Journeyman Tales

Scripture: Acts 2:42-47, Luke 24:13-35

Please join me in this prayer of Ted Loder’s:

“Lord, I believe my life is touched by you; that you want something for me and of me. Please give me ears to hear you, eyes to see the tracing of your finger, and a heart quickened by the motions of your Spirit.”[1]

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

What kinds of journeys have you been on recently? Where did they take you and whom or what did you meet along the way? Was it a familiar road or did you go somewhere you haven’t been before?

Pastor Jill Duffield, writer for the Presbyterian Outlook, sees the road to Emmaus passage as a metaphor for an entire life of faith. She writes, “There are doubts, despair, the inability to believe the experience of others no matter how much we wish we could, inklings that something bigger is happening, ignorance, revelation and the shock of divine presence in the midst of the ordinary.” She goes on to write, “At any given time we are in any one of those places.”[2]

“The setting of this story in the context of a journey is … typical of Luke, who places Jesus’ entire mission in the context of a journey that moves from Galilee to Jerusalem (e.g. 9:51–53) and ultimately, through the ascension, to the right hand of God. Luke casts the unfolding history of the early community as a journey, beginning in Jerusalem and reaching ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). The community itself would be named, [as one commentator put it] the ‘people of the journey’ (Acts 9:2; 22:4; 24:14, 22). For Luke the journey of Jesus and of the church itself expresses the unfolding history of salvation that finds its origin in Israel and through the Spirit extends salvation to the ‘ends of the earth.’”[3]

In light of this kind of journey, I would like to go back and examine the movement that is recorded. Overall, the journey moves to Emmaus and back to Jerusalem, but at two particular moments movement stops. Something important happens each time. What? The first time, Jesus the stranger intercepts them along the road and asks them what they were discussing. Luke says, in verse 17, “They stood still.”

“This suggests that when God enters a conversation we think we are having with one another—when our horizontal perspective on the human condition is assumed from above and crossed by the vertical perspective of God’s word—we cannot but find our lost selves standing still. We have surely come to a crossroad. At issue are not the miles before us but the moment at hand and the eternity that has just invaded time.”[4]

The second time movement ceases is at Emmaus. Jesus acts as if he is going on, but the disciples invite and urge him to be their guest; he comes in and sits at table with them. There, at the table, movement ceases for a moment. There they sit, and at that moment the tables are turned. Instead of the disciples offering the ritual table blessing as the hosts, Jesus, their unbeknownst guest, takes the bread, blesses and breaks it. “When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” (vv. 30–31) I can only imagine they sat there, stunned for a moment in stillness and reflection of what had just happened before exclaiming, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (v.32)

“The story reaches its climax with a meal…. Meals are a hallmark of Luke’s narrative, and he concludes this account in the same way. These meals evoke the longed-for gathering of Israel (Isa. 25:6–9) and express the inclusive spirit of Jesus’ own mission (Luke 14:7–14, 15–24; 15:25–32; 16:19–31; 19:1–10). Full revelation of who Jesus is and what his death and resurrection mean comes at the meal (vv. 31, 35). Jesus’ words and gestures are the same as at the feeding of the multitudes (9:16) and reminiscent of the final Passover meal (22:19). Without doubt Luke also intends the reader to make a connection with the celebrations of the “breaking of the bread” described in Acts (2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 27:35).”[5]

Moving into Acts 2:42, we get a glimpse of what the earliest form of church did.

“Verse 42 suggests that a particular set of practices, four habits or priorities, nurtured their lives as Christians and as church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” … This is the earliest listing of what came to be called “marks” or “notes” of the church – characteristics beyond [one’s] confession of Jesus as Lord – that identified the church as the church.”[6]

Looking at those four points more closely, we find that marks of authenticity and health in a church include:

  1. “What it does with the writings of those early Christian leaders. We are called to explore the texts that come down to us in their names.”
  2. “Quality of peoples’ relationships and their efforts to include others in those relationships. Devotion to fellowship means nurturing the habits of hospitality—and it takes work: It takes courage to notice a newcomer, to invite someone to lunch or a cup of coffee after worship, [or] to start a regular gathering where a small group can begin to know and care for each other.”
  3. “In the way they eat together, but this is more than fellowship. This “breaking of bread” seems to allude to the Lord’s Supper, faith and community fed by the sacrament.”
  4. “Their involvement in prayer. More than a part of worship, prayer is for each of us the opportunity for communion with God. It is clear by the plural that the earliest Christians were learning some kind of set prayers—the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, or other forms. There are now many ways to pray, but to be “devoted” to it, individuals and communities must pursue prayer intentionally and with energy.”[7]

“[These four] elements … still have contemporary relevance: apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayers. The “teaching” and “fellowship” may take on new expressions, but the centrality of Jesus Christ in each of these components should remain.”[8]

If you look, you will find these four are present in vibrant churches all through contemporary history right into the doors of churches today. Let it be our prayer we continue to be witnesses in these ways. May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace (Philadelphia, Innisfree Press,1984) p. 29; quoted from Ruth Haley Barton’s third chapter closing prayer in Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice For Leadership Groups (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012) p.73

[2] Duffield, Jill. Presbyterian Outlook “Looking into the Lectionary” weekly digital reflection; April 30 – Luke 24:13-35.

[3] Senior, Donald. Feasting on the Word—Year A David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press; Louisville, Kentucky; All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[4] Jarvis, Cynthia A. Feasting on the Word…

[5] Senior, Donald. Feasting on the Word…

[6] Hansen, Gary Neal. Feasting on the Word…

[7] Ibid.

[8] Powery, Emerson B. Feasting on the Word…

Question for Reflection

Acts 2:42–47 describes what life was like in the early church. How do these words guide today’s church?

Household Prayer: Morning

Generous God, thank you for the gift of this new day. Help me to watch for your signs and wonders in the world today, and fill my heart with gladness and generosity, that I may generate good will wherever I go. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Thank you, God, for shepherding me through this day. As I lie down to sleep this night help me to imagine green pastures and still waters, and to remember all the ways you have set a table before me and filled my cup to overflowing. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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