A recent lectionary text that has been sticking with me was Luke 24:13-35. The story told includes two people walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, which we are told is a distance of about 7 miles. As they are walking and talking, Jesus joins them, though they don’t realize it is Jesus. When they reach Emmaus, they encourage this supposed stranger to stay with them. It is through the meal, the breaking of bread, that they realize who Jesus is.
I’ve been walking a lot lately, in this time of COVID-19- most typically a total distance of just under 7 miles. And so it is the walking in this story that most stuck with me as I re-read it a few times. Walking, of course, can have many purposes. In this story it appears that walking is serving as transportation, though the two people are enjoying their conversation as well. I sometimes walk just so my dog, Óscar, can go pee. Sometimes I walk to get a break from my toddler, or to talk on the phone with a friend. I find walking to be fairly good exercise, and so it is good for me physically and mentally as well.
Some of my most enjoyable walks are when I’m just walking to enjoy walking and all that comes with it—the people-watching, the wind and sun on my face, the bird calls, the views of various houses and yards and gardens. I’ll admit, though, that sometimes I feel guilty about these walks, like I should be more productive while on them.
This made me wonder about Jesus’ purpose, walking here. It seems to me that he’s not walking simply for transportation (he’s recently been resurrected!). He does seem to be enjoying some connection with the other two people, and enjoying their discussion (even as they don’t know who he is). I like to imagine that he’s just appreciating walking, that he’s savoring the people watching, the sun on his face, and the company. They’re talking enough that I don’t imagine they’re speed walking, but instead are walking at a fairly leisurely pace. Their lives are stressful, and it is good for their hearts, minds, and bodies to be walking like this.
It looks like I’ll be continuing to do a lot of walking in the coming weeks and months as we move through this pandemic, and I certainly hope that walking will continue to be part of my life after the pandemic is over. I hope to keep this image of Jesus, savoring the experience of walking, in my mind. May I learn to more literally walk as Jesus walked, even as I strive to follow him in all that I do.
Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Hannah Campbell Gustafson and her family recently made a leap of faith and moved to Minneapolis, MN from rural Wisconsin. She is the outreach coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church. Hannah is treasurer for the Mental Health Network, is trained as a social worker, has an MDiv, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. She and her partner (an ELCA Lutheran pastor) share their lives with their young child Leona and their standard poodle puppy Óscar.