Annali Murray is an admissions counselor at Hesston College. Annali has a bachelor’s degree in Bible and Religion and hopes to work as a chaplain someday. In her spare time Annali enjoys pretending she and her sister are contestants on Project Runway. She enjoys engaging in theological discussions of all types, which will come in handy when she pursues a Master of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary starting this fall.
The labyrinth is an image I have considered to illustrate the story about the road to Emmaus.
If you have never experienced a labyrinth, the basic idea is to move through a winding path which guides you to the center. At the center you can take all the time you need, then you use the same path to wind back through the labyrinth and exit. Sometimes, I use the labyrinth as a prayer exercise. I use the journey in to bring my anxieties to God, surrender them at the center, and exit with a lightness and renewed hope.
The road to Emmaus must have been a bewildering journey; walking with a seemingly clueless stranger, trying to make sense of the events of the last week, going to Emmaus to eat and sleep. I have an illustration of Vincenzo Catena’s The Supper at Emmaus in my Bible. The painting shows a simple room with the disciples and Jesus at a table with bread and wine. The disciples look like travelers, both have walking sticks and one has a large hat. Jesus is blessing the bread while one disciple looks emphatically at his friend. The other disciple is looking down, perhaps pondering what is happening. The painting is the cusp of understanding; it is the center of the labyrinth when mystery is revealed and burdens are discarded.
Luke 24: 31-34 reads:
“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.”
In her book Christian Prayer and Labyrinths Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion writes:
What is a labyrinth?
It is a path for prayer
that leads from yearning
toward joy, meaning, hope, and peace.
While it can be used for personal explorations,
it also invites communal participation.
What is planted here: flowers in the gardens of our lives.
Weather perplexed, overjoyed, confused, hopeful,
hurt, distraught, happy, or simply curious,
as we pray, God meets us here.
It is not unusual to emerge from the labyrinth inspired,
encouraged, grateful, and clearer about next steps.
I am excited about the road to convention this summer in Kansas City. I am excited to struggle with the questions and anticipation leading up to the gathering. I am excited to spend time in the center, listening and watching to see how Jesus is revealed in Kansas City. I also look forward to the road back, recognizing how I have changed because of the journey.