Walking With a Stranger

In the resurrection account in Luke, the story is told of two followers of Jesus who left Jerusalem the first day of the week following the crucifixion. They were heading for Emmaus. The assumption that most people have is that the two were men, but I always like to think that perhaps they were a man and woman who had gone to Jerusalem for the family’s Passover celebration. While in Jerusalem they had experienced the excitement of Jesus’ trip into the city, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his followers, the betrayal by Judas, the mockery of Jesus’s trial, the denial of Peter, the crucifixion, and just before they headed down the road, the surprise announcement by the women that the tomb was empty. As they walked they probably were talking about the strange events.

Walking on the road, deep in their confusion, frustration, and conversation, the two followers of Jesus were interrupted by a stranger. The stranger was a good listener and heard their story and then, in turn, he told the familiar story of the Hebrew people from the time of Moses, through the prophets, and even interpreted the prophecies regarding the Messiah.

It was a stranger who offered a listening ear, solace for their pain and suffering, and a new understanding of the scriptures. And it was a stranger who accepted their hospitality of a meal and lodging. It was at the table, when the stranger broke the bread, blessed and broke it that they recognized Jesus, and understood what he had told them on the road.

On our journeys we encounter friends, family, and strangers. Are we alert to Christ’s presence in each? Are we open to new understandings of God’s love that others can bring us? Are we hospitable, willing to share what we have with others? Do we share God’s gift of Jesus, the resurrected Christ, in our encounters with others?

The risen Christ journeys with us through life, even when we do not recognize him. Just as the two on the road to Emmaus experienced the risen Christ, we too are interrupted by Jesus, often in the guise of a stranger calling us to serve as Christ did. Our recognition of the Christ and the call may be slow in coming, but once recognition takes place we must move forward with a strong and determined faith. The resurrected Christ is with us on our journey!

“O Master, let me walk with thee
in lowly paths of service free;
tell me thy secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.

Teach me thy patience; still with thee
in closer, dearer company,
in work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
in trust that triumphs over wrong.”

Washington Gladden, 1879
Joyce SohlJoyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.