The two preachers at my house walk around the same few blocks in our neighborhood a lot. There is something soothing in walking past the same yards, knowing which will have daffodils in due season, waving to the neighbors who take such good care of their convertible and their lawn, and half-voicing our perpetual complaint about the other neighbors whose trash always ends up enticing our dogs toward the gutter.
While we walk, we talk. We play out our sermon ideas or writing blocks. We consider and reconsider parenting strategies. We wonder when and whether things in the world will get better. From time to time, we despair. And while we cannot solve the world, more often than not we push through the hitch in our thinking and arrive home ready to write the next paragraph or offer the appropriate suggestion or move on to whatever needs to be next, both of us having had the chance to talk and the privilege to listen.
Whether Cleopas was walking with a buddy or, as some scholars suggest, his spouse, both were eager to tell the stranger who fell in beside them about the situation in which they found themselves. Here is what happened, and here is what our friends saw, and this is how people were feeling, and how are we to make sense of any of this?
I first heard the phrase “solvitur ambulando” in seminary, attributed to St. Augustine, and used to emphasize walking as a devotional practice. Despite my physical limitations, and particularly in this season when my house is very full all the time, even a short walk seems to help in working out whatever thoughts or feelings are stuck and need motion to be freed. Whether the conversation is with another person or I simply give my mind room to wander and talk to myself as I pass familiar scenes, something … happens.
The losses in this season of shock and grief are both small and large, from routines and reservations, to proms and confirmations, to paychecks and lives. We need comfort. We also need perspective. We could all use a walk with Jesus. Who wouldn’t love a savior who listens? He is blunt with Cleopas and companion; sometimes we need someone to be frank with us, to make the connections and draw the inferences we have missed. While we might pull back when someone calls us foolish or slow of heart, tells us that we just don’t get it, I know that such conversations have at times been uncomfortable yet needed gifts for me. Certainly, Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas do not want their talk to end when the walk is over.
We shall not cease from explorationT.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
At home in Emmaus, they find clarity. The puzzle has been solved by walking and talking until we arrive at the place where suddenly everything makes sense, at the table with the One who gave everything for us and came back to be sure we understood.
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