Many have noted how geographically similar the Truckee Meadows is with Israel. Lake Tahoe is very similar to the Sea of Galilee and both regions have large areas of desert. Lake Tahoe is a resort and the Sea of Galilee is the resort where King Herod had his headquarters.
Donner Summit, where the Donner party met its fate is not far from Reno. It could have survived if it had come back down from the mountain, but during its travels, it met the Paiute tribe and had skirmishes with them. These same Paiutes fought the “Two Battles of Pyramid Lake” a few miles north of Reno.
The Two Battles of Pyramid Lake is very similar to the Battle of Emmaus fought between the Third Greek Expeditionary Force of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Hanukkah, the great Jewish Feast is a commemoration of that battle. Nevada is the Battle Born state, becoming a state four years after the Two Battles of Pyramid Lake. Many of Nevada’s early settlers fought in the American Civil War. General Reno was a member of the Burnside Expeditionary Force and fought Stonewall Jackson during the Second Battle of Bull Run. General Reno also fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
As we read the Gospel, Jesus discusses who he is with Cleopas, “Keys of Father.” Cleopas, his friend, and Jesus, walk on the Battle of Emmaus battlefield, a battlefield tying them with their heritage. Cleopas has the keys of hope, but does not yet recognize the fact. The keys of hope lie with an understanding of Scripture and heritage. The heritage of the Jewish people is the escape from oppression in Egypt, and the victory against overwhelming odds in the Battle of Emmaus.
In their discussion on the way to Emmaus, in the battle, the participants are on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. After the battle, the discussion with Jesus, the participants immediately return to Jerusalem and purify the temple; they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. In the battle and in the breaking of the bread the hearts of the participants burn within them. This burning of hearts, not intellect is a part of Jewish heritage.
We retain our heritage as we walk on the battlefield of Gettysburg and hear the words echoing through our history. This is not southern heritage, the heritage of the plantation owner, but southern black heritage:
Eleven score and sixteen years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We meet on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live… We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract… It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work… have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
The first reading tells of how St. Peter walks through the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem, a gate ornate with silver and gold. He tells a man, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk.” Our faith comes with a heritage, and it is not a heritage of silver and gold.
When Herod built the second temple, he did not “Get it.” As the Babylonians built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, they used slave labor to build those gardens. Many slaves were Jews. One of the reasons for the Babylonian invasion and the Jewish captivity was for the Babylonians to acquire the gold of the temple for their building programs.
Rome built the Coliseum with slave labor, and gold from the Jewish temple. Wherever we see extreme wealth, we find extreme poverty. The poor do not applaud the great buildings their slave masters force them to build. They resent their taskmasters. We see in the Titanic sinking of exactly one century ago, the Monongah Mine Disaster, and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire where grand building leads us and what the poor think of those grand buildings.
Life is a rock, but our radio, our beacon to the future, our DJ, “Der Jesus” in German, points us our healing. Our yoke is easy and our burden is light. We do not have to build grant buildings to please our God. We need to build heritage, the idea that we take each other by the hand, χείρ, and build a common community, and hand on our heritage to those coming after us.
Our heritage is the Living Physical Presence in the Eucharist, and those holding the key, Cleopas, to the Kingdom. We have it through seeing Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
The Ten Commandments begin with our rescue from Egypt/oppression. If we are not among those the Egyptians persecuted, the Ten Commandments do not apply to us, but then again, neither does God’s rescue. We see Jesus and God when we see a new nation, a nation rescued from other there, wherever over there is, conceived in liberty & dedicated to the proposition that God creates all men equal.
We see God when we have a new birth of freedom, and a government of the people, by the people, for the people that shall not perish from the earth, because people are not corporations, or their grand buildings but are flesh and blood. That is what our God calls us to do.