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The Road to Emmaus
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Yesterday I got a note from yet another friend with yet another friend who is very, very sick from cancer.
My friend was at a loss, and she asked, more or less, what most and many ask me over and over again when faced with similar heartache:
What to say?
How can I help?
and most common of all, tho' hardest to articulate:
Where is God in all of this?
Why is Jesus so conspicuously absent?
It's a pretty damned good question, and one particularly potent (and appropriate) this week--the week after the resurrection and the week of the two disciples' encounter with the mysterious stranger on the Road to Emmaus.
I've a sermon I'll eventually get posted here about this, but let me just these few things.
Don't be discouraged if you're asking these questions. Not only do all those bluesy "why do the rich prosper?/why do good things happen to bad people?" Psalms grant all the permission you need, but the 45-odd days between Resurrection Morning and Pentecost, by their very conflicted, frightened, convoluted existence, just scream that God understands our ongoing, believing ambivalence.
Having experienced three years of the direct friendship and tutoring of Jesus, his horrific death, then having seen the empty tomb, the risen body--even the actual wounds of post-Calvary Jesus--his disciples remained shell shocked and uncertain, despite their deep confessions of faith.
They believed, unswervingly and clearly, and yet they still were lost and frightened and overcome in their powerlessness. It was only Pentecost that saw that change, and then not finally or completely. Ambivalence seemed to be the ongoing state of the believer.
Certainly that was the case those few days after the resurrection, when those two disciples came upon the unrecognized Christ.
And as I told my friend on Monday, it wasn't in the walking and talking together, it wasn't in the teaching (he unfolded the scriptures for them as they walked and talked), it was in the breaking of bread that those disciples came to recognize him.
Didn't our hearts burn? they asked.
There's a lesson here, at least for those of us who suffer and those who might confort those that do.
Don't worry about the right words or even the right journey. You can't change our condition and you can't change our grief, however pronounced, exagerated, unspoken, or even calmed.
But what you can do is be with us. For a few minutes or many hours, you can sit and break bread with us, you can share that most mundane and holy of all things with us and just let us be with you, even as you simply are with us. There, in those moments, healing and even redemption can rush in, as we find ourselves embraced and welcomed into something like normal.
There, at a table on the Road to Emmaus, there is hope.