Two songs with the title: ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams:
I walk a lonely road/The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes/But it’s only me, and I walk alone
I walk this empty street/On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps/And I’m the only one, and I walk alone
I walk alone, I walk alone/I walk alone and I walk alone… (Greenday)
I walk along the street of sorrow/The boulevard of broken dreams
Where gigolo and gigolette/
Can take a kiss without regret/So they forget their broken dreams/
You laugh tonight and cry tomorrow/When you behold your shattered schemes
Gigolo and gigolette/Wake up to find their eyes are wet
With tears that tell of broken dreams/Here is where you’ll always find me
Always walking up and down/But I left my soul behind me
In an old cathedral town
The joy that you find here you borrow/You cannot keep it long it seems
Gigolo and gigolette/
Still sing a song and dance along/The boulevard of broken dreams
(Lyrics – Al Dubin; Music – Harry Warren)
Both are songs of the journey down the path of sorrow, despair, loneliness and lost hope. The road can be long (and winding?) and seems to go on forever. It is a lonely path and our world closes down as we wander. We feel the loss of control and a powerlessness over our lives. The boulevard of broken dreams is one we all wander and know in our being and many people are on this road now. The broken dreams and lost hopes leave us feeling dry and hopeless. Lethargy and deep melancholy, or worse, depression, overwhelms us and the journey is hard. We feel lost and can’t see a way forward out of the chaos and grief. The boulevard of broken dreams…
In a story read in churches this Sunday we hear of another journey made in despair and loneliness. It comes to us from Luke’s story of Jesus (Luke 24:13-35) and features two followers of Jesus, Cleopas and an unnamed one (probably a woman?). They are walking away from Jerusalem to their village of Emmaus. It is obviously a decent journey and takes some time through the day. They discuss their grief and disbelief over the events that have overtaken them in Jerusalem. The week began so well, with crowds hailing Jesus as ‘King’ and heralding his entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (that was only 2-3 weeks ago in our celebration!). Through the week things heated up and the resistance to Jesus grew until he was arrested, charged, sentenced and crucified. It all happened so quickly and so completely. Now the followers of Jesus felt lost, alone and out of control. They also lost their hopes and dreams – this was a boulevard of broken dreams!
As they walked and grieved, a stranger joined them and asked why they were sad. They were surprised and shared their grievous story. We had hoped he was the one! We had hoped… It is a phrase we know: We hoped the doctor’s diagnosis would be better. We hoped the relationship could be restored. We hoped the job could be saved. We hoped… We hoped… Wed hoped… But then hope is gone, broken dreams shattered along this lonely road – and we walk alone. It feels so alone!
The stranger listened to their sad story, their lonely tale with despair and grief. He then told their story back to them, embracing it within the bigger, deeper, richer story of their people and God’s engagement and life through them. He told them what had happened and why and where in the story God was real and present and engaged – God’s love continued to be with them and would rise in new and wondrous life (already had, in fact!). In the hearing of this stranger’s words their heart burned within them – the joy, wonder and hope they felt in Jesus words and life were rekindled in new ways by this mysterious stranger! They reached home and the stranger kept going but they stopped him and invited him into their home. They sat down to a meal and the guest turned host, taking bread, blessing, breaking and sharing it. They immediately recognised the stranger as the Risen Christ in their midst. He disappeared from their sight and they rejoiced in the recognition and mystery of his presence.
Written some decades after Jesus when faith, life and church was perhaps harder going under various difficult Emperors, the followers of Jesus wondered how the Risen Christ was present to them, how they experienced this Risen Christ in their midst. Luke’s story reminded them that Christ is present as the stories of faith and life are shared, as we are embraced into something bigger, more enduring, that embraces the deeper questions and experiences of life, faith, pain and joy. Down the boulevard of broken dreams or Emmaus’ dusty road, where life is dry, lonely and filled with fear and grief, the Christ is with us. Sometimes as friend and sometimes as stranger who walks with us. The Christ is in the deeper story of God’s grace and life-filled promises that emerges from the despair and silence, nurturing new hope. Christ comes to us in the breaking of bread, a shared meal where love and life are shared and we welcome others into our midst, stranger and friend. Christ is present in the prayers of hoe and despair, of grief and pain, of joy and wonder. Christ touches our hearts with the soft, gentle emotion of joy that moves within us as we listen to the pure joy of a song or tune that stirs us in melody or memory. The story told or presented in movie or drama, that stirs our soul and moves our emotions is full of Christ and we come face to face with the Reality beyond all reality, the foundation of life and everything – the ground of all being. The One in whom we live and move and have our being is revealed spectacularly in the beauty, diversity and awe of nature, creation, the world and universe beyond. We small humans recognise our humility and dependence upon Mother Earth, Brother Sun and Sister Moon and the stardust that has formed our bodies. Our hearts burn and we know the presence of the Risen Christ in these moments of sacred awe and holiness.
The inbreaking story and presence of the Christ is a transformative moment that draws us out of ourselves and our small perceptions of life and the world (that often feels like it revolves around us!) into a story that is ‘us,’ ‘we’ and everything. We do lose control and are invited to let go of our need to be in control and trust in the grace of God, mysterious, uncontrollable and blowing through us like wind and breath to birth new life, new hope and new being. The Risen Christ is everywhere around and holds us in grace and love!