Luke 24:36-49 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
In our church, we have a service on Maundy Thursday, and then we have another one on Easter Sunday. And while there is an ecumenical service down the street on Good Friday, we don't get the chance as a congregation, to experience all the events of that weekend. We jump from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday- and often we miss out on an important part of the journey when we do. That span of time, especially Saturday morning- the day after the crucifixion- when we wake up in the space of unknowing- trying to figure out what just happened and what the future might hold, the space of silence and sorrow, before the hope of Easter Morning... It troubles me that we are most often absent from each other during that time- we are home doing preparation for family gatherings, or planning egg hunts, or last-minute shoe shopping. Admittedly, it's easier than sitting in the silence. It's easier to rush toward resurrection joy, because after all, we just went through Lent- now it’s about Easter!
Resurrection! Hope! Ahhh, the crux of our faith. It's all over scripture: "Sorrow lasts for a moment, but joy comes in the morning." "All things work together for good" "For I know the plans I have for you, says God, plans to prosper you and not to harm you." And it’s true- as Christians, our hope is in God through Christ- so yes, there is always hope.
But there are times, when we are facing disappointment, or grief, or sorrow, when we need space to feel sadness, or loss, or anger. There are times, when instead of saying something like "it will be ok" or quoting one of the scriptures i just mentioned, when we are willing to sit with someone in their pain or discomfort. To acknowledge their broken heart, to affirm the hurt, and just be present with one another in the space of silence and sorrow.
The scripture this week directly follows the familiar resurrection story- the Road to Emmaus. Very briefly, the disciples are walking on the road, sharing their disappointment about Jesus' death-and he sidles up beside them and into their conversation, though they don't recognize him as Jesus. They are so taken with him, however, that they invite him to dinner, and it is through the breaking of bread, that their eyes are opened, and they realize the resurrected Christ is in their midst. It's a beautiful passage- it allows us to witness both the heartbreak of the disciples, and the joy they describe as "our hearts burning" as Jesus was speaking. However, before the disciples realized they were talking to Jesus, they were in real pain, and Jesus did not rush them toward the good news- instead he walked with them though that pain. In his time, he revealed his presence in a way they could understand. Theologian David Lose, says of the Emmaus story: “ …when reading this story we often hurry to the burning hearts part of the narrative, celebrating with the disciples their encounter with the Risen Christ. But just as before there is resurrection there is cross, so also I’d say that before there are burning hearts there are broken ones." Jesus, unrecognized, didn't tell the disciples to stop being broken hearted- He gave them space to grieve and share their hurt.
When I listened to accounts of worship last week, and the prayer time our congregation shared, it sounded to me like a perfect description of this. You were present in each other's brokenness- you stayed in that place of silence and sorrow, the place of unknowing- you afforded one another the space to be broken. Do you realize what a gift that is? But lets move to today’s passage- because it is not just in our broken heartedness that we need space- Jesus, when he appeared to the disciples in that room, when they were still talking about the road to Emmaus, gave hem space again. He shows up in the middle of the discussion- who knows how he got there- the text only says "appeared" and instead of saying "Ta Da! - he offered them Peace... peace be with you, he said. Again- he did not offer them hope, or rush into the good news- though in his appearance it was surely present, but Jesus knew that peace was what was needed... Because his friends would need time to see and know him in a new, transformed way. They were according to the text, terrified, joyful, disbelieving- all in one-I can’t imagine all of the emotions that must have been going through them, but I do know that as happy as they must have been to see their friend again, this was not the same Jesus they had known before. They would need space to adjust- and peace to sort through the unknown... What unknown? I wonder if you have had such an experience- when someone you have loved so deeply, and understood in one way, goes through a transformation. And while it may not have been as dramatic as rising from the dead, there is a stark enough change where you almost not recognize them; to almost want proof that they are who they say they are. (who are you and what have you done with?)
And I'm not talking about negative change here- I'm talking about someone who goes through a positive, healthy, transformation that is life giving for them and helps them become the best version of themselves. We would think that on witnessing such an event, our response would be all positive- but... What do you do the day your spouse comes home announces they are on a diet and workout program, and so Friday make your own pizza nights are now a thing of the past? Or when the person we love to party with has an epiphany and suddenly doesn't drink anymore? Your child who you 'know better than anyone else' tells you they are gay/lesbian/bi/trans, etc? Or when your best friend gets called to some kind of ministry and you have no idea what's happened to them? Or a hundred other scenarios... The thing about transformation is, every time someone close to us transforms like that, it affects us! We can't be in relationship with another person and not be changed once they are transformed. And we all know how much people love change! And no kidding, someone’s transformation can be so difficult to accept, we often try to force them back into the mold we created for them- 'oh come on, you can have pizza once in a while- you can have one drink! You're not gay, that's ridiculous! Ministry? Are you serious? Honey I know you...
And while we know it’s best for them, and eventually we come around… hopefully… we can’t grasp it all at once. We need space- peace- to get to know them in a new transformed way. And that makes sense, doesn't it? When we are close to someone, we count on them acting in certain ways, or responding in ways we expect. When they transform and begin to grow into what God has designed for them, no matter how life affirming it may be for them, and in the long run us, it means that we also have to change our expectations, our thoughts, and how we interact. And guess what? That means there is a certain amount of grieving that we need to go through-even when we are moving toward something better- we need to grieve what we are letting go of. Even though joy comes in the morning, we need the space to figure this out in the stillness and sorrow of the night.
For the disciples in that room that afternoon, Jesus offered them space to figure out what was happening, to do what they had to do in order to understand- inviting them to touch his body, showing them the scars of love on his hands and feet- all the while affirming where they were at that moment and the grief mixed with joy they were experiencing. He showed who he was in ways they could understand- "do you have something to eat?" and then let them watch him eat- yes... same Jesus who loves his seafood, but not the same..
It wasn't until after that space, it wasn't until after they had spent time in his presence, that he opened their minds again, gave them the good news of Easter through the scriptures, and renewed their call.
Back to our congregation. Our backyard is growing more beautiful with each passing week. We've got new flowers, and gardens and blooms everywhere- but what this means is, that we need to give each other the space, not just to transform, but to accept one another's transformation... to knowing each other, knowing ourselves in a new way. It means being patient with one another- dropping some expectations and adopting an attitude of grace and wonder- and sometimes, joyful disbelief. And my friends the only way we can do that, is to begin knowing Jesus in a new way.
1 John 3::1-3See what love the Creator has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.