Every night when I come in, there is a tea-light waiting for the snap of a match to ignite its flame. That tiny glows warms the room and calmly breathes life into the fragments of a day and very simply and sturdily speaks of the presence of God. And so the story of a day unfolds there: the encounters, the frustrations, the surprises and the memories reassembled with hands bigger than my own. Purposefully, there are new moments, or old ones understood differently, and somehow edge closer to the truths of the day. It is about beginning to perceive rather than simply see, to understand rather than simply experience. The older I grow, the more aware I am that my life is not yet complete, the more these quiet moments allow me to touch my core belief: God is.
The rumblings of a secularized America have provoked conflict and courage and, in a quest for tolerance and peaceful co-existence, allowed us to become less tolerant, more condemnatory and increasingly violent in words and actions. Education and media has encouraged us to embrace the power of voice, to speak truth to power, and we have allowed that to derail listening and learning from one another. In dismissing one another and thinking we understand, we have undermined opportunities to discover what is really going on and just exactly who we are to and for each other. We have lost sight of what really matters, deprived ourselves of the chance to be honest and respectful towards others and to allow that privilege to others as well.
Maybe it is time to consider the miracle of the Emmaus story. “Emmaus” as a word carries a weighty connotation for those familiar with the Gospel. It is rich and full of wonder, of epiphanies and joy. For the unfamiliar, Emmaus recounts despondent disciples in the days after Passover, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus chronicling the details as they walk. Joined by a stranger, the conversation broadens and deepens. This stranger leads them through a thousand years of stories and predictions that brought all of them into this space. And when, finally, they sit down to eat together, the stranger reenacts what they have heard about: the breaking of the bread. Jesus is recognized for who He is, and the disciples revel in the awareness. That moment of epiphany disappears just as He does. The wonder is compounded by the understanding that He may not always be with us, but He will never leave us. The breaking of the bread is the gathering moment, the space where everything can be broken open for exploration and discovery, for new understandings. It is ours for the taking, for daring to walk along that road. It is ours to remember that there were no recriminations, no judgmental tone from Jesus. It was about kindness and listening and sharing. Maybe, in the great arc of centuries and the smaller one of life spans, it is that focus on the life-changing encounters and relationships that matter. Maybe, as we lurch into this highly technological world, we will find that it is the personal encounter that really makes the big difference..