Text: Luke 24:13-35
What does home mean to you? What images come to your mind when you hear the word, home? When I hear the word, home, I picture a dining table, the Korean style dining table where people can sit on the floor. I see the faces of my family. I see my father, my mother, my sister and brother. I also see the faces of my own family, Ha Na and the boys. There are some guests or strangers that I can’t recognize around the same table. I see how we enjoy the food. It’s a feast. There should be my comfort food, rice cake soup with homemade dumpling. There is much love and care in the room. They don’t talk much while they are eating. Solemnly they are savoring the holy moments created by this ancient ritual, eating together.
I’ve been searching for home, and I know that I will continue to search for it. The journey of my 11 years of living in Canada taught me that my home is not on the map. It’s so much more than a particular place, culture or upbringing. My home is a longing I have deep in my heart, or it’s a relationship I miss. It has something to do with what I am lacking right now. It can be something I used to have but have lost, or something I’ve never had, and I know that I will never have but there is always a possibility to experience it. For example, the image of my home, the dining table, never happened and is not going to happen in a real life. I was growing up with an absent father, and my brother died 1 year after I came to Canada. So, eating together as a whole family is something that has never happened to me, and I know that it’s not going to happen in the future. Yet, whenever my family and I invite our friends or guests to come over to our house for dinner, or whenever I find myself communicating heart to heart, soul to soul, I can experience my home which is bound by genuine love and care. I am never going to be able to arrive home, but I can always experience it.
The nature of home – unobtainable yet accessible – makes us search for it. We never stop looking for it. The pain of lacking something makes us move. For pain is the agent for change. It motivates us to do something about it. The joy of finding home, however, is very rewarding. Home is not about arriving but about becoming. It always resides in our hearts. Our home, our deepest longing shapes who we are and what we do. We get to know why we do what we do when we understand our home. And when we know our why, as comedian Michael Jr. says, our what becomes more clear and more impactful because we’re walking in or towards the purpose. The difference between knowing and not knowing our why is almost like before and after experiences of Easter.
Two people walk to Emmaus. Their hearts are heavy and their legs are tired. We can hear them sigh. We can hear them talking and discussing. They sound helpless, hopeless, saddened, confused and upset because things didn’t turn out the way they expected. They are heading home, but will they find home? A stranger comes near and talks to them. This stranger doesn’t seem to understand what’s been going on. He is, however, persistent and patient. He takes time to listen to their story while walking together. And he continues a long and deep conversation, opening the scriptures for them. Now they almost arrive at the village they were going to. Now it’s their turn to be persistent. “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So, the stranger is invited to the table where he takes bread, blesses and breaks it and gives it to them. Then their eyes are opened and recognize him. “It was him.” Without delay, they get up and return to Jerusalem where their community has been waiting.
This is how the early Christian community continued to encounter the risen Christ by sharing the word of God, and by breaking bread together with a stranger. The church has always met and will continue to meet Christ as the other, a stranger. It is when we meet Christ as a stranger that we come to know our why, turn around, and return to the community which has been waiting for us. A stranger always comes to us unexpectedly, and has been walking with us before we recognize the presence. A stranger makes us uncomfortable. It is the unknown or something different from us that makes anyone a stranger to us. That’s exactly the spot we need a stranger to challenge and to bless. If we admit the unknown, the unknowable, or something strange within ourselves, we can admit that the stranger also exists in ourselves. A stranger outside is a manifestation of a stranger inside. Aren’t we all strangers to ourselves? We never know ourselves as we are known to God. We all have journeyed with the stranger in our lives. We love ourselves by welcoming the stranger. We feed ourselves by feeding the stranger. It is the stranger who can bring us home which is not bound by any particular location, culture or upbringing but bound by genuine love and care.
We have been searching and we will continue to search for our home. We are never going be able to arrive at our home, but we can always experience it when we embrace the stranger, the unknown, the unknowable and something strange within us and in others. Looking back, we will say to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while the stranger was talking to us on the road?”