Communion Devotional Reflection
for MCC Europe-Middle East Retreat
May 9, 2011
We attended the MCC Europe-Middle East staff retreat, May 6-10, in Larnaca, Cyprus. It was a refreshing time of re-connecting with MCC workers across the region. For many, the past six months have been an especially challenging time, given the volatility across the Middle East. Below is the devotional reflection that Daryl shared at the closing communion service:
The Latrun Junction is located midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today one can find there the ruins of the biblical village of Emmaus buried beneath what is now known as Canada Park.
In 1948 this area served as a strategic choke point for Arab armies seeking to cut off Israeli supply convoys headed to Jerusalem. Five times the Israeli army assaulted this area. Five times they were unable to capture Latrun. Eventually, the Israelis developed a new supply route to Jerusalem called the Burma Road. The decision to give up on Latrun created tension between two Israeli military leaders — one of whom was Yitzak Rabin, who went on to become Israel’s Prime Minister before winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
Latrun remained under Jordanian control until the war of 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank. Even though Emmaus (or Imwas) was well inside the Palestinian side of the Green Line, in June 1967, Yitzak Rabin gave the order to destroy Emmaus and two other Palestinian villages. Why? Because of their strategic location and because the residents there had participated in the “Siege of Jerusalem” two decades earlier. Some say that, for Israel, destroying the villages was an attempt to wipe away the memory of a national embarrassment. In one day thousands of Palestinians from these three villages were scattered as refugees to Ramallah, across the West Bank, and into Jordan.
One of the Common Lectionary readings for this week is the story of Jesus walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus soon after his resurrection. Along the way he meets two men who are discussing the recent events in Jerusalem. They express their disappointment that Jesus has been killed. The two men walk and talk with Jesus for hours. But they do not recognize him until he stops in their village of Emmaus and breaks bread at the table with them. It is in this simple act that their eyes are opened.
Why would Jesus choose to make this long walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus? After being dead for three days, perhaps it was important to stretch his legs! But if you talk to the Trappist monks who live in the area today, they will tell you that it was important for Jesus to go to Emmaus because of its significance in Old Testament salvation history. Emmaus is located by the Aijalon Valley, the site of Joshua’s famous victory over the Amorites — the day the sun and moon stood still until Joshua conquered all the enemies of ancient Israel.
The book of Joshua describes this battle using military images like “fighting force,” “mighty warriors,” “killed with the sword” and “great slaughter.” (Joshua 10) The writers of the Old Testament portray this battle as evidence of God’s salvation through Joshua.
Why was it important for Jesus to walk from Jerusalem to the Aijalon Valley village of Emmaus? Perhaps it was to announce that God’s salvation actually happens in a very different way. God’s real enemies (and ours) are not the Amorites or any particular nation or people group. Rather, God’s real enemies are the principalities and powers who resist God’s reign. God’s real enemies are all who seek to dominate the world by exploiting the poor; by treating others unjustly; and by using the threat of force, violence, or death itself to impose their will.
God’s salvation through Jesus – which, like Joshua, means “the Lord saves” – is not accomplished with mighty armies or by destroying human enemies. Rather, God’s salvation is accomplished by exposing the impotence or weakness of the principalities and powers. Rather than calling down a legion of angels to fight for him and to slaughter the Romans and the religious leaders, Jesus allowed himself to be killed. He allowed the principalities and powers to play their trump card – death itself. And death was not strong enough to hold Jesus. Indeed, the resurrection offers convincing proof that death is weak and no longer to be ultimately feared. Each time we choose to act in faith rather than out of fear, we affirm God’s victory over the powers of death.
Like the two who walked with Jesus on the Emmaus Road, we, too, see Jesus most clearly in the breaking of bread. In this simple and yet profound act, we remember:
• That God’s purpose is achieved – not through mighty armies and weapons of war – but by exposing the weakness of the powers of death, and by revealing the power of the way of love.
• The one who was broken so that the human family could be made whole. The one who was willing to offer up his life so that we could be reconciled to God and to one another.
• The one who calls us to lay down our lives in service to one another, and to be broken for the healing of the world.
Today let our eyes also be opened as we share this bread and wine together.