by Doug Wysockey-Johnson
April 10, 2005
The Emmaus Road
[This sermon was given from an outline. The outline is collected here.]
*I learned an important lesson this week: Do not go near Celebration Circle if they are in need of a ‘Bringer of the Word’. Run! Flee!
ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
*Part of why I agreed to preach on short notice was that I had been hooked by this story earlier in the week. In reading it, I had not noticed a little detail before.
*It takes place early in the story:
-Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and some other woman have gone to the tomb and found it empty. They go back and tell other followers. For most, it seemed an ‘idle tale’. Peter was intrigued enough to go out to the tomb; he was amazed, but went home.
*Two travelers-Cleopas and another (husband and wife?) are leaving Jerusalem discouraged, heading Emmaus. They were followers, had probably been there when the women came in to report that the tomb was empty. However, they were ‘idle tale’ people.
– They are 7 miles out, talking about everything that had happened.
-while doing this, Jesus appears to them.
-This is the moment I found so interesting.
*The resurrected Jesus comes along side them. What will he do?
-Put his hands over their eyes and say, ‘Guess Who?’
-As with other resurrection appearances, could say ‘fear not’, or show hands and feet.
*Rather, Jesus does an interesting thing: He asks questions and gives them room to talk about what has just happened in their lives.
*It must be noted that at other points in this interaction with Cleopus and partner, the dialogue feels a little sharp, pointed on both parts.
-‘Are you the only one who doesn’t know what is going on? Helloooo. Wake up, smell the coffee.
-Jesus shoots back, (paraphrased) ‘Oh what knuckleheads you are; how slow of heart to believe you are’.
*It is not a model of nonviolent communication. (I did not take the class; though even I can see that.)
*But here, early in the story, Jesus simply comes along side, gives them room to talk, and asks them a few simple questions. What are you discussing? Tell me about what has happened.
JESUS, ASKER OF QUESTIONS
There are many things that I find compelling about Jesus. Especially in terms of the way that he interacts with others as recorded in the gospels:
I love that the son of God genuinely seemed to love parties, banquets and eating.
I love that he often talked in parables, metaphors and stories.
I love that he seemed to treat all people he met the same.
And I love that the one who had such wisdom, was truth, would ask good simple questions that enabled people to find/confront truth in their lives.
What is it that you are looking for? To two of John’s disciples;
To Peter: I know what other people say I am-who do you say I am?
To the men wanting to stone a woman: “Who here is without sin?”
To scribes: what is harder, to forgive sins, or to say to this crippled person ‘get up and walk?
If you only people who love you, what is so great about that?
Can anyone here add a single hour to his or her life by worrying?
Do you want to be made well?
*As a teacher and healer, Jesus seemed to know that power of good questions, questions that had the potential to bring people closer to him, to truth, to healing.
You may have noticed that more than once I have said ‘good questions’.
Questions can be bad:
They can be used to trap people; they can be used to try to get them to say something we can use against them.
(Jesus seemed good at sniffing out the motivation behind questions.)
They can be used to avoid. A Friend used questions to avoid any self-disclosure.
Can be thinly veiled advice giving: “Have you considered therapy?”
Behind bad questions is usually the desire to fix someone.
*As a Quaker, PP has thought a great deal about the way we are with each other, the space we give each other.
In recent book A Hidden Wholeness, he talks a great deal about what is behind this desire of us to fix and solve each other’s problems. He talks about Circles of Trust; you can substitute ‘small groups’, ‘Mission Groups’ or any form of relating. I will quote him at length:
Note: Here I read page 116-117 pretty much in their entirety.
*I experienced some of this on Thursday. A friend, my age, has been dealing with various cancers for about 17 years. Breast cancer has returned, on chemo. She just learned that the cancer markers are up, which probably means the chemo is not working.
-I experienced that struggle, wanting to just be, but at same time wondering what were the profound words I could impart that could make it better. How should I ease her burden? How could I help? It was so hard to know what to say.
–I found myself asking technical questions, things about which neither of us wanted to talk.
*It is hard to be with one another at a deep level without offering advice or trying to make it better.
*It is hard to know what a good question is in moments like those.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON HOW WE MIGHT OFFER BETTER QUESTIONS TO EACH OTHER (Mostly drawn from PP and Quaker tradition)
1. Purpose is to help the person better listen to God within-to get clarity. Good questions are not to satisfy our own curiosity; unless asked, not to help me think strategically about your challenge
2. Good questions are open and honest. Palmer says an honest open question is one that I can ask without possibly being able to say to myself, “I know the right answer to this question, and I sure hope you give it to me.”
-“When we ask honest questions like “Have you ever had an experience that felt like your current dilemma?” or “Did you learn anything from that prior experience that feels useful to you now?”, there is no way for me to imagine what the ‘right answer’ might be.
3. Good questions come from a more prayerful spirit. Be more prayerful in our listening and questioning:
-Value of clearness committees and group spiritual direction (our m.g. attempting) is that explicit that we are listening prayerfully. (Julian of Norwich, when asked by a friend how she prayed for her, “I look at God, I look at you, and I keep on looking at God.”)
-Seems that praying would take away from our listening, but not necessarily
4 Having said all that, important not to be legalistic… when in doubt, just ask.
–Use the ‘Talk to Me’ resource: 2, 501 questions.
There are times to give advice/opinions, and to be more directive.
After asking these questions to Cleopus and partner, he got very directive, teaching and interpreting.
With each other, sometimes we want someone to offer us something concrete. It gives us something to bounce off against. That too can help us find/confront the truth.
But in general, we have a long ways to go with each other in creating this kind of ‘Jesus space’ with one another.
It is worth doing. As with the Emmaus road travelers, questions help us to experience the resurrected Christ.