Greet strangers with an open mind and heart

By Pastor Jean M. Megorden, Woods and Water Shared Ministry; Bethel Lutheran, Little Falls, Bethany Lutheran, Cushing, Immanuel, Hillman 

One of my favorite Bible stories that appears in the Revised Common Lectionary during this Easter season is the story about the disciples encountering the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus.

They are walking along, talking about what has happened to the one they thought was the Messiah, when Jesus joins them. The scripture says, “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” After relating the horrific events of the past few days to this “stranger,” the stranger (who we know to be Jesus) begins interpreting “to them all the things about himself in all the scriptures.”

The disciples still do not know to whom they are listening, but they must be intrigued by his knowledge of scripture and so asked him to come and stay with them. That bold invitation would rarely happen today because of our fear of the stranger, but at the time of Jesus this kind of hospitality was practiced regularly, especially by the disciples of Jesus because they had been instructed to welcome the stranger.

Perhaps we need to consider the importance of welcoming the stranger, not necessarily into our homes, but at least into conversation and public discourse.

Think about what would have happened if the disciples had not invited Jesus to stay with them. They would not have sat down at the table where their eyes were opened when the Savior broke bread with them. An encounter with the risen Lord would have been missed and they would have gone on being confused and saddened by their own experience.

I think the most important message for us today from this Biblical account is that we, as disciples are called to be curious — seekers of more information so that we can continue to learn and be open to our God who is still active in our lives. This risen Lord, our living God still has much to teach us and we have much to learn.

Sometimes I wonder if we are so frightened of not being able to understand something fully that we avoid it. Either that or we oversimplify things to make ourselves feel that much smarter.

We live in a world that is intent upon oversimplifying things. It is a world of media soundbites that communicate quickly rather than thoroughly. The days of long conversations about the mysteries of life seem to be things of the past, buried with old research papers and our younger days when we thought that together we could come up with ideas that could be challenged by different points of view and by a living God that continues to walk alongside us through the complexity of our own limited human vision.

St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully even as I have been fully known.” Many of us recognize this quote because it introduces the verse repeated in so many wedding ceremonies: “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

When I think about the road to Emmaus story and how the eyes of the disciples were kept from recognizing the savior, I pray the words of a relatively new hymn by Paul Baloche: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart; I want to see you, I want to see you.”

Let us not merely remember the God we worship, but let the eyes of our hearts and minds be open to God’s presence today.