Have you ever had a profound experience that completely changed how you felt about the world and yourself? Like you were wearing glasses for the first time and could finally make out the small details of the world? Like you could actually see the pieces that made up the whole? Or had been offered a new perspective that just helped to make the world make a little more sense?

But then, when you came back into the world with your (new to you) ideas and your fresh/better perspective in the world, you found that the world just felt disappointingly the same?

My experience of this was when I was in my 20’s and I took a year off to travel with a friend. Together we made our way though Southeast Asia, Australia, India and Nepal. I read books, met so many interesting people. Learned about incredibly beautiful cultures, lived on a shoestring budget and with so much less than I usually had. I came home changed. My heart was bigger, more open. I had learned so much about others, about living in another culture about adapting myself, and what I needed for survival.

I came home to a community and a family that I loved; who had not had the same experience as me. They were not changed in the same way. My re-climatization was not easy. I could no longer fit into the same space that I had inhabited before I left and I didn’t want to. Once home I grieved who I had been on my travels, the friends I had met, the ways that I interacted. My life at home felt too cluttered with things and I was suddenly less free to just move on when I wanted to.

For a while I was really sad – and then – I realized, slowly, that there were things that I had learned while I was away, that I could apply to who I was here. I had learned some things that made me better, more open to others, less attached to possessions. My heart was bigger and I didn’t need to make it smaller again, I needed to figure out how to be who I had become, at home.

This, as many things are with me, a hard learning curve.

And I have had similar experiences as I continue to live my life now, through parenting, through my relationships with people in church, through studies and classes and books that I read and even through being in my home now.

The point of all of this learning about the world is, I think, that I am called to keep figuring out my place in it, isn’t to go back to being how I was, but to try to be better because of what I have learned, who I have learned from and what I know now as a result.

‘How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have announced!” [1]

Today’s reading locates us directly after the women had gone to the tomb and found Jesus’ body gone and two figures in his place, in dazzling garments.

Full of grief and disbelief these two, Cleopas and another disciple are walking along the road to Emmaus when they have their encounter. I imagine them walking along trying to process what had happened over the past few days and even before. Trying to sort out what sort of Messiah Jesus had been. How was the world different for them now?

How was Israel redeemed?

How were they/ the poor/ women/ the powerless better for having known Jesus?

How and why had he died?

The powerful were still in power. The poor were still struggling for enough while the rich still had more than their share and, women – as exemplified by the behaviour of the disciples – were still not to be believed or listened to.

So, what was different?

I imagine that this is what the disciples were feeling – grieving deeply the loss of their friend and trying to figure out what difference his life made to the world around them. But also, who were they now? How did they fit? How would they take all that they had learned and what would they do with it? Could they just go back to their lives? Would they be able to go back now, knowing what they now knew – what Jesus had taught them?

What sort of Messiah was this that they had given up everything for and followed?

Here is the rub: the world was profoundly different because of the teachings and life of Jesus, but it was their world that had changed, their perspective and their hearts and it now was up to them – the disciples – us, to change the world around them.

The world would and could change if they took what they had learned and applied it to their own lives, interactions, choices – and so it is with all of us who encounter these teachings.

Nothing changes if we just stay in our grief and do or say nothing. Or simply if we try to fit ourselves back into the world as we were rather than who we are as people who follow Jesus the Christ.

We want things to be easier and better all at once and we want someone to come and fix it – give us some magic that will instantly give the powerless voice and equality and fix all that is wrong with what we have set up. The truth is that as we continue learning and following Jesus,  we have everything we need in order to set ourselves free – it has been given to us in his teachings,  we just have to take what we have learned seriously enough to act on it.

What kind of Messiah is this?

Jesus is the kind of Messiah who believes in the incredible capacity that we have: to do better, to love well, to care for our neighbours.
Jesus is the kind of Messiah who is not going to magic the bad things away, but who descends from a God who bestows upon us forgiveness and grace and autonomy and choice.

We choose who we give voice to, what our actions will be, what we want to believe and what we will do as a result of what we learn.

Who choose how to take care of each other and what we do with our money. We choose whether or not we want to follow what our political leaders are asking of us, perhaps particularly right now as we seek to care for ourselves and one another.

Something that I find particularly important about this Gospel story is the point at which the two disciples are finally able to see who they have been walking along with the whole time. They recognize Jesus when they sit down to share bread. They recognize the Messiah in hospitality and sharing their eyes are opened enough to see who is in front of them.

Isn’t that interesting?

The one who asked us to love God and our neighbour is identifiable by the disciples in this simple act of neighbourliness. And then the light goes on.

Because these gospels are bound up in community and one other.

Our stories are tied to each other. My choices are not just my own, but they impact you and friends, if there was ever a time for this to hit home, we are in it now.

What kind of Messiah is this?

Well you get to answer that for yourself, but as a starting point: one who was a prophet: “an inspired teacher and proclaimer of the word of God.”[2] Who changes our world for ever if we are willing to listen and act.


[1] The Inclusive Bible: The Inclusive Bible: Priests for Equality

[2] https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk03YiI0EtYncLOievg5awAfVYVfJ3w:1587507926070&q=prophet&spell=1&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiisIvwx_roAhWYITQIHb34CHQQBSgAegQIDBAn&biw=1325&bih=683