Today’s gospel holds a rich mine of meaning and possibility, but I want to think about this in the context of Christians as pilgrims. Today, we commission some of our parishioners to go visit, help, and make friends with other people. They will probably hear some amazing stories and they will bring amazing stories home with them. They will eat with others, and find themselves moved in ways they could not have imagined before. Christians are a pilgrim people, not because of mobility, but because the good news demands sharing, demands relationship, demands risk and change.
Those folks on the way to Emmaus, shared news with a stranger, who gave them a different way to think about what they thought they knew. When they took the risk of inviting the stranger to dinner, they found someone they already knew and loved. It was not so much about the distance they travelled with their feet, but the distance they travelled in their hearts.
Two years ago, I came to spend some time with you. We shared stories, ate together, took risks together, and so i think I’m no stranger to you, although you may still think me strange. You feel like friends, like family. You are not strangers to me. I understand the good news of Jesus differently because I have met you. My faith has been broadened and shaped by you, even though I am long in my journey.
We are a pilgrim people because as long as we live, we are called to be in motion, except when we rest in prayer in the arms of the Spirit, or when we share our stories. Now I am not necessarily talking about Bible stories here. We are each of us walking testimonials and sometimes it is quite enough to share our own stories and quite enough to actively listen to the stories of others. Sometimes, something as simple as a cup of coffee, a doughnut, or giving directions, can set us or another on a different path.
Being a Christian does not require a lot of props or even doctrines. It requires that we are alert to the divinity in each person, to the sacredness of creation, to the Holy one whispering love and courage to us when we are most afraid. Being a Christian means believing that love can clear the debris of wrong and renew a vision of of peace and compassion.
The words of the pilgrim are hope, peace, compassion. These three will lead us and guide us and bring us ultimately to experience the Divine that inhales and exhales through us and through the trees. The path of the pilgrim is always to the table of peace where bread is broken and wine shared because life is supposed to be good. All the stories in the end are one story that is the working out of God’s love and confidence is us, sometimes despite ourselves. We follow Jesus because he showed us not to fear what and who we do not yet know. He taught us to share our stories of hope, He modelled how to remember him in our own lives and in our own journeys. We discover that nothing can separate us when we are connected through Jesus, and so we can rely on the promises of the resurrection, that we will not be left alone without the presence of Christ. I pray for you all, staff and congregation, that you discover many strangers who will surprise and challenge you. I pray that you will have many meals where Christ will sit with you at table. And I pray that in the stories and in the meal, you will feel hope and new life. May God keep you in love.