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In the Walking, Talking, and Breaking of Bread -- Luke 24:13-35 (3rd Sunday of Easter)

In my years serving as Chaplain and Dean of Students at the Seminary, I carried forward a tradition that had been handed on to me – the annual Seminary to the Sea Hike.It’s just what it sounds like – a hike from the Seminary here in San Anselmo to the sea – to the Pacific Ocean, and specifically to Stinson Beach. It is a long, long walk.

Every year, in the week leading up to Labor Day Weekend, the Seminary welcomes its new students. In the late 80s, early 90s, a group of folks – led by Polly and Bob Coote (friends of this congregation) and John Irvine – launched the first hike and it soon became the culmination of that Welcome Week – a week of orientation, with this closing Seminary to the Sea Hike – a pilgrimage of sorts.

It’s about 12 miles. 11 miles up, up, up, over the side of Mt Tam, and then one mile down, down, down – steep switchbacks down to the beach. When my dean-of-student colleagues at the other Presbyterian seminaries heard about it, they liked to joke that I was confusing seminary orientation with military boot camp. Now, it wasn’t required, and actually, only a handful of folks – 10-20 did it in any one year – the far bigger event was the picnic that awaited us on the beach.

But the fearless (or fearful) few set out each Labor Day Saturday – around 7:30am – at the corner of Kensington Rd and Bolinas Ave. We walked to Phoenix Lake – and then up to Bon Tempe and Lagunitas – we’d stop there for a snack. Then, we’d walk some more. Lots of hills. A meadow to cross. It was late summer, so by about 10 or 11, it was hot. We’d move at different paces – usually sifting out into 2 or 3 smaller groups – some would set out at a fast clip – others would walk more deliberately. Over the course of my 12 hikes, I progressed from speedy at age 37 to steady and deliberate at 51. And on those 12 Hikes, I’ve only made one wrong turn. Grace abounds.

We’d walk. And along the way, we’d talk. Remember, this was the culmination of orientation – a week of entirely new things. Many of the folks had uprooted their lives – left jobs, moved long distances. They found themselves in this rarified world – where we set out to dive into ancient Hebrew and Greek texts, and wrestle with the big questions in life, and learn to serve and lead in this confounding world we inhabit. Come Friday of that week, many were thinking – oh my gosh, what have I done?

And so on this long hike we’d talk – at first the basics – where we were from – then on into the shared events of the week, and by then, well, we were only half a mile into this 12 mile hike – so there was time to go deeper – How’d you get here? What’s life been like?

As we traveled along, the walking configuration would shift. You’d walk with a few folks for a while, and then you’d find yourself walking with others – as tempos varied, and paths diverged and converged again. There was time to talk. And time to walk together in silence.

There’s something about walking – particularly a long walk like that. It somehow opens up space and time. You set out on the trail and step by step, you move out into the world – each step takes you a bit further from what you know. You get further and further from the busyness you’ve left behind – there’s just you, and the road, and your companions along the way. Time seems to open up too. On a 12-mile walk, it starts to feel like you’ve got nothing but time – “Are we almost there yet?” Time to walk, and to talk (or not), time to be.

Rebecca Solnit says that walking is one of the elemental ways that we place our bodies in space and time and make meaning in the world.[1] There are all sorts of reasons folks set out on a walk – we walk to get from Point A to Point B; we walk through nature; we walk for our health; we set out on pilgrimage, in search of meaning; we walk the streets in protest to change the world. “Walking,” Solnit says, “allows us to be in our bodies and in the world, without being made busy by them.”[2] A long walk opens up opportunity to notice, to see, to listen, to take it all in, to think, and to talk – because, as Solnit says “I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about 3 miles per hour.”[3] She calls walking “reading with one’s feet.”[4]

This is nothing new – this walking and talking and making meaning in the world. Aristotle taught while walking – that was his thing – they even call his schoo of thoguht the “peripatetic school.” Peripatetic – it means walking around – the walking-around school. (That’s our new word for the day.) Think of medical school – where a teaching physician walks the halls and rooms of a hospital – followed by a line of students. There’s a walk-and-talk therapy – living into the notion that sometimes it’s easier to talk honestly when we don’t have the intensity of looking at each other eye-to-eye. We can simply walk alongside each other and be – and in quiet thoughtful steps – share a bit of life.

