Sunday 26th April 2020 – 3rd Sunday of Easter
This Sunday’s Reflection is by Rev’d Arani Sen
Reflection, The Road to Emmaus
This is a powerful, emotional and heart-rending story. The story of two disciples on the Emmaus Road, unexpectedly surprised by joy (Luke 24: 13-35). The story begins with two despondent men, trudging on a journey to Emmaus – what they loved, what they hoped for, what they set their dreams upon, suddenly has gone. Jesus has gone, all the comradeship and the encouragement have been taken away by the brutal forces of Roman occupation and Palestinian persecution – humiliation, betrayal, trial, flogging, crucifixion.
Yet at the end of this story, they have become two men touched by warmth and burning with joy, realising that the stranger they have been sharing their wounded history with, the guest at their table, has been Jesus himself. They recognised him in the breaking of the bread. They were surprised by joy: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us whilst he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ ”
The expression, Surprised by Joy, was written by the great Christian writer C.S. Lewis. It is the title of his autobiography, where he talks about his early days as an atheist as he went out of his way to avoid God. But God was seeking him out him, patiently, quietly, humbly; not forcefully: “You must picture me , alone in [my study], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.”
Gradually he came to admit that God was there, real and present; he knelt and prayed, he began to attend church and to read the gospels. The scriptures started to make sense to him. Lewis had acknowledged God; now God was inviting him to acknowledge his son. In a much-quoted passage in Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis related his final step into real joy: “I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out, I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.”
The journey to Whipsnade Zoo was C.S. Lewis’ Emmaus Road. Emmaus Road experiences are the surprising encounters, quiet and unexpected, of Jesus Christ into our lives.
These disciples were deeply unhappy; they have just been bereaved in the most terrible circumstances, but they embraced a stranger, opened themselves up to new ways of thinking, generously offered up their food and their home.
Joy comes through sadness; joy comes to those who walk the way of Jesus. Joy lifts us in most profound moments of pain, of suffering. Joy comes through Jesus and through others, the quiet words of comfort, the unexpected phone calls, the bible verse that speaks into our hearts. Let us continue our journey, open to Jesus, and be ready to be surprised by joy.