perhaps that will be our Emmaus experience for this generation.
Where is Emmaus?
It was then and it is now. It was and it will always be. Emmaus is
not only a place, it is our encounter with Jesus as we see Jesus in each
other.

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