So one of the perks of my job situation right now is that, rather than having a steady parish gig on Sundays, I do a lot of supply work. (like a substitute teacher for priests, only less throwing of things and more traveling for me.)
This week, I was at a lovely little Episcopal/ELCA combo parish in the White Mountains. Awesomely, I spent the night at a hotel located off of Deuce of Clubs Road.
This parish is filled with extraordinarily nice and helpful people– they even had brought me coffee from McDonalds when I arrived for the early service. (Rite One gets a less comprehensible minus the caffeine.). But we have an interesting relationship. The last time I went out there was the Sunday after SB1070 (the infamous AZ immigration bill) was passed.
This week was….well, you know. Poor people. I’m going back on Pentecost, and here’s hoping we break our streak.
Anyway, here’s what I said.
3 Easter, year A
Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have taken place?
The disciples in the gospel story today have had quite the week.
They’ve watched their teacher and leader and friend, the one that they’ve pinned all their hopes and dreams on get killed by the Roman authorities as a rebel, and now they are pretty certain that the Romans will be coming for them next. That is Putting Down a Rebellion 101 in the Roman playbook, after all.
So Cleopas, and the Unnamed Disciple hit the road out of town. (According to some local Jerusalem traditions, the other disciple is his wife, Mary, who appears in the other resurrection accounts, and I’ve always liked that.) They leave. They head for Emmaus, where they figure they will be safe.
And on the way, they discuss with each other what’s been happening, because it’s the only thing either of them can think about. Actually, they do more than discuss. The Greek word for what they are doing is too strong for ‘discuss’. They are fighting with one another–that’s a closer translation of the word. Evidently the two have differing opinions on what has happened in their lives that has affected them so deeply.
But still, they keep talking. And still, they walk on towards Emmaus.
And into their argument, their confusion, strolls Jesus. A bit unexpected, really, and he doesn’t quite announce himself all that well. They don’t recognize him at all, and he almost is playing a trick on them, acting like he has no idea who they are, or what has been happening.
But he enters into their conversation. He joins their spirited argument with some thoughts of his own. And they reach Emmaus.
It is in the disciples’ attempts to make sense TOGETHER out of what has happened, that Jesus appears to them. It is in their very argument, and their diversity of opinion that he appears. It’s in the community re-forming, after his death, that Christ is present, again.
So, too, in our way, we have had quite the week in this world, my friends.
If you were sitting here, last Sunday, chances are the biggest news story in your mind was the Royal Wedding. How the dress was lovely, the music superb, the Archbishop’s eyebrows unfortunately unmanaged, and the hats amazing. Or, if you were really into the news, how Seth Meyers had done quite the number at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night.
And then…and then, there was Sunday night.
And late Sunday night, we all got the news that at the President’s orders, American troops had killed Osama bin Ladin in Pakistan.
And suddenly, that’s all anyone could talk about, anywhere you looked. television, radio, the internet, everywhere you looked, all anyone could talk about.
It’s been quite the week.
And it’s hard to know quite how to react to this. Aside from the fact that emotions are emotions, and telling people what to feel is about as useful as trying to command the tides, it’s just so complicated. What happened on Sunday is inextricably linked on an emotional level to what happened on 9/11, and it brings everything up again. And so there is an expectation this will finally erase some of that trauma–give us some closure, some relief, some justice, as the oft-repeated phrase goes.
so there were mass gatherings in the streets, Sunday night. People gathering and cheering, and singing.
and yet. That doesn’t quite cover what happened, does it? ::needs to be actual question::
for all that September 11th was an open question that this past Sunday answered, there’s also a sense in which Sunday just posed more questions that we don’t have clear answers to.
because when the dust clears a bit from this week, and the wall to wall news coverage dissipates, what will have changed? Will the wars end? Can we take liquids through airports? Will the world now, finally, be a safe place?
Will the memory of all thats happened in the past ten years really, finally, be redeemed in some way? Because really, isn’t that what we all want in the end?
I don’t think we know. At this point we’re still on the road to Emmaus, looking for that place of safe haven.
Today, as people of faith, we find ourselves, much like the two disciples did, searching for the presence of Christ to guide us down the road.
As so, how do we find Christ as we walk? Where do we look for resurrection in our world right now?
One place to start, unlikely as it sounds, is in our arguments. Our discussions. We need to develop the ability as Christians to talk about what is happening in our world with each other. Talk about it, wrestle with it, even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree. If we want Christ, God incarnate in the world, to be present to us, we must be present to the world, and present to each other. Even if that means rocking the boat a bit.
And granted, it’s scary. Trust me, I realize that most of us have been well socialized to avoid talking about all topics more controversial than the weather and isn’t this coffee lovely? But in every post resurrection appearance he makes, Jesus appears to disciples who are terrified, and overwhelmed, and argumentative, and says the same thing, Fear Not.
So, Engaging with each other is how we learn to hear Jesus. But notice when Cleopus and friend finally recognize him. It’s not until they invite him to stay with them for supper that evening. It’s not until they invite a “perfect stranger” to share their hospitality that they recognize the risen Christ for who and what he is that the pieces fall into place.
When we reach out to each other, when we wrestle with what is happening in the world around us, this is how we begin to hear the risen Christ. But when we extend this hospitality to everyone in our world, when we reach out our hands in love to everyone, even those not like us, even those who would do us harm, even those who wish us dead, when we model that sort of love in the world, that’s when we start to embody the sort of resurrection that Christ calls us to. That’s when we start to redeem the trauma and the tragedy that happens in our world: all the good Fridays that happen over and over. Both to us individually and to us as a people.
We don’t get there through anger. We don’t get there any other way. We get there through reaching out our hands in love.
Resurrection lies in going beyond, in giving up ourselves to caring for the suffering, a hurting world, a hurting creation, where too many people feel just as we have felt: betrayed, abandoned, and unheard. Resurrection comes when we use what we have learned through our own pain to care for others, when we break bread only to give it away, instead of hoarding it for ourselves. if we summon our power only in the service of others, and not our own glory.
We always have the choice to pursue resurrection. We always have the choice to walk into Easter. Emmaus lies just before us, and the risen Christ walks with us, always. All we have to do, is choose to see him.