On the most important ideas of The Mission of Preaching is that a community of interpreters and preachers should be part of the preaching ministry of a local congregation. In any congregation, God has gifted and called a community of people to the ministry of the Word, not just those who have been to seminary or been ordained. One of the forms this community can take is interpreting the text for Sunday, in advance of the sermon, to help the preacher discern the word of the Lord for the people.
At a monthly Deacons’ meeting last night, I led a Bible study on Luke’s account of the walk to Emmaus, seeking to discern as a group what God might be saying to us in this text. It’s a different kind of Bible study in the sense that I was not an “expert” explaining the text, but more like a guide. We walked through the text as a small group and I invited the group to wonder and ponder about it’s potential meanings. These are some of our wonderings and ponderings as we discussed this rich story…
- Jesus joined these two disciples on their journey. The symbolism of this is rich, as Christ met them along their way, on the road of their lives. Equally as important, he met them at a significant moment, as they were talking about all that had happened. How does Christ meet us on our journeys? How do we meet others in the name of Christ? How do you know when to join someone, and when is the right moment to walk alongside?
- “They were prevented from recognizing him.” This grabbed the attention of everyone in the group. Why were they prevented? Or, what prevented them? Did Christ choose in that moment to be hidden from them? Or was it something in them that kept them from seeing Christ? Their faces were “downcast.” Does despair or hopelessness or deep disappointment prevent us from seeing God present in our midst?
- Jesus responded to them almost harshly: “You foolish people!… Your dull minds…” It can sound like a cutting response, but he is actually giving them the truth and hope they crave. Jesus is unfolding for them the promise about all they had seen. And he must have been a fast talker to go from Moses through the Prophets in less than seven miles! When are the moments when we have needed truthful and hope-filled words? How do we offer that to others?
- We are all drawn to the encounter at the house: Jesus pretended to go on, but they invited him in, and then recognized him when he broke the bread. What does this tell us about the importance of opening the door to Christ, opening ourselves to his presence? He did not force his way in, but waited on their invitation. Symbolically, this point of the story points us to the Eucharist. In this meal we meet the living Christ, and this text invites the church to renewal at the Lord’s Table. But don’t we meet Christ in other meals? Around other table fellowship, where bread is taken and blessed and shared?
- And Christ vanishes! Why? Why must he leave them so suddenly? Was it to make room for their joyful response of faith? Was it to make room for the Spirit to dwell among them, as John records that Jesus said he must go in order for the Spirit to come? How do we respond to the presence and absence of Christ in our lives and communities? Isn’t it true for us as well that experiences of communion with Christ are often fleeting? But then we are left to carry on in a new way, in the light of that profound encounter.