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May the Road Rise Up


Series: Easter

Category: 2020 Sermons

Passage: Luke 24:13-35

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

by The Work of the People
May the Road Rise up to Meet You

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

“May the road rise up to meet you….”

In reading about this well known Irish blessing, I learned that the more accurate translation  is “may you succeed in life” - the road being your life, and the rising up meaning success. As Christ followers, we know by now that success doesn’t mean monetary wealth and status. We know that wealth and status can be used to serve those less fortunate or it can be used as a way to oppress and control others. Prophets in the Old Testament warn against greed time and time again, and in the New Testament when Jesus enters the scene, he exposes those who are using their power. Instead of lording over, Jesus takes on humility as he models what a life in service and love looks like, taking under his wing those on the margins, putting the needs of those most vulnerable first and exposing the greed and self interest of those in power. 

Biblical success in the Bible is aligned with justice. Living a just life comes with a responsibility to take care of those in need. And in the New Testament, to live a life with Jesus, to live a life for Christ, is a life expressed in generosity, humility, and our ability to love others as self. Wealth and status are not inherently bad things when used in service. In the words of the apostle Paul:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grapsed, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

This is a life with Christ, which gives new meaning to the blessing, “May the road rise up to meet you.” If the road is your life and rising up is success, then success and to become Christ-like become one and the same.  So this is the road that the disciples have been walking… They’ve been on a road with Jesus, following him, dedicating their lives to him. They’ve spent years sharing meals together as they laughed and cried together. They’ve witnessed first hand what it means to live successfully.

But now in this morning’s scripture they’re walking a very different kind of road. It’s a road of grief, and confusion. This is the third day, three days after Jesus has died, and two of them (two disciples), are walking on a road alone from the place they had been in Jerusalem, to the place they are heading, Emmaus. We aren’t told why, but we can imagine. I don’t know about you, but when things are difficult, when life throws a curve ball, I often find myself saying, I need a walk. I’ve always found that walking helps me to clear my mind, organize my thoughts and gain a sense of control over my feelings. Not a deadening of feelings, but an ability to feel them without feeling overwhelmed by them. Maybe the two disciples needed a good long walk. Maybe they wanted to spread the word, maybe their homes are still in Emmaus. What we do know is that Jesus has died a brutal death just three days ago, and the women who were at the tomb have reported that there were angels and that Jesus’s body was gone. Some doubted that, some went to see for themselves and reported back their own experience. And the ones who hadn’t been at the tomb are left to scratch their heads not sure of who to believe, or what it all means. Boy if that doesn’t feel like today. People have died and continue to die, we still don’t have all the data, we get contradicting information and reports, we aren’t sure who to believe, and we’re left needing to take a walk. And each day we’re reminded of where we’ve been and unsure of we’re going. 

We’re on a different kind of road right now - if the road is our lives - and like the disciples, we’re unsure and unsettled. Before this all happened, I used to get in my car to drive to different trails. For years, I would switch it up and when I got tired of one trail, I’d go to another: Tennessee Valley, Muir Beach, Matt Davis, just to name a few. But since the restrictions went into place, the trails have signs that warn if you drove there, you’re not compliant with the rules. Those trails are for locals only now, including my own neighborhood, which is giving tickets for anyone who drove here to be at the beach. 

Which has left me with two paths to walk without getting in the car.

The first is the path by Target. And it’s very different these days. Each week I notice more wear masks, and so we can no longer see other people’s smiles and if they’re saying good morning, you can hardly hear them. Many people have hats and sun glasses in addition to masks. Children seem unsure at best, and at times even a little scared. The littlest will start to run up to Diego the dog and ask to pet him only to be swooped up by a parent reminding them they have to give space; and you can see the confusion on their faces, because it wasn’t that long ago when their parents would have been encouraging contact. During the peak time for exercise on the path, it’s stressful some people try to avoid one another, and others don’t try at all. Some people complain and some are looking to prove a point. That’s one road, and unless I go very early, it’s just not an enjoyable road, because it’s all so very different from what is was, and like the disciples I feel sense of loss for what was, a sense of confusion around what is, and a compete discomfort around the unknown of what will be. The wind is not at our backs in those moments, and the sun does not feel warm on our faces, but rather sweaty under our masks.

