Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what God promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Will you pray with and for me? Holy One, sometimes we cannot see beyond our own fear and sadness and pain to the healing and joy we are offered. Teach us to be open to your possibility, to move beyond the limitations we are so certain of, to the realisation of your presence with us. In all your names, amen.
How many of you remember the movie Field of Dreams? I love that movie…partly because of the baseball, partly because I like almost everything I’ve ever seen with James Earl Jones in it, but also because it reminds me that we are not always aware of everything around us, that sometimes we can’t see what is right in front of us.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, a quick recap—Kevin Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a farmer and baseball fan, something he inherited from his father, who idolised “Shoeless Joe” Jackson and the Chicago White Sox, even though Shoeless Joe was implicated in the throwing of baseball games in the 1919 World Series. He hears a voice in his cornfield saying, “If you build it, he will come.” He builds the field and waits, while his neighbours tease him about plowing under his corn for a baseball field, and his brother-in-law Mark warns that he will lose money and the farm by doing that. Then one night, he hears a ballgame being played and goes outside to find the 1919 Chicago White Sox in the midst of a game. He contacts the famous baseball writer Terence Mann—played by James Earl Jones—who at first wants nothing to do with him, but eventually agrees to accompany Ray to find Archie “Moonlight” Graham, a young player who washed out of the big leagues and became a doctor. Ray and Terence bring Moonlight back to the field, where he joins the team. When Ray’s daughter is hurt, however, Moonlight leaves the baseball field—thus becoming the old doctor again—in order to save her. Terence then joins the team in the cornfield, telling Ray that he, Ray, has to stay and help raise his family. Ray then recognises the catcher as his father, and they play catch together as a long line of cars forms on the road leading to the farm—the field was built, and they are coming to watch the team play.
Now, one of the interesting things is that the brother-in-law can’t see the players or hear the sounds of the game for most of the movie. Ray’s daughter, who loves baseball too, can; and so can Ray’s wife Annie. When people believe, they can see the players and enjoy the game. In the end, Mark, Ray’s brother in law, can also see the players.
So—how many of us are like Mark? Do we recognise the wonders all around us? Or are we like Cleopas and the other disciple, so wrapped up in their grief that they couldn’t recognise Jesus, even though they spoke to him for a long while?
The love and presence of God are all around us, all the time--whether we are aware of it or not, whether respond or not. We can take Mark's position, that we don't see, that it is impossible, that such things don't happen--long-dead baseball players from Chicago don't show up inq a cornfield in Iowa. Or we can understand that there is more to the world than we can grasp, and see with the eyes of hope instead of despair.
Mark was looking at the cornfield with the eyes of facts and numbers and stark reality, the negative viewpoint that said, "This is not the best financial use of that field." And then he saw afresh, thorough eyes of hope, open to possibility--and saw the baseball players, and understood the possibilities of the world.
The disciples going to Emmaus that day were also deep in the glass-half-empty place. The very person whose death they were mourning was walking beside them, talking with them, and yet they could not perceive that it was him. They finally do--after he has explained everything to them--and they recognise him when blesses and offered bread to them--an act of hospitality and caring.
Can we open our senses to the presence of good, of blessing, of hope in our lives? It can be very easy to focus on the difficulties, the troubles we have, rather than on what is good. We see the cornfield when we could be watching a baseball game; we see a stranger rather than our dearest friend.
This week, look for the baseball game; remember to see a dear friend instead of a wise stranger. God is present all around and among and through you--in the shared laughter of friends, in the love of children, partners, family; in conversation and healing; in the gift of ourselves, given to others in service. Be open to that presence of God, the blessings of love and care -- they are what the world seesks, and what we can offer. In all God's names, amen.