The road to Emmaus
The Gospel of Luke records a time after Jesus’ resurrection when He walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). As we recall, the discussion was on recent events, with a focus on the crucifixion. Those disciples were experiencing great sadness. Yet by the end of the conversation, they were exclaiming with joy, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
I love this part of the Easter story because it portrays a very alive and present God who is doing what He wants to do for all of us, namely walk alongside in an effort to take away our sadness and replace it with joy.
In New Church theology, the Lord Jesus Christ is the one God of heaven and earth. He is not merely the Son of God who came to die for the sins of the world; rather He is God Himself who came in human form to show us what kind of God He truly is.
There is a New Church teaching which states, “The whole of Sacred Scripture teaches that God exists and that there is one God” (True Christianity no. 6). This is something that most people intuitively believe, and even what most Christian churches teach, despite confusions over one God somehow divided into three eternal Persons.
New Church teachings clear that up by helping us to see that these three predominant manifestations of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—refer to His unfailing love, His infinite wisdom, and His incredible ability to affect our lives for good. There’s lots in there, as there is in any theology, but it all boils down to the one God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who has “all power in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 20:28)—not to do whatever He wants, but to “draw after Him all people who in freedom will to follow” (Apocalypse Explained no. 864).
Walking with God
I’d like to key in on the literal and symbolic theme of walking. It’s interesting to note how itinerant Jesus was on earth. His whole ministry can be seen through the lens of walking around the Holy Land as He taught people truths they needed to know and healed them of their ailments. Even some of those healing miracles focused on walking, as when He said to a man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years, “Rise, take up your bed and walk” (John 5:8).
We know intuitively that walking means living. It’s in our common parlance that “life is a journey”, and certainly the Scriptures are full of references to this connection. Isaiah the prophet said, for example, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways and we shall walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3).
The beauty of all this is where it brings us: We now have an active picture of walking with our Lord. As a God of pure love, He wants to bless us with awesome relationships, inner peace, and a sense deeply fulfilling sense of purpose in life. As a God of infinite wisdom, He has many things to each us about how to cooperate with Him to “Love others as I have loved you” (John 15:12), go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41), use your gifts and talents to invest in the lives of others and “be a blessing” to them (Matthew 25:21, Genesis 12:2). As a God of incredible ability He enlightens us, inspires us, protects and leads us, all with the goal of helping us to experience the joy of heaven even here on earth. That joy comes from healthy relationships based on useful and loving actions, with each of us discovering our unique way of contributing to the good of the whole.
Contrast that with other pictures of God that focus on the static picture of the crucifixion and harken back only to what Jesus did for you way back then. Of course the crucifixion was part of the process, showing in ways that nothing else could the depth of love our Lord has for us. But unlike a belief-only outcome, the New Church explanation of Easter offers a dynamic and active picture of walking with God a spiritual journey of growth and promise.
What could all this mean for you this Easter season? I have three hopes to share about that. First is the hope that the love of God will touch your heart in new ways. If He is pure love, then from Him we can receive some of that love for others. Our part is to turn regularly to the Source of love with the prayer that He soften and warm our hearts toward others. Can we ask ourselves, “What do I love about this person?” or “How can I let go of some of my impatience and frustration toward this human being that I do truly love?”
A second hope is that you will experience moments of enlightenment. If God is infinite wisdom, then from Him we can hear the truths about life that we really need to know. For example, Jesus said on the cross, “Forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Can we reflect on the principle of forgiveness, and be willing to do our part to move strained relationships to a better place, instead of holding onto anger, or worse, the desire for retribution?
A third hope is that you will feel again the joy that can come from living for others, not in unhealthy, depleting ways, but in inspiring “make a difference” ways. If God has incredible ability to affect our lives for good, then from Him we can do thing for others that truly help. Each of us could seek our own answers to the following questions: “What can I do today that demonstrates my commitment to God’s other-oriented calling?” “How can I help?” “What do I know that I’m uniquely positioned to do that can make the world a better place?”
We return to the image of the risen Lord walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As with them, so He is walking with us in an effort to “open the Scriptures” to us, and cause our hearts to “burn within us.” Because He is a God of love, wisdom and ability, He can help us to be loving, wise, and capable human beings who respond to His calling to be a blessing to others in all that we do.
Peter Buss, Jr. is the Assistant Bishop for the General Church.