Two disciples set out on a journey going to the village of Emmaus…
Have you ever noticed that the destinations we reach in life are not always as significant as the journeys we take to reach them?
I learned this again the first week in April when I traveled on a bus with 34 others from our Synod to Washington DC to participate in the National Council of Churches ACT to End Racism Rally. I had never been to an event like this before and I didn’t know what to expect.
There were three reasons I decided to go on this journey. First there was an invitation from our Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton to all ELCA Lutherans join her in sharing a Lutheran witness to overcoming the divisions caused by racism. Second, Neal Fischer, our Synod communicator, said to me, “Herman have you thought about attending this because it fits so well with the conversations that we have been encouraging around the state with the Selma movie.” Third, I will never forget attending the funeral of Clementa Pinckney and seeing his wife and two daughters grieving over the senseless death of their husband and father, caused by the hate and sin of racism.
Although we heard many speakers that day, the one that stood out most was the message from Bishop Darin Moore, Chair of the National Council of Churches and Presiding Prelate of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District of the AME-Zion Church. At the end of his talk he asked for his infant grandson to be brought to him. There he held him in one arm, looked into his eyes and spoke his name saying, “Darin, I speak life to you and pledge to you with every breath I take and every ounce of energy in my being that I will leave this world a better place for you to grow up without the fear and hatred of racism keeping you from living out your God given potential!” It was a holy and powerful moment.
Yet, when I reflect back on the whole experience, it was our bus ride there and back that I will remember the most. Interestingly enough, the bus company that drove us was named Emmaus Charter Services, and like Jesus appearing on the road to Emmaus, we discovered our risen lord being with us on our journey as well.
As we traveled, a number of people shared some of their favorite quotes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. such as:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“Love is the only Force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
We also sang a lot of songs and shared stories from our past about how we learned to understand racial differences and experiences of injustice. There on that journey we discovered that we were united in a love that was much bigger, deeper, and wider than we had imagined. There on that road our eyes were opened to the presence of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ, who was with us on this journey just as he promises to travel with us on all the roads of life that we travel.
If you notice in the Emmaus story, Jesus doesn’t wait to be invited on their journey of grief and loss. He doesn’t wait until his disciples are conscious of his risen presence and its significance. No, Jesus just shows up! In the same way Jesus simply shows up and walks with us, even when our eyes of faith are closed or even when we are not looking for him to be with us. This is the good news of Christ’s resurrection and his gifts of forgiveness and new life.
Two disciples set out on a journey to Emmaus… and our world has never been the same since then.