Guest Post: The Road to Emmaus

For Easter this year my friend Aric Clark of Two Friars and a Fool delivered his sermon as a beat poem complete with stand-up bass accompaniment. I really wish I’d been there to watch. In any case, here’s a powerful slam poem telling a tale of the evangelistic “Stranger” who met two friends on the road to Emmaus and shared some incredibly good news:

“The Road to Emmaus” by Aric Clark

based on Isaiah 25:6-9  and Luke 24:13-32

A crumb plummets.
It does not drop, or fall, or tumble,
Because when the crumb lands the universe crumbles.
A universe of laws and chains broken open and changed,
Irrevocably.
So that every division ever devised is permanently revised
To represent a memorial, nothing more,
Of the way the world was before.
Before we knew that stones can be rolled away.
And regardless of what power,
Of kings and soldiers,
Or the sharpness of the nails, or spears, or swords,
Or the harshness of the hates, or fears, or words
That are used to tear the life out of love
Death is never the last word that is heard,
Because stones can be rolled away
And God still has another Word to say.
Are you listening?
We listened, as we walked that afternoon,
To a stranger who stripped the scriptures
Like an aging lover who knows every wrinkle and crease.
Increasing our holy confusion by a profusion of sayings
Which inverted the wisdom of the sages,
And dashed our former understanding against the rock of ages.
He began with liberty.
He showed us that Moses is not the scribe of laws to pen us in,
But the finder of paths.
New roads in the wilderness for a people lost,
And beginning to count the cost of saying yes to freedom.
Because leaving behind the security of slavery,
Where you know your place beneath the heel of Pharoah,
Means never placing your heel on another person’s face.
These roads Moses laid do not run over the backs of the poor.
But they do lead to rocks that quench your thirst,
And dew that satisfies hunger.
To walk them means walking beside people you’d rather deride,
As fools and monsters.
But Israel cannot arrive at her destination
Unless she somehow brings along the nations
And they all learn to live in jubilation
Which destroys wealth and builds up justice instead.
Moses, like the stranger we were walking with, was a chain-breaker,
Who knew that liberty can only be had if you give it away.
So he wrote that the obligation of the saved,
Is to go out and save.
The Torah is not a book of laws to keep the chosen in chains.
The Torah is testimony to the Holy One,
Who’s will to save the nations cannot be undone.
Who’s goodness blazes,
So even the reflection of that light on human faces,
Must be veiled for eyes unaccustomed to love.
“But,” we interject against the exegetical tsunami falling upon us,
“Don’t the prophets proclaim God’s violence against the world?”
Our question isn’t misdirection,
But arises from the intersection of our former faith
In the prophet Jesus and his failed insurrection.
“Are we to understand that a Roman cross
Is what God had planned?”
“That compassion can bring the nations into tow,
Behind us on the road that Moses shows?”
“Doesn’t it make a joke of God’s Shalom
If the cruelties of empire are given a home there?”
We stop for air, and to prepare for the stranger’s sharp rebuttal.
“Yes!” was not the answer we anticipated.
Yes, Shalom would be shattered if shared with empire.
And, Yes, peace that is built upon bloodshed is no peace at all.
And, Yes, salvation means judgment on the peoples of this world.
Which is why, if you understand the prophets you will see,
They point to the same reality,
Of a God who is too gracious to give in.
Too powerful to just win.
Too righteous to do us in.
Too merciful to allow us to live in sin.
God has judged our methods and will not use them,
To conquer a world which is already his.
Hence Empire is defeated, but not with a sword,
Unless that sword is already plow-shaped.
The message of the prophets is that violence fails
To beget anything but violence, and the mournful wails
Of widows and orphans.
Whose cries God promises to turn to alleluias,
When every tear is wiped away and all sorrow past,
When the last are made first and the first are made last.
And the road that we walk to get to that end
Is to love every enemy into a friend.
So yes, compassion, which you earlier disdained
Is the power which will break the last chain –
The chain of causality.
Compassion will bring light out of darkness,
And life out of death.
Because God wills it.
Because God IS it.
That includes death on a Roman Cross.
The road stopped, or we stopped on it, but the stranger carried on.
“Wait,” we called, begging him to stay the night with us.
Which he did.
As we prepared the evening meal
We could feel the beginning of our minds turning,
Our hearts burning, as the stranger’s teaching dug its hooks in.
We sat at table with him, ready to ask him again,
To explain the scriptures,
When he took the bread and broke it…

A crumb plummets.
It does not drop, or fall, or tumble,
Because when the crumb lands the universe crumbles.
A universe of laws and chains broken open and changed,
Irrevocably.
So that every division ever devised is permanently revised
To represent a memorial, nothing more,
Of the way the world was before.
Before we knew that stones can be rolled away.
And regardless of what power,
Of kings and soldiers,
Or the sharpness of the nails, or spears, or swords,
Or the harshness of the hates, or fears, or words
That are used to tear the life out of love
Death is never the last word that is heard,
Because the stone has been rolled away
And today the Lord of life is risen.
Which is not a way to say that something mysterious
Happened a long time ago and really far away.
It is proof that eternal life can be lived today,
Not tomorrow.
Because there is no punishment to be feared,
No pain which is lasting,
No enemy which is capable of taking you out of God’s grace,
Or who you cannot find the strength to embrace.
You can walk out of every tomb the world digs for you,
And resist every temptation to grasp
For power and security like the others do,
Because you have been given the means to forgive,
To make what is broken whole,
What is ugly beautiful,
What is discordant harmonious,
What is dying to make it live.
So let every action be Alleluia.
Let every word be Alleluia.
Let every breath be Alleluia.
Alleluia. Amen.

originally posted by Aric Clark on Facebook (yeah, Facebook).

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