The disciples are on walking a road that does not rise up, but feels rather stagnant and stressful, when they are met by a stranger. It’s such an odd story to hear that they were kept from recognizing that it was Jesus. It wasn’t that they just didn’t recognize him, it very specifically says they were kept from recognizing him. God is working on purpose to keep them from recognizing Jesus. Why is that? 

Well I imagine it’s because there’s something to be learned instead. The road is said to be roughly seven miles, and for seveb miles Jesus talks to them while they listen. They listen. Scripture only gives us this one verse: ”Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” Jesus goes all the way back to Moses and then covers all the prophets in the re-telling of his own life and death. That’s a ton of history and scripture and story. Which means that’s also a lot of listening as they walked. And the road begins to transform from one of grief to one of faith, as listening transforms their grief into remembering that they are exactly where they’re supposed to be. When we stop trying to get from point A to point B, when we stop to listen for where God is, we realize we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.

Which gives an entirely new meaning to the road rising up and meeting you, when the road you’re on has on it the very risen Christ who walks with you, as you listen to him, in words and wisdom and presence. When the road rises up to meet us as followers of Christ, it’s the risen Christ who assures us we are not alone, not in this life, not on our walks, not in our confusion, and not in our grief.

I said I take two paths, or two walks these days.

The other walk I take is quite different form the first. That walk is my block, from my house at one end of the street to the post office at the other end. The neighborhood walk. I will have lived here five years in August but I have never walked in the neighborhood as much as I have this past month. Each time I go out now, I meet a new neighbor. People I’ve never seen before are sitting outside their homes, waving from their porch. Neighbors are emerging, and I’ve emerged, and it all reminds me very much of my childhood, when on Sundays all the stores would shut down, the roads were quiet, and the other children pretty much stayed with their families. Nothing was on TV on a Sunday, so sitting on the lawn, just hanging out, doing a whole lot of nothing. That’s a kind of listening.

And now, these days, every day feels like those childhood Sundays, and neighborhood walks are walks with the sun on my face and the wind at my back. That’s a road where the presence of Christ is very recognizable.

The disciples listened that day on their walk. They listened so intently that when they reached the village they insisted the stranger they walked with stay the night with them. And when supper time came, Jesus “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”

In the breaking of the bread, in something they had done countless times before, in the thing he did their last night together, their eyes were opened. In that communion moment, in that communal act of sharing bread and wine, around a table, doing the very thing that all human beings need to do in order to survive, doing the one thing that we all have in common - our most basic need - in that moment, their eyes were open, they could see him now, they could perceive him, they could let go of the confusion, the grief, letting go all the old ways that get in the way of a new thing, a resurrected Christ, with us.  Only to have him vanish again. But instead of feeling loss, they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

In that moment they realized he had been with them all along, and they knew it, with a burning in their hearts they knew that the road had risen up with the risen Christ having been with them all along.

We will sometimes walk with our heads down, grieving either for ourselves or for others the loss of life, physical loss of life, and spiritual loss of life as the winds die down and the sun is covered by clouds.  And in those moments, the road that rises up to meet us is the risen Christ who walks all roads with us, whether we see him or not. 

When this is over, we will have taken countless walks around the block. May the risen Christ walk with you. May you listen to the stories of your faith and your life as ways to deepen your faith so that when you come out of this, you can say as the disciples did, weren’t our hearts burning within us during those days…..May this time of shelter and economic struggle, illness and death, confusion and misinformation, may all of it- be a time to listen to the Christ who walks through this with you so that all walks can be ones where the road rises up to meet you.

This may be a long road we’re on, but that only means more time to listen, to deepen our faith. to welcome the Christ in the faces of all the strangers we meet along the way, whether they wave or not, and to choose the kind of success that brings us back to serving others who are in need.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.