Stranger, Guest, and Host
I love the story of Jesus walking with two of his disciples on the Road to Emmaus, (Luke 24:13-35) because it is a picture in miniature of the path we all take as disciples.
In the beginning of our journey, Jesus is a stranger to us. Oh, sure, we hear the stories about Him in the Bible. We sing the hymns at church. But what do we really know about Jesus? He seems very far away from our daily lives. A Jewish carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago; an itinerant preacher whose lessons are more cryptic than clear; a person who was willing to die when He had it within his power to escape death – Jesus is truly a stranger to us and to our whole way of life.
But as we grow in faith, we begin to invite Jesus to be our guest. We want to spend more time with Him and learn about what He has to teach us. This is all on our own terms, of course. When it is convenient for us we ask Him over – we pray to Him, or we read about Him, we begin to participate in worship and ponder His difficult sayings.
As time goes on, though, and we become more convinced that Jesus is who He said He was, we eventually reverse roles, and become the guests at Jesus’ table. We open ourselves to Him, not only as our Host at communion, but also as the Lord of our lives. Instead of fitting Him into our schedule, we let Him dictate the schedule and fit our lives into His purpose. We become a part of his Body and we acknowledge Him as our head.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all this could take place in one day, as it did for those disciples on the Road to Emmaus? For most of us, it takes a lifetime, and our journey is not a straight path, but one that doubles back and snakes around as we wrestle with Jesus over who is in control of our lives.
But the truth is, we all can open our eyes to Christ’s leading in our lives wherever we are. When our hearts burn as we hear His message, Jesus is speaking to us. When we commune at His table, Jesus is hosting us. When we pour ourselves out in compassion and love the way He did, no matter how worthy the recipient, Jesus is guiding our hearts, minds, and souls.
And the best thing about traveling on the Road to Emmaus is that in the end you don’t just reach a dusty village. You find your way to the Kingdom of God.
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Rev. Dr. Shannon Smythe
United Presbyterian Church