By Mike Hands

Having left their faith community behind in Jerusalem, two men shared their journey together, walking side by side along the road. They walked with heavy hearts touched by much sadness and disappointment. Jesus, who they had put their faith in, was rejected by their religious officials and killed by the state. Nothing made sense anymore. It seems they just wanted to leave it behind them and move on with their lives. Thus, begins the famous New Testament Easter story called The Road to Emmaus.

For many of us, this story seems to ring true to the experience of a great number of gay and queer Christians. So many young gay boys seem to have an unmistakable affinity for the ways of spirit. Intuitively we seemed to sense that God’s true presence is revealed more clearly in moments of compassion and human kindness than in the words of doctrine and dogma. Many of us were immediately attracted to spiritual things from a very young age. We were sensitive, open, and often grasped the subtle ways of spirit easier and faster than our straight peers; at least it seemed that way to me.

And yet, virtually all the spiritually sensitive gay men I know who were raised Christian, like the two men who left Jerusalem for Emmaus, have walked away from their faith communities with heavy hearts of sadness and disappointment. Their dreams and hopes that Jesus was truly the human face of God and that his message of love, compassion, and justice would forever be his legacy to them were broken. For many, their Jesus-faith was lost to them after their natural sexual awakening as being gay. So much for that message of love, compassion, and justice. Better to just walk away and look elsewhere.

What I love most about The Road to Emmaus story, is that one of the most ancient Christian memories of what the Risen Christ was up to after he rose from the dead was to tend to the broken hearts of these two spiritually minded men who’d had seen too much of the dark side of religion and who wanted to just walk away.

As the encounter unfolded, the two men meet a mysterious stranger who joins them on the road. While the man is Jesus, just risen from the dead, his appearance is such that they do not recognize him. Together, this small community of three men walk and share a remarkable conversation. They talk of their hopes, dreams, and their great disappointments. Together, they talk of faith and the ways of spirit. They open and talk from the heart about who they are and what really mattered to them. Finally, they share a meal. When the mysterious stranger takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and give it to them to eat, they immediately recognize it is Jesus, who then vanishes from sight. Only afterwards, as they recalled the walk and conversation they shared together, they commented how their hearts burned within them.

At Easton Mountain, we’ve planned a very special Easter retreat for 2017 around the Emmaus story. Offered one week after Easter Sunday from Thursday, April 27 to Sunday, April 30, we are going to journey together, breaking bread at shared meals, and opening to one another about our hopes and dreams, as well as our disappointments. We’ll share about where we’ve discovered God and when we felt most alive. We’ll tell stories from our lives about grace, forgiveness, healing, and hope.

What happens when gay men of spirit share so wholeheartedly with one another in a community of love, acceptance, and faith? Come and see! And if you do, do not be surprised if your heart burns within you and you come to know the Risen One in a new and unexpected way.

Our Easter Retreat. called Hearts on Fire, is for all gay and queer people regardless of faith tradition or the lack of a faith tradition. It’s an open invitation to the transformative nature of community, compassion, and spirit. While we will draw mostly from Christian spirituality, anyone who desires to participate is most welcome to join us.