Meeting Jesus on the Road to Emmaus

A sermon preached by Dr. Brent Beasley on April 8, 2018 at Rising Star Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas

An excerpt:

Often we don’t recognize Jesus when he comes to us, because, like in this story, Jesus often comes to us when we’re going to Emmaus—being busy, escaping, running away. We’re not paying attention. We are too occupied and preoccupied.

So… where is Emmaus? Emmaus is wherever we go or whatever we do to make ourselves forget the disappointment of this world and our lives.

The good news is that is exactly where Jesus comes to meet us—on the road to Emmaus—he comes to meet us in our
grief and
disappointment and
disillusionment.

We’ve got to pay attention. Look for him. Recognize him when he comes to meet you.

In 2008 I got to participate in the Summer Programme in Theology at Oxford University. One of the classes I took was called “Faith, Reason, and the Contemplative way.” Vincent Strudwick, my professor, was a former monk. Talking about the contemplative way, a life of prayer, he addressed the potential criticism that a life of prayer is an escape from reality.

Professor Strudwick said that the real escape from reality is not the contemplative life but making yourself busy. If we keep busy enough, we don’t ever have
to think,
to face ourselves,
to reflect on the reality of our lives, our problems,
our blessings, our situations.

But to come to God in prayer, to take the time to be still and be quiet—that is facing reality. Very much. Strudwick said that when those ancient monks went out into the desert alone to pray there was no hiding place or refuge. That’s when you have to confront reality. When you’re out there in the desert all by yourself with nothing to distract you from yourself.

And so when we talk about not recognizing Jesus, this becomes very important. Professor Strudwick called a life of prayer “seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.” His favorite phrase was that one from Gerard Manley Hopkins: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Perhaps that ought to be the guiding statement of the living of our lives: The world is charged with the grandeur of God. Don’t fail to recognize it.

This has been a common theme of our spiritual leaders over the years:
Augustine talked about “the graced transformation of the ordinary.”

Julian of Norwich’s great theme was paying attention to God. She called it “glory spotting” (in the past and present—the practice of recognizing God’s presence in your past trains you to spot glory in the present).

It’s a mindset—having a mindset of looking for the presence of God.

There is an old fable about a far-off land ruled by a tyrant who had an ironclad grip over all parts of his kingdom, except for one frustrating area. He was unable to destroy the people’s belief in God. He summoned his counselors and put the question to them: Where can I hide God so that the people will end up forgetting him?

One counselor suggested that God be hidden on the dark side of the moon. This was debated for some time but voted down because it was believed that one day the wise ones would discover a means of space travel and God would be found again.

Another advisor came up with idea of burying God beneath the depths on the ocean floor. This was voted down for basically the same reason – it was felt that knowledge would lead to the discovery of God even in the deeps.

Finally, the oldest and wisest of the counselors had a flash of insight. I know, he said, why don’t we hide God where no one will ever think of finding him? He explained: If we hide God in the ordinary events of people’s everyday lives they’ll never find him.

And so it was done– and they say that people are still looking for God even today.

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