In this morning’s Scripture, on that first Easter day, just three days after the trauma of crucifixion, stunned and bewildered by reports of an empty tomb, these two followers of Jesus set out on a long walk – a 7 mile walk from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus.[5] We don’t know why they are walking. Maybe they are heading home. Maybe they are leaving Jerusalem in fear (but there’s not really any sign that they are in a hurry). Maybe they are going to share the news.

They set out on this 7-mile journey, along a dry dusty road, and they have time to start to piece things together – sharing memories – what they saw, what they heard, what they felt – comparing notes – as those who suffer a traumatic experience often do. Something has happened that is too big for any one human heart to grasp – and so we each bring our piece of the story – and start to put the whole of it together.

And as they are walking and talking – another traveler comes alongside them on this open road where paths converge. They don’t recognize that it is Jesus. And he asks them, “So what’s been going on?”

I imagine that they stop. Their jaws drop. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has happened there these past few days?!?!?” And so they tell him a story. They tell Jesus, the story of Jesus. How Jesus was a prophet of God – mighty in word and deed. How the religious authorities had handed him over to be crucified. We saw him die. But now, some women of our group went to the tomb, and found it empty, and a vision of angels told them he was alive. This is what has been happening, what everyone is talking about – and we are trying to figure out what it all might mean.

It’s all so overwhelming. It’s like the world has come crashing down. “But we had hoped. But we had hoped that he was the one to rise up and bring the powers down.”

Do you wonder why they didn’t recognize Jesus? There are lots of theories. Some writers say maybe the Risen Christ didn’t look the same. Scripture says, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” So some writers say maybe God had a reason to hold off on that recognition. Maybe. But, maybe they didn’t see Jesus because they’d given up on seeing Jesus.[6] But we had hoped. They had hoped. And Jesus had been crucified. The last thing they expected was to meet him on the road.... alive.

So they tell Jesus this story – not understanding who he is – not understanding really what they are saying. Bless their hearts. And then Jesus says, “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets declared.” I love how Joy reads that – with such love and compassion – “Oh, how foolish you are.”

And now, Jesus – whom they still don’t recognize – Jesus tells them a story. Beginning with Moses, Jesus tells them the story of Jesus. This is what has happened in these days – this is what God has been up to... from the very beginning – saving the world from everything that does us harm – good news for the poor, release for the captive, freedom for everyone who has been oppressed.

And they arrive in the village of Emmaus. It’s almost night, so they invite Jesus to stay with them. They gather for a meal. And Jesus takes bread, and blesses it, and breaks it. And oh: They recognize him. In the tender gaze of his eyes. In the cadence of his blessing. In the smell and taste of the bread. It all comes together – like the colors and shapes of a kaleidoscope all falling into place – all the walking and the talking and the breaking of the bread – their companion on the way – the honest bits they’d shared.

As Resurrection unfolds and flows out through and beyond Easter, we get these glimpses of life. And here, these two on the Road to Emmaus experience the Risen Christ in the walking and talking, and in the breaking of bread.

Those three things – in the Gospel of Luke – they are arguably the things that Jesus does most.[7]

· Walking: The Jesus of Luke is always on the move.[8] From the very first words of the Gospel, this good news is travelling from Jerusalem “to the ends of the Earth.” Jesus moves from place to place – teaching, healing – he takes his disciples along with him – on the open road – he journeys to the cross and on into Resurrection – to this Road to Emmaus. And beyond this – we know that Resurrection moves into Pentecost, and the Spirit of Christ in the Body of Christ will take this Good News – even further – indeed, to the ends of the Earth.

· Talking: From the very start, Jesus has been talking. The Spirit of God is upon me – good news for the poor, freedom for the oppressed. All the teaching.

