April 2020

The Journey Toward Awakening

3rd Sunday of Easter, April 26, 2020
Luke 24:13-35

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –

Have you ever had a spiritual encounter that you knew was as real as the air you breathed, yet you couldn’t share with even your closet friends convinced that they would discount it as imagined and unreal, and you as delusional?

The story of the two disciples traveling to Emmaus conjures such recollections for me. Here we find two followers of Jesus discussing the unprecedented events of the day, most likely not keeping the prescribed six-feet of separation to which we have grudgingly adjusted during this coronavirus pandemic. And given the fact that they would dare venture out during a pandemic-like period when anyone associated with Jesus was criminally contagious, made their journey all the more precarious. We don’t know the reason for their trip, possibly to escape the atmosphere of suspicion looming about in Jerusalem following the crucifixion. But their journey proved to be one of spiritual awakening whereby they encountered Jesus in a new reality they failed to recognize until later on that evening as they shared a meal with him.

I wonder, if not for the preceding events that had already broadened the scope of reality among the other disciples, including the eye-witnessed testimony of the women at the tomb that Jesus had risen from the dead, and the eye-witnessed encounter of his disciples of their risen Lord; if not for these events, how would the story of these two disciples have been received?

We are reluctant to share spiritual experiences with others sensing they will think we imagined something. However, I’ve come to believe that spiritual encounters with lives beyond our mortality are often meant for no other than the receiver. And if the impact of this phenomenon is so enormous and real, nothing will contain the enthusiasm to share it with even the most ardent sceptics.

I remember a journey I took one evening while in seminary after visiting a friend in town that involved walking through a rough neighborhood to reach my dormitory. I closed my eyes, prayed for God to calm my fears and guide me safely home. It was then I opened my eyes, looked down and discovered a German Shepherd who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere standing next to me. The dog accompanied me through this section of town and, when I felt safe again, I was so delighted with his company that I decided to adopt him since he had no tags indicating he belonged to anyone. But as I turned to show my appreciation, he was gone. He had vanished as mysteriously as he appeared. Yet I was convinced, pun intended, that the Lord was my shepherd.

It was at supper in Emmaus, as he broke bread with his two companions, that their eyes were opened to the spiritual reality that Christ was with them all along. And then he vanished as mysteriously as he appeared from their sight.

“Whether we live or die,” says the Apostle Paul, “we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8) The Lord is your Shepherd and will never leave you alone. Christ has risen indeed. Amen.