I am a self professed word nerd. And I know I’m not the only one. How many of us are playing Wordle or Quordle these days? From my excitement to having my own library card at 6 AND being allowed to go to the library on my own, to listening to audiobooks and podcasts as I walk or drive, I have a love of words and their meanings…
I am always interested in word origins, tracing back through time and other languages, how they arrived on our tongues and are part of our everyday parlance. For instance, how often do we get to use the word parlance today? 😉
So imagine my delight, when I discovered that the word companion, literally means ‘with bread.’ Our reading from Luke is how the disciples on the Emmaus Road, didn’t realize that they were with Jesus, until he broke the bread! As we listen to this story keep in mind that this story is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke… and it happens on the same day as the resurrection. Let’s listen, as the story unfolds.
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.
15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?”
They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
19 He asked them, “What things?”
They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see him.”
25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[j] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished from their sight.
32 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?”
33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem, and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Made known to them in the breaking of the bread! Those companions on the road, now thought to be a woman and man, most likely a husband and wife, discovered that they were with Jesus when he broke the bread. What joy and what astonishment!
The disciples said to one another that their hearts were on fire when Jesus was with them… hearts on fire with love… hearts that had been broken just a few short days before. Hearts that were broken… but this time broken open with love.
Parker Palmer writes this: “Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart can break in two different ways. There’s the brittle heart that breaks into shards, shattering the one who suffers as it explodes, and sometimes taking others down when it’s thrown like a grenade at the ostensible source of its pain.
Then there’s the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, the one that can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.” (Parker J. Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old.)
Yesterday, my Facebook memories were full of stories of Nova Scotia’s broken hearts about the loss of military personnel in a helicopter crash in over the Mediterranean, our city is so intimately tied to the military. This of course, after reeling from the Portapique Massacre… And the fear that all of us felt during those first months of Covid. Hearts broken… And we couldn’t cling to one another, because we couldn’t be with one another!
It was challenging to companion one another, wasn’t it? In those days, we experienced many of the same feelings and responses that the grieving disciples did. We are not over that time. Just like any traumatic experience, it changes us and leaves its mark on us. We are still living into how it will leave its mark on us. How it leaves its mark on us and how we will live into the future is still to be determined. Will it harden us? Or are we open to what God and the world is calling for us to undertake now?
I learned something at a Continuing Education event many years ago and it’s stuck with me: The parents of change are pain and possibility. Listen to that again: The parents of change are pain and possibility. It’s evident from my quick overview of the Listening Circles material that there has been pain over the last number of years… Aside from macro level pain of Covid and tragedy, you told me of the pain of slow church decline… the pain of lost relationships… the pain of conflict… the pain of feeling lost… You also told me of hopeful possibilities. A few new ideas that have been percolating. The parents of change are pain and possibility.
You have to feel enough pain… be uncomfortable enough to want to do something different… Let’s face it, whoever is perfectly satisfied with their life is not going to change it, why would they? And you have to envision the possibility of new life and energy ahead… in order to move from one way of being to another.
These red dresses that are hanging here today represent both pain and possibility. The pain of FAR TOO MANY missing and murdered Indigenous women and children.
Red Dress Day honours the memories of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada. Métis artist Jaime Black helped inspire the red dress movement, where red dresses are hung from windows and trees to represent the pain and loss felt by loved ones and survivors. Originally starting as the REDdress art installation, Red Dress Day became a grassroots movement across North America. The project was made up of 600 community-donated red dresses, which were later placed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada. The artist chose the colour red after speaking with an Indigenous friend who told her that is the only colour spirits can see. Red dresses are used to call the spirits of missing and murdered women and girls back to their loved ones. The goal was to speak to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Indigenous women and to evoke a presence by marking absence. https://www.alberta.ca/red-dress-day.aspx
Indigenous women and girls are five times more likely to experience violence than any other population in Canada, and Indigenous women make up 16 per cent of all female homicide victims and 11 per cent of missing women, despite representing just 4.3 per cent of the population, the organization says. https://guides.library.ubc.ca/c.php?g=729611&p=5237446#:~:text=May%205%20marks%20the%20National,%2C%20and%20Two%2DSpirit%20people.
The pain of stolen sisters and the possibility of a different and better tomorrow. May they be a symbol of our commitment to engage in the work of reconciliation.
And in that in between time, we can unearth joy… digging in the rich fertile soil to find a bright and new tomorrow. We, like those disciples on the road to Emmaus, can find joy in knowing that we have companions on the journey.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama wrote a book entitled the Book of Joy and it in they define joy as including meaning and connection.
Which helps understand how we can experience joy even in the midst of horrible circumstances, when we can make meaning of them and when we find deep connection with others.
Imagine joy like this loaf a bread… the very same dough that you needed all your doubts and your worries, your intentions and hopes last week. If we kept it here, carefully preserved, it would last a long time. Even while it wouldn’t nourish anyone. But when we break it, the bread opens up… Opens us to all that there is of life. Pain, possibility, joy. Food for both body and soul. Passed from one hand to another… companions on this journey…
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of the road that Jesus walks with us. Amen.
Luke 24: 13-35
April 30, 2023 – SJUC