Preparing to preach on the "Road to Emmaus" story this week, I've invited a bunch of folk to share with me any experiences they may have had of the risen Christ. For the cover of the bulletin, I asked our communications minister Ron to create the image for me that you see below: a painting of Christ and the disciples walking together on the road to Emmaus but with the disciples cut out. The challenge of the image is to project yourself into the experience. To consider where/how/when you have been surprised to find the risen Christ in your midst. What if you posed this same challenge to your youth? That is exactly what Jason at the Livefish blog did when he asked his group one night to share "where they had encountered God in a place they least expected."
In a time of worship at a youth gathering, share the Emmaus story from scripture (Luke 24:13-39). Next, provide a copy of the image below to all in the group. Ask them for their response to the image in light of what they've just heard. Encourage them to project themselves into the image -- to see themselves perhaps as the unnamed disciple walking with Jesus. Ask: What might keep you from recognizing Jesus even when he's right next to you? What might have to happen for you to open your eyes to Christ's presence?
As an act of offering, invite youth to share experiences of times they were surprised to find God/Christ in their very midst (I just had a student share with me an experience of meeting Christ in an encounter at a frat party when he saw a campus ministry friend of his drunk and throwing up! No telling how your teens might respond to this challenge so expected the unexpected.)
It's interesting to note that scholars have been unable to show historical evidence that a town called "Emmaus" ever existed. John Dominic Crossan, reflecting on this, suggests that Emmaus never happened--rather, it always happens. It happens over and over, not just to those in the past, but to those of us in the here-and-now whenever we open ourselves to noticing Christ in the world around us and in our willingness to "be Christ" in our welcoming of others.