Sermon by Rev. Jayme Babczak
“Life is a journey, not a destination” – this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson is one maybe we’ve heard before. Maybe you’ve seen this quote printed on a throw pillow or on the side of an inspirational coffee mug. “Life is a journey, not a destination”. It may seem like quite a simplistic way to describe life, but it has some truth in it. Life is like a journey – like a roadtrip that includes beautiful scenery, a flat tire, a pitstop for some good food, a wave of carsickness, and so much more. Life’s journey isn’t always glamorous – it’s full of different stages, different emotions, different twists, and turns, highs and lows all along the way.
We meet Cleopas and his co-traveler in the midst of their life’s journey as followers of Jesus. This story that we hear today follows them on several stages of their life’s journey – many that mirror our journey throughout life.
Although Cleopas and his co-traveler weren’t two of the twelve well-known disciples, we can tell that they were followers of Jesus. These two know who Jesus is – know how Jesus lived – and know that Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb where it once laid. We happen upon Cleopas and his co-traveler somewhere on their route from Jerusalem to Emmaus. This stage of their life journey – like most disciples at the time – was one characterized by grief. Worried about what happened to Jesus’ body & wearied by the uncertainty of what would come next, they sought solace in a long walk to process some of their grief in one another’s company.
An encounter with a stranger along the road shifts them to another stage in their life journey. When asked what they were chatting about, Cleopas and his co-travel respond like good followers of Jesus and begin to share the story of their own faith. It’s rise & it’s fall. They share what they had hoped for – their expectations from Jesus’ leadership and life – and then they share their devastation that Jesus had been crucified, buried, and now nowhere to be found. They become storytellers tell this stranger the story of their faith – the good, the bad, the ugly, and now – the unknown.
The stranger’s response shifts them to another stage in their journey – a phase of learning. The stranger seems to also be a teacher – knowledgeable about the scriptures and deeply aware of Jesus’ relationship to the Creator. This stranger imparts wisdom and insight beyond the foggy perspective of Cleopas and his co-traveler. There’s information and experience greater than what they could imagine from their own limited experience. They learn from the stranger and continue their trek onward.
Once home, the journey takes a turn toward revelation. Cleopas and his co-traveler invite the stranger to stay with them – an act of hospitality. It was late, they had been traveling, they were hungry. And so the stranger agrees to stay. And then the revelation happens. The once-stranger, now-acquaintance reveals himself to Cleopas and his co-traveler as Jesus – the son of God, the resurrected Christ, the one in whom the disciples had placed all hope. Through the breaking and sharing of bread, their eyes were opened to see Jesus in his fullness, no longer under the guise of a stranger. God meets them at the table. Hope restored for humanity through an ordinary meal.
It’s quite the journey, isn’t it? We are privy to a small part of Cleopas and his co-travelers life journey and yet so much happens in that short time. Long, winding journeys full of grief, sharing, learning, and revealing like theirs might sound familiar to us, too.
The journey toward justice for victims of racialized violence is long and winding. We know this to be true. It’s a journey that extends long before the deaths of men and women like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd in 2020 and it continues in the present with the deaths of Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, and Adam Toledo.
We – as a nation - have witnessed the stage of grief, and even experienced it ourselves. We have heard storytellers share their experiences – recounting that for which they had hoped and that which has brought devastation. We have committed ourselves to the stage of learning – re-learning the truth of our history, uncovering the fractured nature of our systems and institutions, and examining our conscious and unconscious biases.
And just this past week, we experienced a brief moment of revelation. Our eyes were opened as we realized that accountability for one’s actions is possible. A moment of hope. A foretaste of healing. A stepping stone toward justice.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Hope is a journey, not a destination.
Healing is a journey, not a destination.
Justice is a journey, not destination.
Just like Cleopas and his co-traveler, there is so much of our life’s journey that is still to be traveled. What did they do when Jesus revealed himself to them in the breaking of bread? They got back on the road and journeyed to Jerusalem. They went to tell the disciples of their experience and continued to share the good news. There was more hope to share. More healing to occur. More justice to be enacted.
There’s still more hope to share. More healing to occur. More justice to be enacted. There was so many years ago and there still is today. Like Cleopas and his co-traveler, God calls us to continue our journey until all know of Christ’s hope, healing and justice. God meets us on our travels and journeys with us, equipping us for the work of love that remains. So may we continue to journey forward in life – sharing hope, seeking healing, and demanding justice for all of humanity.