A Buddhist fascinated with Christianity and a Christian fascinated with Buddhism meet on the bonnie banks: a sermon on the Road to Emmaus

Read Luke 24:13-35 here

Listen to the sermon here

My twenty-year-old self, my Australian traveling companion, two Swiss women, an American, a German, a Bahamian, and a Japanese guy, where hiking on “the bonnie, bonnie, banks of Loch Lomond.”  We were a strange lot, gathered together by chance. Each of us backpacking our way through Europe in search of adventure. “By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond.” We met on the train to Fort William and we were headed on foot to the Youth Hostel at Rowardennan on the shores of Loch Lomond.

I haven’t been back in a while, and expect that it has changed more than a wee bit since the late 70’s. But back then there was only a single cart lane to Rowardennan, so we didn’t see any cars, on our long hike. Most of us were caught up in our own thoughts, or too tired from our travels, to make conversation. But not the Japanese guy, who simply wouldn’t shut up. He was positively annoying. There we were on “yon bonnie banks” leaning into the beauty that surrounded us, longing to be swept away by the majesty of it all, and this guy couldn’t keep his mouth shut long enough for us to escape in to the wonder of our surroundings.

I kept hoping that he’d “take the high road” so I could “take the low road” and we’d “never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.” But alas, we were stuck with each other. I tried lagging behind the others, humming softly to myself. But Japanese guy, he saw this as some sort of invitation to hang back for a one-on-one conversation. His questions didn’t let up.

“Where was I from?” “How long had I been backpacking?” “Why did I choose Scotland?” “Was Scotland what I thought it would be?”

On and on went the questions and when my abrupt answers didn’t clue him into the fact that I didn’t feel like talking, I decided to resort what little of Robbie Burns that I could remember. Placing my finger to my lips, to shush him, I summoned up the bard:

“The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring

And in sunshine the waters are sleeping

But the broken heart it kens na second spring again

And the woeful may cease from their greetin’.”

Not even Burns sung badly out of tune, could silence Japanese guy. So, I ran to catch up with our companions so that they too could share in the conversation.

When we finally arrived at the Hostel, we all spent the evening avoiding Japanese guy. The next morning we were all reunited over breakfast and it turned out that we all had the same plan to climb Ben Lomond. For those of you who “dinnie kin,” a Ben is what the Scottish call a mountain. Ben Lomond is just under a 1,000 meters about a dozen kilometers to the top. We were young and the Hostel Manager assured us that we could get to the top in about five hours, have enough time for a quick lunch, and then hike back down to the hostel in time for dinner. Great a dozen hours with Japanese guy, who by now we were calling by his real name, Ichiro.

We’d been on the trail for about an hour when Ichiro asked me about my name. “Is it correct that in English “dawn” can mean beginning or first?”

I agreed that as the sun is the first thing to come up in the morning, I suppose that you could translate “dawn” as beginning or first.

“Where you named “Dawn” because you were the first?”

Yes, I was indeed the first-born of my family.”

“Then we are going to be good friends” Ichiro declared with a big grin on his face.

I had to ask, “Why??

“Well because “Ichiro” means “first-born.”  We two are first-borns. We two are twins.”

And so, it began. Hours and hours of a tough climb, filled with conversation with my new friend Ichiro.  As we ascended closer to the heavens, Ichiro’s questions became less annoying and more intriguing. I don’t know how he got us there, but somewhere upon the slopes of Ben Lomond, we got onto the topic of religion. Ichiro is a Buddhist who was fascinated by Christianity, and I am a Christian who is fascinated by Buddhism. Ichiro’s questions inspired my questions and my questions inspired Ichiro’s questions and as he told me stories about the Gautama the Buddha, I told him stories about Jesus the Christ.

By the time, we got to the top of Ben Lomond we were exhausted both physically and mentally. All of us collapsed where we were and quietly marveled at the beauty of the sky. Surveying the clouds as they floated so closely by, I quickly fell asleep. I was awakened by a hunger in my belly. It seems that my travelling companions had also been napping. One by one, we were all awakened by a hunger born of our efforts. We hadn’t planned it, but as we explored the contents of our day-packs we discovered that between us we had the makings of a feast, which we laid out on a blanket and just as we were about to tuck in. Ichiro asked if we would like to give thanks.

A heartfelt grace was offered for everything from the beauty of our surroundings to the pain in our calves, which somehow were supposed to get us back down the Ben. And then our American friend, Joe, began to sing. You guessed it:

“O ye’ll tak’ the high road,  and I’ll tak’ the low road.

And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,

But me and my true love  will never meet again,

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomand.”

For some reason it seems, that I was the only one who knew all the verses. My new-found friends couldn’t keep their faces straight as I sang; there’s just something about the way I carry a tune…

As we sang the chorus together, I noticed that we all began to fill up with tears: tears of joy, and tears of recognition. “For me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”

Looking back on those young people, I continue to be touched by a moment in time that will never come again. I can so clearly remember Ichiro gobbling up the bread we broke together, just like he gobbled up every answer to every question that he asked. I can still taste the various breads we broke up there on the Ben. It was a communion the likes of which makes your heart sing, and sing we did.

After sitting down with them to eat, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, who immediately vanished from their sight.”

After sitting down with them to eat, we said the blessing and we broke the bread. In the breaking of the bread with Japanese guy, my twin brother Ichiro was revealed: Ichiro a Buddhist who is fascinated by Christianity who taught me that Gautama the Buddha, like Jesus the Christ, taught his followers about compassion and peace, urging us not to be afraid and insisting that we are all ONE.

In the breaking of bread, two first-borns, recognized ONEness.

It was a moment in time that will not come again. It is a moment in time that is sacred and eternal, for we are ONE. Like the Buddha, Christ points beyond self to the ONE.

May we all know the peace that being ONE reveals.

Moments in time that vanish oh so quickly.

“‘Twas then that we parted, in yon shady glen, On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomond,

Where in purple hue, the hieland hills we view, And the moon coming out in the gloaming.”

Sing the chorus for me:

O ye’ll tak’ the high road,

and I’ll tak’ the low road,

And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,

But me and my true love will never meet again,

On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Moments in time.

May you be blessed with moments.

May we all know the peace that being ONE reveals.

 

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