It was the strangest beginning to a party I had ever experienced. I rang the apartment doorbell and was welcomed by the host. When I walked in, there were about 15 people in the small living room, all staring at a 2 x 3 print on the wall of seemingly unintelligible small dots and shapes in varying shades of blue, in rapt and nearly utter silence. They scarcely noticed me, so intense was their concentration. You would see people adjusting their footing, then telescoping out to capture a wider perspective, then telescoping back in to grasp something in the finer details. Eventually, you would hear someone say, “I see it!” And then they would whisper to the owner of the print, what they saw in that stereographic image, who would either affirm it or say, no, keep looking. Some people never saw it, and would give up in frustration. Those who did would try to help the ones who couldn’t come to see it. SO, the first 45 minutes of the party, I was one of those people, literally staring at the wall, trying to be patient enough to adjust my eyes until the pattern emerged. Strange party. Do you remember those pictures? They are called stereograms. The ‘trick’ was in the focusing of the eyes – you had to see kind of beyond or ‘into’ the picture for it to be revealed.
In this Sunday’s famous, “Road to Emmaus” Easter passage, it was as if the two disciples, who were walking and talking to one another, were contemplating one of those unintelligible stereographic prints. In their discussion, they were squinting, trying to make a coherent picture, not out of a piece of artwork hanging on a wall, but out of the jumbled, seemingly incoherent facts of the previous week of their lives. They had all the data before them – the news of the empty tomb, the story of a vision of angels, the witness of the women and of Peter and the beloved disciple – but they couldn’t see ‘beyond the events’ or ‘into’ the events enough for the picture to become clear.
Enter the stranger, a disguised Jesus, to help them come to see the pattern hidden in plain sight. “Beginning with Moses and the prophets, he interpreted to them” what they could not see. Luke tells us “Their eyes were opened” and the seemingly disparate events of the past week fell into a meaningful pattern that would give direction and meaning to the rest of their lives.
It seems to me that life is loaded with “Road to Emmaus” moments. Events occur in each of our lives that are pregnant with meaning, but we can’t quite bring them into the focus needed to perceive them. There is a sense that there is an intelligible pattern there, something important for our lives, but somehow, like a stereographic image, we have yet to discern it. And like the disciples in this week’s Gospel narrative, we have to be willing to stand before those experiences, so as to let the meaning ‘reveal’ itself to us.
But here is a ‘truth’ that I learned, both at that party and in through the gospel narrative about Emmaus Moments. You had to ‘stay with’ the print, to engage it, to study it, to be with it, for the picture to become clear. So, too, the disciples – it was their invitation to our hidden Lord: “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening” that allowed the time for them to come to recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
A lot of people did the Lent 4.5 small groups, or at least read the bulletin inserts. Is that ‘picture’ clear yet for you, what God is asking you to do or be or become in response to that? Wedding season is upon us – perhaps it is you or a son or daughter, niece or nephew being married. What does that event mean in the unfolding of your life? Perhaps you are coming up on the year anniversary of a death of a spouse or loved one, a significant illness of a friend – how is Jesus walking with YOU and calling you to newness and wholeness of life? Perhaps you are graduating in a few weeks – what has the pattern of college life taught YOU about the life of faith God calls you to?
For here is perhaps the deepest truth about Emmaus moments: “God isn’t finished revealing himself yet.” For you and me, each day is a journey on the Road to Emmaus. Christ is present to us right now disguised in the seemingly humble events of our God-drenched lives. Do you trust there is a meaning there, a truth there, a direction there that lies just beyond the focus of your eyes? Will you spend the time needed looking for the pattern God is trying to reveal to you?