· And in the Breaking of Bread: When Jesus breaks bread, maybe when Jesus takes bread, and bless it, and breaks it – they remember the Last Supper. But we don’t know for sure that they were there. It’s more likely that they were there along the way – when Jesus fed the multitude – when there were 5,000 hungry bodies to feed. Jesus took 5 loaves of bread and a couple fish – he took the bread, blessed it – and broke it – and everyone had enough.[9]

In the walking and talking, and in the breaking of bread, it all comes rushing back. These two on the Road to Emmaus – they experience the Risen Christ in Resurrection in all the same ways they experienced him before. Resurrection has indeed turned the world rightside up. What Jesus has been doing all along – good news for the poor, release for the captive, freedom for all who are oppressed – all that flows on – in this Resurrection life stronger even than death – more powerful than any power that has ever held them back – good news all the way to the ends of the earth – and on out into forever.

In the walking and talking, and in the breaking of bread – they experience the Risen Christ and the power of Resurrection – in the fullness of life – in every step – in every word – in every taste, sight, sound, smell, and touch.

I heard an interview this week with Gretchen Rubin, who has written a book called Life in the Five Senses – that tells of her journey to slow down and to notice life, using the 5 classic senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.[10] She begins with the simple premise that our bodies are how we experience the world and other people. Our senses, she says, hold the power to connect us to the people and the moments that we want to experience and remember.[11] Each sense brings us sensory experiences that – considered together – connected and shaped by imagination – give us our experience of the world – our experience of life.

That feels so basic – almost elemental.

It also feels like what’s happening here – on the Road to Emmaus – as bodies move together along a dry dusty road in the heat of a desert day – as those weary bodies settle in at a table – and break bread, and taste, and smell, and see – the goodness of God – more powerful than anything that does us harm – alive and loving them still.

As we travel this Easter season, we are looking for glimpses of life. I’m going invite us to stop and pause here. For these first three weeks, we’ve entered into these Resurrection stories – Mary holding on to Jesus, hearing him speak her name; Jesus coming to the disciples in locked room, “Peace be with you,” breathing on them the warm breath of the Risen Christ; “Thomas touch my wounds – it is I myself.” And here two more walking and talking and breaking bread – glimpses of Resurrection – glimpses of life. In the coming weeks, we’ll look for glimpses of life in the life of the early church.

But right now, the invitation this week is to use your five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste touch – and to look for some of those glimpses of life yourself. Take time this week to slow down – and to notice. Maybe take a walk if you want. It doesn’t need to be 12 miles. Or sit in a still moment. Or in conversations. Or in a meal. Or in the touch of a hand. Notice as you move through the world, and encounter others, or any bit of creation. The colors and shapes, the voices and sounds, the textures. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? and Touch? Where do you glimpse life? Right here, right now.

There’s a moment on that Seminary to the Sea Hike – after the 11 miles of up, up, up – when we crest the final hill –and there it is. The Pacific Ocean. I sometimes forget how near it is. You stand there as the world opens up, as far as the eye can see – Stinson, the curve of beach over to Bolinas – the cliffs that run back down to the city – and beyond all that – ocean. The stale air of the dusty trail gives way to the salty smell of ocean breeze, the first cool breeze since we’ve had since we set out in the morning. As we start down the switchbacks, we feel the ache in our weary legs. We complain to each other, but we are almost there. As we descend, we start to hear the waves crashing in on the beach; we can almost taste the picnic feast that awaits.

Our bodies, moving down the trail together.

With every step, sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation –

in the expanse that stretches out before us –

everywhere, everywhere – life.

© 2023 Scott Clark

[1] See Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2000). [2] Id. p.5. [3] Id. p.10 [4] Id. p. 70 [5] For general background on the text, see Sharon Ringe, Luke (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995); Donald Senior, Commentary in Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 2 (Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), pp. 418-23; R. Alan Culpepper, “The Gospel of Luke,” New Interpreters’ Bible Commentary, vol. ix (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995). [6] See Greg Carey, Commentary on Working Preacher, at [7] See Ringe, pp. 285-88 (“Revelation comes in three simple human acts.”), noting that Ringe’s list of 3 is slightly different than mine. [8] See Senior, pp. 419-21. [9] See Eric Barreto, Commentary on Working Preacher, at [10] See Gretchen Rubin, Life in the Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and into the World (New York, NY: Crown/Penguing Random House, 2023). [11] Id. p.7.

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