I have mentioned before that my grandmother was infamous for striking up conversations with total strangers. On trips to amusement parks, it was a family game to bet on how many folks she would be talking with when we returned from a ride to her bench. This trait of hers came to mind the other day when a story popped up on my Facebook feed. The headline indicated that a study had proven that it is never all right to strike up a conversation with a total stranger. I thought, Oh no! My grandmother was guilty of breaking social rules for years. I pondered how many lives she may have impacted with her improper approach to strangers.
As I opened the link to read about the research and the damage that could have been wrought in all her years of reaching out to strangers in conversation, I had to chuckle. I had been duped by a parody site that had created a satirical university study on the subject. Thank goodness, Gram’s efforts were OK after all. Whew!
Conversations with strangers come to mind this week as we encounter Luke’s story of a couple of Jesus’ followers on their way to Emmaus. Cleopas and a companion were sadly returning to their homes after the Sabbath and the tragic death of Jesus. As they walked the seven or so miles back home, they reminisced about what had happened over the past several days. It just made them sadder. Yet as they walked, they were joined by a stranger.
Like Mary earlier, they did not know who he was. Scripture says “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” at the beginning, but that “their eyes were opened” later after their meal together. Apparently God’s agency was at work, or perhaps their grief blinded them for the moment. Just as their ancestor, Abraham, entertained angels unawares, so Christ was with them; and they did not know it.
So from this story, a few questions to ponder as we make our way toward worship and the Road to Emmaus story: Why do you think they did not recognize him? Are there times when we are not aware of Christ’s presence? What blocks our receptivity? What might help us to recognize Christ more clearly and respond to him more faithfully?