Someone said as we sailed across the lake of Galilee that here they could see every day of creation. Light, water, plants, sun, fish, birds, living creatures, and humanity. No wonder Jesus, the creator, seemed to enjoy being here so much.
There’s something about the combination of sea and sky that makes me think that on one day of creation, God woke up with an enormous enthusiasm for the colour blue. The following day, green was the colour that excited him. “What colour shall we make olive trees?” “Green!” “Pines?” “Green! A whole new shade!”
There’s an ease and an exhilaration about meeting with God and His surprising Spirit when you’re in a boat and the sun is shining on the lake where Jesus walked. Or you’re on a hillside celebrating communion, singing of angels and shepherds where we believe angels and shepherds met – and the breeze dares you onward in this adventure with Jesus.
But it felt like an invitation to a wider adventure when Rami, our guide, told us about the last place we would break bread together on our pilgrimage. “It’s one of four places where people have claimed that Jesus broke bread on the road to Emmaus. There’s not much reason to think it was definitely here. No-one knows for sure.”
We read how Jesus walked and talked on a road somewhere near here, unrecognised, and then was invited for dinner by hospitable and curious people. “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening”.
At the table, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it with them, and as he did so, they realised they knew this stranger after all. He was alive. Their hearts burned so that they couldn’t stay still, and they ran the 7 miles back to Jerusalem to share the news with their friends.
There are churches built at each of the possible sites of this encounter, but because of the uncertainty about the physical place, they are less visited as sites of pilgrimage. Not so many mosaics, not so much gold. Not even, in this place, a roof. Just ordinary places of worship. Ordinary sites of encounter with the risen Jesus. Ordinary places where strangers are welcomed and hearts burn with joy, with the good news that God is with us.
It isn’t that it was this place, it’s that it was a place. It doesn’t matter where the road was, or the table, or the home – but that it was a road, a table, a home.
At the night service of Compline, we can – if we dare – pray:
Come with the dawning of the day // And make yourself known in the breaking of the bread.
He does answer that prayer, I have found. This enlivening Spirit, this inviting, present God. If we sit with him at our tables – at any tables - He will make Himself known and He will stir us, challenge us, comfort us and change us in ways that we had never expected. We may find ourselves running joyful miles to tell friends what we have received.
Will that be your prayer, this Lent?