- Published: 28 April 2020
In the season of Easter, we consider the resurrection narratives.
One narrative describes two friends walking home, a walk that took them from Jerusalem to a satellite village called Emmaus. One of the two friends is Cleopas, a character not previously appearing in the gospel of Luke, a representative of the wide circle that surrounded Jesus. The other person remains unnamed. We do not know if it is a man or a woman or someone of another gender identity. Perhaps the two are married, perhaps siblings or family members, or friends, soul mates.
The storyteller describes a trust between the two, a trust capable of deep conversation, talking about “all the things” that have happened in the last few days and weeks. The “things” had to do with the crucifixion of Jesus as well as the stories of a Spirited re-appearings. The “things” had to do with all the impacts of the teachings and heal of Jesus, the controversies and social upheaval, the drive for justice and for a renewed compassion.
The “things” probe a significant time, not only in their lives, but in the life of the world. While discussing “all these things”, a stranger joined them. The storyteller informs the reader that the stranger is the Rising Jesus but, for the characters in the story, their eyes are kept from recognizing the Rising Jesus.
As the narrative unfolds, the stranger assumes a posture of unknowing, asking the two what they were talking about. The two are incredulous that this stranger does not know what is happening, but this unknowing posture elicits from the two their story. They talked about their hopes, the hope that Jesus of Nazareth was a leader who would help the people in a liberation movement that would free them from their oppressors, and they talked about their loss, about the devastation of the crucifixion and the grief of the death of Jesus and the dashing of their hopes, and they also talked, tentatively yet with a sense of wonder upon hearing stories of women who had encountered appearances of a rising Jesus. Hard to know what to make of it all.
The stranger listened as the two recounted the story, got the whole story out of them if you will. The Holy in Jesus honoured their story, giving space for them to tell their story and even to come to know their own story in a deeper way. Through the telling of story, awareness is awakened. The two spoke both their insights and their confusions. They gave voice to what still blinded them, even as a deep awakening was stirring in the heart.
I don’t know about you, but I am stirred by “all the things” I am hearins as I isten to the stories happening as we walk through this significant season of COVID-19. Many of us are still grasping to find the words to name what is really going on, but as we walk through this experience, we recognize the significance. This event is impacting our lives and our world. Stories provide a framework for meaning.
The holy, having heard these two on the road tell their story, connects their experience with their sacred story. The gospel storyteller indicates that the unrecognized rising Jesus frames “all these things” by returning to the prophets, beginning with Moses, and then the stranger offers insight and interpretation and a renewed understanding of the meaning and impacts of the teachings and healings and controversies and social upheavals that Jesus of Nazareth, as a prophet, was all about.
The holy awakens these two friends to the workings of the sacred, awakens them to begin seeing God’s presence in the significance of their story and experience. What was happening was significant, not to be missed.
I won’t speak for anyone else but myself. This strange season of “staying home” is awakening stuff for me personally, some rich and beautiful, some troubling and challenging. This “staying home” as a whole world is awakening in me an amazement at the capacity of our world to rally around a common cause and to take a stand for life with a greater solidarity than I had ever imagined possible. I am not merely talking about efforts like “one world together” but I find more inspiring the on-line conversation happening in twos and threes, not to mention the inspiring creative and courageous things happening. Equally, I am stilled by how “strange season” is illuminating social inequities with a vivid clarity that is sobering
One can feel the uprising of spirited energies, an awakening, an opening of the eyes, that if chosen, can be transformative.
The friends reached their home. The two knew they could not let the stranger walk away and be forgotten.
They invited the deepening awareness “into the home”, into the place closest to the heart. They invited the deepening awareness to stay with them.
Then, as they gathered around the table, the stranger took initiative, took bread, blessed the bread, and broke it.
In that instance, the two recognized the Rising Jesus, recognized that spirit of life which could not remain buried in a tomb, recognized that the spirit of life cannot forever remained locked behind doors, the two saw the rising love and compassion of “all these things”.
In that same instance, the storyteller indicates that the stranger vanishes.
The stranger vanishes, but not vanishing is the broken bread and not vanishing is the stirring of the hearts of the two friends. They look at one another and recognized that they had been in the presence of the holy, the flames of Spirit had warmed their hearts, actually it was like a fire burning within, a fire of renewed passion as the two quickly danced themselves back to Jerusalem knowing that the Christ-story was not ending, the Christ-story was just beginning. The stranger vanished, but the Christ-story dances on. This is the testimony of the storyteller.
We live in both strange and significant times. All of us are bidden to walk path we have not walked before. As we negotiate so much that is unknown, it is our sacred stories and the words of the prophets and the teachings of Christ Jesus that are a lamp unto our feet and a light for our path.
So, in these strange and significant times, we tell our stories, speak our hopes and dreams, voice our fears and uncertainties, name our treasures and our losses, and as we tell our stories we also hear stories, stories that awaken a deepening compassion, especially for those who face hardships and traumas, a compassion seeking agency. This agency invites us, perhaps even compels us, to add our part to the great dance, to be lifted into the sphere of grace, to receive the wisdom that comes in this unexpected strange time, to wonder about what is yet to be discovered, to anticipate the possibilities of the unseen days ahead.
For me, I find myself in this story, not quite at the ending yet, but at the point where I am just getting really used to be at home, just at the point of inviting the holy stranger in to stay for a while, to stay with me in this time of staying home, to stay so that I can learn, and to stay in order to provide strength as I hold in the heart a world in a time of pain and crisis, a world in a time of having understanding and unexpected and a new story-line broken open through the recognizable act of breaking bread together.
It is a strange time, but holy things happen when the holy strangers is invited to stay.