It was a perfect opportunity. My favorite Easter story – the two followers encountering the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus. In fact, that is my favorite of our two Tiffany windows at Grace Church – the one in the Baptistry.
So when the Spirit blew things out of the water this afternoon, and the Chaplain who was to take the Vespers service at one of our back-country chapels was called elsewhere, I was asked to take it in his stead. Great! I have the perfect sermon on this Gospel: two hikers and the possibility of encountering Jesus on the Way.
But then. No one showed up for Vespers. Not unexpected, as this is a new chapel and a new mid-week service that was added to the schedule.
Then. The Catholic Chaplain with whom I was riding got a call to go to a “nearby” camp (nothing is nearby at Philmont) and deal with a Crew who wanted to end their trek half-way through, which of course we discourage. One of their adults and one youth were experiencing health problems and were to come off the trail to Health Lodge for the night. And speaking of discouraged, the youth Crew Leader (crews are led by an elected youth, not an adult advisor) was deeply distraught of his and the Crew’s failure.
It made me recall this morning’s Psalm (119:1-24):
Happy are they whose way is blameless, *
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Happy are they who observe his decrees *
and seek him with all their hearts!
Who never do any wrong, *
but always walk in his ways. BCP p. 763
Matt is a big guy. Now in college, and officially an “adult” Scouter, he was elected as Crew Leader two years ago. Had worked hard at prepping in his school gym, lost 60 pounds, and had led his Crew through five difficult days. And they all (including he) wanted to call it quits. He felt he had failed – failed the Crew, failed himself.
“Matt,” I said as another youth who was trying to help alleviate Matt’s tears stood nearby. I motioned him to join me in placing our hands on Matt’s shoulders. “Matt, you have done a great job. You’ve kept the team together. There’s no fighting. Everyone is disappointed that you all can’t go on. But you’re sticking together. That takes a lot of strong leadership. And you are this team’s leader!”
A bit earlier, as two Chaplains talked with the Crew, it was very apparent that they weren’t giving up. Yes, they would not complete this particular trek. But they would be back. And be more prepared, as they now knew what to expect. They are a team. And will be back again – as a team.
And maybe just like those two down-cast hikers on the Road to Emmaus, I pray that in their evening of dust and fear as darkness falls and they break their evening bread, Crew 706 might discover that Christ is in their midst.