Grace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is one of my absolute favorite Bible stories, so I was very excited when by the luck of the draw, I got to preach this Sunday.
This morning’s text has always immediately brought to mind a song for me (Don’t worry – I’m not going to spontaneously burst into it.) In 1988 the Scottish band, The Proclaimers, released a song entitled “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” This song was popular in Great Britain but completely unknown in the United States until in 1993 the movie Bennie and June used it in its soundtrack. From that point on it was an immediate Top Ten Hit, and was all the rage at every middle school dance I attended that year.
The chorus of the song is – “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked 1000 miles to fall down at your door.” Although this chorus certainly gives a lot to think about as far as the emotions and dedication Jesus’ followers may or may not have had at this exact point. The imagery of walking for miles and miles in the song and the imagery of walking on the Road to Emmaus is NOT why this song makes me think of this morning’s text. You thought you knew where I was going with this didn’t you?
It’s actually a line in the first verse that makes me think of this passage the most. During the verses the lyrist states things like “when I wake up I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you” “When I go out, I’m gonna be the man who goes along with you”, etc.… etc.… It’s catchy and repetitive. It’s all about things these two people do together.
But there is one line that used to baffle and confound me. That line is “When I haver, I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you.”
For the longest time, I had no idea what this was talking about. Honestly, for a pretty long time I couldn’t even understand what the singer was saying because of the Scottish accent. My ex-husband, Roger, and I became obsessed on a road-trip with figuring out what that line was. Finally, we figured out that “haver” was the word being said.
Roger promptly got on the telephone to his friend, Phil, who is from Scotland, and asked him if haver is Scottish slang or something. Phil’s reply – “Och, I forgot about that word, that’s a great Scottish word, mate. It means to have the verbal diarrhea. You know, that person that just talks incessantly on and on about nothing. It’s to haver.”
The English Oxford Dictionary’s identifies the word haver as being Scottish in origin and its definition is: to talk foolishly or to babble. So, Phil’s description was spot on.
The thing that always struck me as funny about all of this, is that Roger and Phil were the kings of havering. They could talk to each other for hours about absolutely nothing. Well, okay, soccer – but still – hours and hours of incessant chatter to one another.
In our text this morning, two disciples are on the road walking to Emmaus. One is named Cleopas and the other isn’t named. It’s about a 7 mile walk and while they go, they are talking to each other about all the trauma and drama that has gone on and now the recent gossip and word on the street. While they’re “talking” and “discussing” or “havering” Jesus walks up to them – but they don’t recognize him.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but somehow, I’m thinking that all of the dead-heads who followed the Grateful Dead on Tour probably would have recognized Jerry Garcia if he’d come walking up to them. But Cleopas and No-Name are completely oblivious!
Jesus asks them what they’re talking about and they kind of give him some attitude. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” “The things about Jesus of Nazareth… was a prophet mighty in deed and word… and how our leaders handed him over to death… crucified him.” I’m sure they were thinking – who is this guy? How does he not know about all of this???
I mean, seriously, if the Kardasian family does something slightly outrageous, it’s all over supermarket tabloids and social media. Whether we want to or not, somehow, we know about it.
So, post-crucifixion in Ancient Palestine, it would be mind boggling for someone to not know what happened to Jesus.
Cleopas and No-Name then continue with what they’ve been hearing from Mary and the men who went to the tomb and how Jesus might be alive. – They’re havering. They’re havering to Jesus about himself.
Robert Hoch wrote: “It was a seven-mile walk, a walk you would notice in your ankles and calves. But the real path they were walking was vastly longer and more difficult – it was the walk of hopes in shambles. It was the walk taken through the valley of disillusionment. It was a walk burdened with perhaps accusation or shame.”
On this walk of disillusionment, they haver. They are so distracted with what they’ve experienced, and all of their emotions, and their traumas, and their hurts, their disappointment and dashed hopes, that they don’t see Jesus standing right in front of them.
I think often in our lives, this can be true of us as well. We get busy, we get distracted, we have work or school or both. We have schedules to coordinate and meetings to keep. We experience pain and disappointment. We suffer trauma and disillusionment.
We haver about soccer or football or baseball or the latest acclaimed Netflix Series. And we completely miss Jesus’s presence in our lives. We have no concept of where Jesus intersects with us on our road.
As the Emmaus story continues, Jesus begins to teach Cleopas and No-Name, interpreting scripture and things about himself within it. When they arrive in Emmaus the disciples invite Jesus to stay with them, and so he does. And at dinner he takes bread and breaks it, and suddenly they know exactly who he is. And then he vanishes. At which point they say to one another – “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road???”
I can’t begin to count the number of times in my life, especially times of extreme hurt, pain and disappointment, where I didn’t sense Jesus’s presence, but later, realized I had that burning sensation within me the entire time. Jesus was always right in front of me, I just let all of life’s havering get in the way.
What about you? Can you think of a time when you didn’t recognize the burning? When you didn’t see Jesus right in front of you? When life’s havering was just too loud?
Finally, Cleopas and No-Name return to Jerusalem and proclaim Christ as risen and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Just as he is made known to us in the exact same place. We may not always sense Christ in our lives, especially when we are walking through valleys of disillusionment, but we know that he promises to always meet us at the table. Even if we are too busy havering our way through life to recognize him anywhere else.
Thanks be to God for the constant presence of our Risen Lord. I pray that we all slow down, haver less, and see him in our lives. And if we just can’t seem to do that, I give thanks for his constant presence at our table. Amen.