Today sees the launch of a community audit I am leading – A Church4U? at an event based in a local school, followed by a church service focused on the story of the road to Emmaus. The focus of the audit is to use surveys, focus group and films to discover the heart and soul of the area- a place with two distinctive christian communities yet no dedicated church building. We hope to discover what residents, and those working in the community, understand church to be, and also if they want to be part of a vision that will establish a multi-use church building as much about community service and a place to be as a venue for Sunday worship.
After the death of Jesus the disciples lost heart and hope. Their Rabbi and leader had died and they were devastated and had little idea of what to do next other than to return to their former lives. It was as if that previous three years had counted for nothing. On the Road to Emmaus Jesus revealed the truth of his mission to them and they learned that they would receive power through the Holy Spirit. They would gain hope and a new mission and would have some story to share- a story destined to turn the world on its head. Today two churches will meet in a community centre without any outward visible sign that they are church. I will be asking them about how many people they are walking with every day on their own road to Emmaus and how these strangers or friends will be able to catch a glimpse of Jesus?
For a previous post on a related topic see https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/now-you-see-me-now-you-dont/
Oscar Wilde wrote that, “Once at least in his life each man walks with Christ to Emmaus.” In the Emmaus story, the two disciples are kept from recognising the stranger who walked with them and shared in their story until the meal they shared in the evening:-“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; and he vanished out of their site.”(Luke 24, 30-31). Then, after they had returned and told the other disciples, the risen Christ again stood amongst them. As David Runcorn points out in his book Rumours of Life; “The irony is that in the moment they decide to walk away from Jesus, Jesus appears to walk towards them…he deliberately seeks out to two disciples who are walking away from it all..and in drawing the story out of them, Jesus has the unusual experience of listening to his own obituary.” In the following few years they would get plenty of chance to share this encounter,and Jesus wanted to make sure that they fully understood what had occurred through his death and resurrection in the context of the Jewish law and prophets.
Runcorn presents Jesus as some sort of ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ Messiah, coming and going at will who can be recognised only when he chooses to reveal himself. We haven’t had the experience of meeting with Jesus whilst he was on earth, nor with the resurrected Christ like the two on the road to Emmaus. More importantly, we know that our whole Christian journey is one long Emmaus Road experience ,and we know that somewhere along this path, as Wilde suggests, we will find Christ as we hold on to his promise from the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel that Jesus is with us always, to the very end of time.