Easter 3 Text: Luke 24: 13-49
Here’s what I imagined for this season of Easter: that each week we would hear stories of breakthrough … stories of our being visited by a Great Goodness such that we were enabled to begin again … stories of unimagined healing or possibility where none was in sight. We would hear these stories from each other … stories arising from our own lives.
That’s what I imagined … and that may yet happen in the coming weeks, but today … you know what can happen to best laid plans! Life happens. Passages of scripture get handed to us. The Spirit moves. And we end up somewhere altogether different.
Life. Scripture. Spirit. It’s a ‘holy trinity’ of sorts that intrudes on a preacher.
In preparation for today I began as I usually do with the passage of scripture. Today’s, as you probably noticed, is a big one … big in length, big in complexity, big in mystery. So many questions arise from this text … What keeps Jesus’ friends from recognizing him? Even after their eyes have been opened, why don’t they recognize him the next time? Why does he appear to them in one instance as a stranger on the road, curious to know what they’re talking about, and in the next instance as though a ghost?
After some time of listening to this passage, trying to make sense of it, wondering how to interpret it, I realized the more I try to understand it, the more it bewilders me. It also occurred to me I don’t think the point of this story is to make my head hurt! So stop trying! I thought. When this story comes around another time, as surely it will, there may be a certain dawning, some clarity in relation to the questions it evokes … but this time, that’s not where the fire seems to be.
Instead what kept intruding was life … in particular the hard heavy stories of this past week -- the enormous grief surrounding the tragic collision in Saskatchewan, the fierce and unending cycle of violence in Syria, and the meeting today in Ottawa of Prime Minister Trudeau, and Premiers Rachel Notley and John Horgan. Impossible places, all of them. At a time, I might have imagined us telling Easter stories this morning … those stories of breakthrough I was envisioning this time last week … stories that would hearten us by reminding us of times when things took a turn in ways beyond what we could ever have hoped or imagined. That kind of bearing witness for sure has its place.
But something else happened as I allowed those scenes from Luke’s Gospel to come alongside those impossible places of this week. All the complexities of the passage that I was trying to understand, they fell away, leaving only this: the risen Christ comes and keeps coming to them --not once and for all-- but keeps coming to them in their grief.
So then it occurred to me, it’s not those breakthrough stories we have known that we need this morning to lift the weight of these days, as if to drown out the grief. What we need is Christ alive coming again and again into these places of grief … coming with a peace that the world cannot give …coming with a companionship that arises from having been to hell and back … a solidarity that knows utter devastation first hand, brutal suffering, and a love so steadfast, so enduring that it accompanies where no one else can go, and somehow delivers … delivers out of death into new found life … delivers out of devastation a way forward.
So instead of more stories this morning I began to picture us praying --
earnestly, fervently, like it mattered … that as one body we might be this great conduit for the flow of God’s compassion and mercy, healing and wisdom, strengthening presence.
Instead of storytelling I pictured us giving ourselves to the mystery of prayer, imploring
“Come dear Jesus, come into the heart of our world’s deep need.
Come as you came into their hopelessness on that road to Emmaus.
Come into those homes and hearts that are shattered in Syria, in Humboldt … show up there … be real there.
Come into the rawness … the trauma …
Come alongside in the face of burdens too heavy to carry – the burden of guilt … of irreparable damage.
Come in the face of brutal regimes.
Into our irreconcilable differences, come!
Where we are beholden to anything other than your call to life, come!
Where the pressure to win is unrelenting, come!
Amidst all that is not possible, we pray for your impossibility.
Come close to home … into the turmoil of our lives, and the lives of our families …. notice the heartsick, the anxiety, the suffering.
Come and find us where we are between a rock and a hard place.
Hear our urgency. Do among us what none of us can do.
[More Voices 4 --Come Lord Jesus, come.]