Sunday, April 26, 2020

Easter III

Luke 24
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

We’re seeing things we never thought we’d see.

Take the Thursday night “At Issue” panel. For avid CBC watchers, Chantal, Althea, and Andrew usually appear in the studio, around a fancy glass table. Now, we see a rec room or a loft, a rather nice exposed brick wall and what appears to be a guest bedroom in the Coyne household. I don’t watch late night television, but I understand all the hosts are showing us a glimpse of their homes too.

Of course, this glimpse of the private from public figures is heavily curated, since we are only shown what they choose to show. It’s not like a spot inspection, or a random glimpse—there is still a private life behind this (strangely intimate) public face. Some would say this is nothing new, and that the rise of social media has prepared us for this moment. Facebook and Instagram are gateways to this new world, photos and “moments” that gave us a glimpse into the private, usually augmented by some sort of filter—a form of enhanced reality or even a distortion of the truth.

The terrible and tragic events in Nova Scotia take us down a rabbit hole once more: why didn’t people see this coming? How do ordinary and seemingly upstanding people turn out to be the opposite—a monster in our midst? This is the shadow side of unseen lives. In the weeks and months that follow, our society will need to untangle the threads of this terrible event and ponder. What should we know about each other, and what should we reveal? How do we address the pattern of male violence and massive loss of life? What control can we apply to random acts? There are many other questions.

And then, of course, we add this to the pile of things we are already trying to grapple with. Isolation, grief, uncertainty—just to name three—and the abiding sense that the world has changed. It’s all too much, and so we look for solace: in each other, in the God we worship, and the scriptures that animate our life together. I say trust the Bible to reveal what we need, to give voice to our hopes and fears, and to illuminate some truth for our time.

The first thing to note about the Road to Emmaus is that the story takes us back to the first evening of the resurrection, as two members of the fellowship are leaving Jerusalem. So we have to adjust our look to recognize that this is an early moment—with confusion and uncertainty still part of the telling. Next, we should note that Cleopas and his unnamed companion are not part of the eleven that remain. We are being introduced to more of the extended circle, the extended circle that symbolizes future believers like you and me.

Mostly, though, we need to remember that this takes place under the shadow of the cross: barely 72 hours earlier. The meaning of resurrection remains unclear—while the experience of Calvary and the cross is still very real. The first thing Luke tells is ‘their faces were downcast,’ and their conversation with the anonymous stranger begins with a pain-filled question: “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

I want to step back for a moment and admire Luke the storyteller. At least two things are happening in this question, so filled with heartache. First, we know the answer—we know about the things that have happened during these days. And in asking the question, Luke has made us insiders, made us part of the group. Next, we know this is Jesus (Luke just told us) and we know what kind of story this is—a story of the hidden visitor. So let’s step out of the story for a moment to meet the hidden visitor.

The first and most familiar example of the hidden visitor is the Lord’s appearance in the form of three strangers. Abram (Abraham) welcomes them, feeds them, and leans in as they ask “pray, where is your wife, Sarah?”

“There, in the tent,” he says.

“Did you know,” one of the strangers says, “that when we return next year, Sarah will have a son?”

Sarah, listening from inside the tent, laughs and says to herself, “I’m worn out, and he’s old, so how’s that gonna work?” But nothing is too hard for the Lord, as the Lord reminds them in the guise of a stranger, then departs. You could argue that this moment is the beginning of three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam— three religions, one covenant.

The trend of the hidden visitor continues. Jacob wrestles with God throughout the night to secure a blessing, Moses encounters God in the burning bush, the commander of the army of the Lord appears to Joshua near Jericho—in each case, God is hidden then disclosed, unknown then revealed.

At Emmaus, Jesus is revealed in two ways, and I want to look at each in turn. The first is a partial revealing, or perhap the key to revealing, as Luke describes the dialogue: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Jesus uses the words and the stories of the Bible-he-loved to help them see, to help them understand the continuing covenant of love and mercy. The Old Testament is the story of God and God’s people, and Jesus asks us to locate him and locate ourselves in its pages. This does not supersede the covenant with our sister religions: it simply helps us in our walk with God—through all the ages.

The other way Jesus is revealed is in the breaking of bread. Why bread? Well, Jesus is the Bread of Life, so it follows. But bread is also the most common of foods, often broken each day. From the humble to the grand—kitchen table to well-appointed dining room table—bread is broken. “Each time you do this, remember me,” Jesus said, seeking a place in our every day. He is our daily bread, and he seeks a place at our table. Jesus is revealed when bread is broken, whether the table is crowded or we eat alone.

In truth, we’re seeing things we never thought we’d see. I have seen more baked goods in the last six weeks (at our house and online) than I’ve ever seen before. But I also see a continuity, a desire to show the positive and the creative, to show some normality in the abnormal times we inhabit. And I see signs of people reaching out, creating symbols of solidarity and comfort in a difficult time. Hope that feels hidden is being revealed, and many are doing their best to find hope in others. At the top of this page (online) is an effort to summarize this work: “seeing Christ in others” and seeing Christ revealed is the same work, from that table at Emmaus to the table in your home.

“Were not our hearts burning within us,” they ask, “while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Our hearts burn with the desire to walk with the Risen One, to see him in psalms and prophets, and to see him in each other. May God bless us, and hold us, today and every day. Amen.


Post a Comment

<< Home