I’ve mentioned before: The early Christians were called people of “the way.” I love this term because it expresses that we are always moving, growing, changing. We are journeying - and that involves discovery and being discovered.
When we go on a journey, or a satisfying vacation, often a piece of the experience can make one feel new. We are not only experiencing something different, we are experiencing ourselves afresh, awash with new sensations and perceptions. We fall in love with life again because we are renewed. We may discover parts of ourselves we didn’t know before. We may find we had an interest or a gift we hadn’t recognized.
Today the disciples are traveling and it can be a metaphor for our own journeys. The risen Christ accompanies them and he offers them a perspective of life and of him and of the meaning of their purpose through the scriptures. They are transported into a new understanding of the universe. They understand themselves differently, anew and they are transformed.
The revelation of the resurrection transforms us.
It changes our mind, our whole lives.
As the disciples in Acts respond to Peter: “what should we do?”
That is what the Gospel story is about. It is a story that is entirely in motion: in the motion of our response to new life as it may appear to us again and again on our path walking the way, if our eyes are opened.
When the disciples ask Jesus to “stay with them.” They were acting out Jesus’ commission to them to welcome the stranger, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”
They offer him hospitality… to a stranger on a night in a new village, as they are still in the midst of their own grief and turmoil. Their hope feels lost. They are in despair because their saviour has been killed. And yet they offer hospitality.
They aren’t waiting until the time is right, until all is well, until everything feels settled. They act out of the compassion of their hearts to make another traveler safe.
This is what the Gospel message is. This is Jesus’ great commission to us. Saving love. Making others safe on this life journey. And it turns us around and we start to live differently. Like the new community of Christians: how we live, how we spend our money, who we spend our time with, what values we uphold to embody a loving life.
We want to be embodied. We want to be connected. We want to encounter the risen Christ along our paths.
In the letter from Peter Paul says,
“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart…”
Now that the disciples are obedient (Meaning they recognize the truth of that greater call to love: the meaning and message of Jesus, they will have genuine mutual love.)
What should we do?
It is a deep love from the heart that we are called to.
In our reading from Acts today, 3000 people are baptized that day. They hear the call to love. They want it. And we still do.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus offer us examples of those who are beginning to follow in Jesus’ commission: They are willing to listen; disciples who are willing to engage in conversation; willing to offer hospitality.
Hospitality is not just inviting another over for dinner, but what transpires when we come into contact with one another. Hospitality is being welcoming to the other (no matter what kind of food they eat, what their traditions are (as we learn in later acts of the apostles. We will break down these false boundaries). It is also the hospitality of listening to the feelings, desires, experiences of others (even when they differ from our own).
This Gospel passage, and the early Church that we read about in Acts are about understanding the resurrection through dialogue. “What shall we do?”
We continue to ask that very living question: How should we be in community? How do we walk “the Way”?
We are in conversation. We have been for a couple of thousand years.
Today we have the added forum of social media. It is both connecting and disconnecting. It offers us a multitude of ways to understand, and yet can put us into silos of understanding (all through algorithms) that provide us with self-censoring images and ideas (unbeknownst to us often times).
One of the methods the anti-racism committee for instance, offers as an alternative, is to change your feed by following others who you believe are different from you to see a new perspective. Watch a news outlet that you believe you disagree with (but have never watched). Read papers from abroad. Share books with your friends who vote differently from you. And be open.
I have started watching South Korean programs on Netflix and now my offerings for cinema are very different from what they used to be. And my ability to see others who don’t look like me or speak like me, or have the same cultural references takes me on vacation (into the nuances of another culture). My algorithm changed… I see things anew. I learn about myself too.
Certainly we discover easily that we all share romance, love, intrigue, betrayal, and pain. It is all universal.
But I also find I had preconceived notions I didn’t even know I had. I also have delight and resonance in aspects of their culture that make me new.
A new perspective can blow your mind like the disciples who believed all hope was lost. Their anticipation of a messiah doesn’t seem like what they are presented with. Of course they didn’t recognize him.
But it is their action: their hospitality that enables them to see Christ clearly.
The resurrection turns us around.
The disciples minds are changed. They turn around and run back to Jerusalem to tell the others the good news.
Their minds are not changed in terms of politics and ideologies, but rather their hearts and their minds have been turned toward the reality of a living and eternal God.
The Greek term is metanoia. We turn from our old ways of understanding and operating to the new. We find and are found in this new perspective.
And that helps us be connected.
What should we do?
It doesn’t always involve going to a new place on a new vacation, It can be in this place with a new perspective. It can start wherever we are in life’s journey. Whether we are grieving a loved one, rejoicing in a new child, or just getting by… breaking the bread in community every week reminds us that we are united in the Love of God which we are commissioned to share with others.
The saving gift that calls us home to ourselves while at the same time opens us up to new forms of life and love shows up in places we don’t expect.
God comes to us like he did for Mary Magdalene in the garden, and for Thomas behind closed doors, and like the disciples on our way from one place to the next. If we allow ourselves to be open.
As Paul says, “Let our way and our hope be set on God:”
It is this constant higher power of Love that invites us again and again through the breaking of the bread to see anew.
Let God’s hospitality allow your hospitality to kindle your hearts and minds and the hearts of those we encounter on the way.