Luke 24: 13-35

Although Emmaus is the name of the village to which disciples were returning after the crucifixion of Jesus in Jerusalem, its location is almost mythical. There are at least two places that advertise themselves to be Emmaus. One is the most likely of all of them, but that doesn’t stop the others from claiming to be the place. It brings in notoriety, and with it, tourist dollars. Although we did not walk to the traditional Emmaus village last summer on our Holy Land trip, we did go there by bus. Some in our church have even experienced a special three-day retreat of discovery that is called a “Walk to Emmaus.” I can tell it is special. Today, however, I suggest that a walk with Jesus is not just an event recorded in Luke 24. It is a promise that Jesus hopes will comfort you. ust as Jesus walked along that road long ago, he walks along with you even today in your most distressing times too.

As I told the boys and girls about a stuffed animal that comforted me and kept me company when I was young, I know people in these times of stress who have something … or someone … to comfort them. Some people I know talk to their electronic device like Alexa or Siri; some talk on their phone with friends; one widow I know got a parakeet just so she could have daily chatter! Some have a dog as a companion, one that might sleep at the foot of the bed or even on the bed. Some have cats. Some have other animals. Most of us really don’t like to be alone. Some just turn on a TV to make it seem like someone is there. And some find Facebook or emailing very comforting. Coming home a month ago might have been a source of anticipation. Now of course many are home a lot. But for those health care workers, coming home after hours at a hospital must be a relief. Some grew up believing, “there’s no place like home.” Fictional accounts foster the comfort many feel as they are making a journey home. From the moment Dorothy’s Kansas house is hit by a cyclone in the beloved film, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy keeps wanting to go home. But as she journeys to Oz, she has companions: a scarecrow that talked, a Tin Man without a heart, a cowardly Lion, and her dog, Toto.
In the musical Finian’s Rainbow, the masterful Fred Astaire’s last film, he plays an Irishman named Finian who travels with his daughter Sharon until he departs from her in the last scene. He strolls away telling her they’ll meet again in “Glocca Morra.” In Mark Schultz’ song called “Letters from War,” his faithful mother wrote every day to her son, never hearing back from him; some thought that he might have died, but she never lost hope. Two years later, he comes into their yard and into his mother’s arms, carrying all the letters she had written to him. Almost everyone, in times of journey or crisis, needs a companion. And returning home is comforting. On the road to Emmaus, two men were returning home from their journey to Jerusalem. Jesus was with them, though they did not know it. Today I want to suggest that Jesus is with you in your aloneness or your sadness, in crisis or on your journey too. Today I believe he is with nurses and chaplains; he is with doctors and scientists; he is with widows and widowers, parents and children. Parents need support; children need to Facetime friends or phone calls or to shout to friends across a street. We are most comforted when someone we can count on is with us. What is it like to move through your life now, with the days running together? To what do you cling besides the cross of Jesus? Do you cling to a blanket like Linus? Or to a special toy, or a doll, or a stuffed animal? Do you cling to your cellphone or computer, or to a photo of a special person? Do you talk to that photo, or talk to yourself? Think about the most difficult parts of your day. Can you picture your Lord Jesus, coming alongside of you, listening in to either your conversations or your thoughts? What if he is really there, though you cannot see him? I want to suggest that Jesus can be, and is, really there. Through the power of God, Jesus can be, and is, with us; not ruling in Heaven like an aloof king. Instead, he is with us. In today’s technology, many can now heavily stream shows for their television programs. It is not is like 20 years ago when there was a set time to start a TV show or record it. Now with streaming services, you and thousands, even millions of other can watch shows whenever you wish. You can start it, pause it, and end it at will. Even the church services that we stream from our website or YouTube you can watch anytime you want to; you can watch them again; and you can watch them at different times from others! It is amazing technology. By analogy, that is the way Jesus can walk with you, and walk with me, and walk with your neighbors, and walk with people all around the world at the same time! But Jesus does not do it through technology, but through the awesome power of God. Jesus walked with two disciples toward Emmaus and they didn’t recognize him. Jesus walks with you too, though you will not recognize him, that is, until something happens: like a familiar voice; or the hair on your neck or your arms stands up; a shudder goes down your back. Then you will know that he is with you.

This week, after finding no public domain hymn that described the walk to Emmaus, I walked over to my piano and I sat; I thought, and I prayed. I felt like I was not alone. I left the piano and went to my computer, and I wrote the words for today’s song; then I went back to the piano and imagined a tune to go with the words. I wrote down the notes to see how they would fit the worlds. Then I called musician Don Kruger to see if he could turn it into sheet music. And he did. And I never felt alone as I wrote it. These are the words I sang for you today:
“Some brokenhearted Christians, walked down a darkened path,
Wondering if the Savior would indeed appear at last.
Then in time of hopelessness, hope appeared again,
The risen Lord had come to join dejected friends.”

(And as if Jesus is singing these words to us, here is the refrain:)
I am here, said he, I am here.
When you cannot see me, I am here.
As you pray to God, your prayers will be heard,
When you cannot see me, I am here.

The other verses also were meant to show people that they were not alone either:
“As women trudged to see the tomb where Jesus had been laid,
They thought about the caring man whose sacrifice was paid,
as in ages long before, an angel said ‘fear not;’
and so the news spread far and wide, salvation had been bought.”

As men walked to Emmaus, we walk our roads today,
Asking if our sadness will turn to joy some day.
And then, as if at God’s command, Jesus did appear,
In a common thing—like life breaking bread—they knew that he was there.

I wrote a final refrain that did not get sung today. Perhaps another day it will be sung. But today, it is the crux of the Luke 24 message to you:

When your heart burns within you, he is here. 

When your heart burns within you, he is here.
If you pray to God, your prayers will be heard,
When your heart burns within you, he is here.

Jeffrey A. Sumner April 26, 2020