As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:28-31
Since it is music Sunday and the focus is there, we decided to go light on the sermon as such and add a few more poems and what not. In that spirit I decided to share something I put together a few years ago.
This last week I was on vacation. I visited family in Montana. I try to get out there about three times per year. I found that when it is just me, the easiest is to take the bus.
The bus has some interesting advantages. It is green. Thus it is more efficient than airplanes or cars in terms of the energy and pollution cost of transporting X number of live bodies per fossil fuel unit.
It is also comparatively inexpensive for the traveller. I started taking the bus when we moved from Billings, Montana to Johnson City, Tennessee. I was grieving leaving Montana and family and I worried over the cost and hassle of getting back and forth. I thought well, family is only a bus ride away. I discovered that the bus could get me the 1800 miles from Johnson City to Glendive for less than $200 round trip. Door to door. No airport hassles or need to rent cars and drive up from Billings to Glendive.
It was also kind of an adventure thing. You know, see the country. It took about 44 hours. One way. You slept on the bus and all of that.
When it is over you are sore and you smell but it is a good kind of sore and smell.
It keeps me grounded. You will discover that I have a bit of an apocalyptic streak in me. While airplanes are fun, I am not sure about that transportation future. You may have heard the Arab proverb:
My grandfather rode a camel.
My father rode in a Rolls Royce.
I ride in a jet airplane.
My son will ride a camel.
I made my kids ride the bus, too, when they went to college. It was good for them. They could pay for a plane if they wanted. I think they discovered the bus isn’t so bad. Well, it is awful, but you get there eventually, and you have some money left.
I have probably done this now eight to ten times. It is kind of my traveling monastery. You are on the bus. 44 hours. Ride it out. No whining. It is easier now. Only 30 hours to get to Glendive from Portland and less than 22 coming home. Piece of cake.
Many people ride the bus because they have no other choice. I have options. I could drive. I could fly. Many do not have that choice. They would take another option if they could.
I think it is important to be always aware of that.
You meet some interesting folks on the bus.
A couple of years ago in the bus terminal in Minneapolis I was talking to a guy who was really interested in my phone. He hadn’t seen a phone that could get internet. He had spent the last 15 years in prison and had been released less than six hours before I spoke with him. The prison gave him a one-way bus ticket to wherever he wanted to go. He was going to Salt Lake City which had been home for him at one time. He was looking forward to his first steak dinner.
I wrote this little thing in 2006 after my first bus trip. It is about a bus trip but it is really my theology, my philosophy about how the universe works through the metaphor of a bus and its passengers.
Riding the Bus With Jesus
Written in iambic pentameter
An heroic journey on a Greyhound
Deserves no less. Not a tale as much as
A philosophy, a theology,
If you will. Life’s journey is like a bus.
From place to place and back, from Tennessee
To Montana, and places in between
And beyond, the bus stays its course and rolls
Unknowing for its sake whom it carries.
Yes, the tickets have names and the baggage
Claims declare to whom each parcel belongs.
Yet the bus does not know who rides it, though.
Regardless of who rides or not the bus goes on
Day and night, over hill, through city street,
Dropping off, picking up indifferent
To the cares and thoughts of its passengers.
The bus driver has more human concern.
But even she or he is narrowly
Focused on safety and order and that’s
A good thing. But the driver does not know.
Too many come and go to pay notice
To their lives, their real lives. Indifference
Is the rule, the law of the Universe—
The bus universe that is. But I see.
I see and hear more of what goes on behind
The faces. Nothing supernatural
Have I. In fact, you would see, too, if you
Were there. Who are these pilgrims who travel
From Greeneville to Knoxville, Louisville to
Sheboygan? Where are you going and why?
We talk at times. I overhear half a
Story, and wonder about their journey.
One woman who speaks loudly and laughs much
Tells all who want to hear that she mimics
The stars. She dresses up like Wynonna
Judd and sings Wynonna’s songs. I notice
That she does resemble Wynonna a
Little. One man is an artist and can
Draw a picture of a race car in two
Minutes. Another likes to dance. She looks
Streetwise, I guess is the word. She has been
On the bus before. At the bus stop in
Indianapolis I find myself
Hungry. I head towards a White Castle
Across the street. A man with a big grin
Asks me where I am going. He can see
That I don’t belong at a White Castle
In Indianapolis at three in
The morning. “Out West,” I say and return
The smile. We both know the routine. And sure
Enough, after a little more polite
Banter he asks me for a couple of
Bucks. “I’m outta gas, man,” he says. I keep
Some ones in my left pocket for moments
Such as these. I give him two and wish him
Well. A tax for crossing the street at night.
Riding the big Greyhound bus with Jesus.
I transfer there and wait in line with my
Bags. A woman and her four children
Wait behind me. “Where are they from?” I ask
Myself. I am ashamed that I am such
A big dumb American that I can-
Not tell if they are from India or
Egypt. Maybe I should just call her an
Arab and make it simple. Why bother?
Why do I need to know? It matters not.
She, like me, is on the bus. It’s rude but
I look at her baggage tag. “Portland” is
Their destination. They have a long way
To go. I smile at her and the kids but
She looks away and says something to one
Of her children in a language I can
Neither understand nor identify.
I imagine that she tells them that I
Might be “Mister Stranger Danger. Stay close!”
Waiting is a good bus word. You wait to
Get on. You wait to get off. Some people
Are better at it than others. One man
Is upset that the bus is late and tells
Ev’ryone in earshot that things are bad.
I watch the television monitor.
Fox news is warning us that the gods have
Raised the terror alert to “Orange.” I
Do not know quite what to do about that.
I try, but I just don’t feel terrified.
I wonder if terror is like waiting.
What is the point to fret about waiting?
Why be tense? Life is one moment to next.
I have nothing better to do than be.
Waiting is missing out. What’s to wait for?
The bus will come when it comes. No sooner.
The bus doesn’t care how we feel. It can’t.
It is a bus. We get on. We get off.
In the meantime, what we call waiting is
Living. I’m not waiting. I am living.
We are all living, on the bus or off.
In Minnesota, I sit next to a
Woman about sixty or so. “No more
Hurricanes for me,” she says. “I’m going
To Billings, Montana.” “Really?” I say.
“I know that place well.” She has had enough
Of Florida. She asks me if people
Are nice in Billings. “Sure,” I tell her. “Nice.”
She’s moving to a place she has not seen.
Some people ride the bus to start over.
In the course of our conversation I
Tell her I am a minister. That makes
Her happy. She needed someone to trust.
From St. Paul to Fargo we talk about
Billings among other things. I tell her
About things to do and see, places to
Go. “You will like it there.” She is relieved.
On the bus we travel for a short time.
We know where we are going. We know when
We will arrive. We have no illusions
That the ride will last forever. Of course.
How silly to think otherwise! Because
Of that, we see each other as riders.
Pilgrims, journeyers, travelers, are all.
Riding the bus with Jesus. Where is he?
In Luke’s tale, two friends walk to Emmaus.
A stranger joins them and lightens their hearts.
They invite him to stay for dinner, and
As he blesses and breaks the bread, they see.
He is Jesus. As soon as they see him,
He vanishes. I think Luke wants to tell
Us that Jesus is not a body, but
Everybody. In the sacrament
Of human interaction, of kindness
Shared, in the lightening of hearts, we see.
The bus can’t see. We are the bus’s eyes.
We have the eyes to see the body of
Jesus in everyone around us, whether
We speak to them or not. We see. We hear.
We are aware that their lives are sacred.
Riding the bus with Jesus—is seeing.