PostScript: The big story
A reflection for the third Sunday of Easter.
We all have our own stories. Jesus hears them and draws us into his (Luke 24.13-25).
We used to call it a water-cooler moment. It was that thing in the news that everyone was talking about. Or a scene in that television show that you couldn’t quite believe. Did they really say that? Did that really happen? Who did what? Why? What did it mean? It got everybody talking. And if you didn’t know about it when you arrived at the office, or school, or club, or class, you certainly did before you went home.
Walking on the road towards Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion have been discussing that news, when they get talking to a stranger, a fellow traveller – as you could in those days, before social distancing. He wants to know what they’re discussing. They can’t believe he hasn’t heard. He must be the only man in Jerusalem not to know! Everyone knows.
We had hoped…
And it’s more than that. For Cleopas and his friend, it’s personal. They were part of the group who had been following Jesus of Nazareth, listening to his teaching. They knew him. They weren’t just interested in ‘The Big Story’, they were invested in it: ‘we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’ (Luke 24.21).
But their hopes have been dashed. He died. His body is gone. Yes, some of the women are telling an ‘idle tale’ (Luke 24.11), that he has risen… But what could that possibly mean? They must have got confused, misunderstood what they’d seen. It’s understandable, really, amid all the disappointment, the fear and anxiety, the grief at what they – all of them – have lost.
The unknown traveller listens to them as they share their story, their hopes, their pain, their sadness. And then he starts to share his perspective…
Can we start again, please?
Right now, times are confusing, frightening and challenging for many of us. Coronavirus and its effects are the focus of every news bulletin and of the conversation online, on the telephone, in our households, or in those workplaces that remain open. The feverish urge to tell, hear, know, guess, almost drowns out the cries of our hearts. But Jesus hears – and meets us where we are.
For some, as for Cleopas and his friend, there is the sharp pain of grief at the loss of someone dear. Grief made harder to bear by the measures that aim to keep us safe but which also keep us apart from those who might comfort us.
For others, anxiety comes clawing through the day and returns at night to gnaw away our sleep: what lies ahead?
And, if we are spared these things, then still we are left to sit with the sad weight of our own disappointments: the holidays and celebrations cancelled; the exams studied for that cannot be taken; the work set aside; the plans postponed; the friends with whom we cannot eat and laugh and drink; the lover’s hand we cannot hold.
Their eyes were opened
Jesus hears our stories and the cry of our hearts. And more than that. Whether we are like the women who moved quickly from fear to belief at the tomb (Luke 24.5-8), or ‘slow of heart’ like Cleopas and his friend (Luke 24.25), he longs to meet with us and draw us into his story.
Though he admonishes the two on the road for their slowness to believe, still he walks with them, talking and teaching, patiently ‘opening the Scriptures’. This encounter has such an effect on them that even before they understand who this stranger really is, they plead with him to ‘Stay with us’ at the journey’s end. He does. And as they sit together at the table at the close of the day, he breaks bread with them and ‘their eyes were opened, and they recognized him’ (Luke 24.29-32).
The moment of revelation is gentle and brief – almost at once ‘he vanished from their sight’. But it shines a light on their difficult experiences so far; on what they had felt, their ‘hearts burning within’, as Jesus explained his story to them on the road; and on what lies ahead. The story has not ended with the cross or even at the empty tomb. He is risen indeed!
And a new journey begins.
we pour our stories out to you,
right where we are.
Meet with us, here and now;
quieten our chattering minds and draw us close,
so close that we can feel your presence and hear your voice.
Warm our hearts until they burn within us.
Open our eyes so that we can see.
Tell us your story
and reveal our place in it.
Lead us on, into your way. Amen.
A ‘revealing’ activity for children
If there are children (or the young-at-heart!) in your household, and you’ve got some basic arts and crafts materials at home, you might like to try your hand at your own moment of gentle revelation.
You’ll need paper, a white wax crayon or a white candle (unlit!), and some paint.
First, draw a shape – perhaps a cross or a heart, to remind you of God’s love for us – onto the paper with the candle or crayon. It’s not easy to do as you can’t see what you’re doing, so you might want to shine a bright light from a lamp onto the paper while you work, or maybe lightly sketch a pencil outline to scribble inside. Then, when you’re done, you can move onto the best bit! Using colourful paints – watercolour, acrylic or poster paints should all work if you keep them fairly wet – paint a scene all over the top. I painted a rainbow, like the ones many people have been putting up in their windows as a sign of hope or thanks for key workers, but you could try other things too. Hopefully you’ll find that your ‘secret story’ is revealed as you paint! It’s a reminder to us that while there are times when hope can seem hidden from us, God is faithful and bigger than everything we face.
Praying with Psalm 116
There is much to meditate on in today’s Psalm, Psalm 116, that resonates with the current crisis, as the psalmist reflects on being saved from the brink of death. Here are two thoughts for carrying this forward in prayer.
A prayerful walk
‘I walk before the Lord
in the land of the living’ (Psalm 116.9).
In the UK at the moment we are on lockdown and one of the few reasons that we are allowed to leave our homes is to take exercise once a day. For many of us that exercise will take the form of a walk in our local area. The churches near to me have suggested that we take the chance to pray silently as we walk for those who live or work in the buildings we pass, whether they’re homes, hospitals, churches, or empty restaurants and workplaces. We might feel joyful in the spring sunshine, and pray thanksgiving for the moment we’re, in or good memories we’ve had in the past; we might look forward, lifting our hopes to God for the future of these places and the people that use them; or we might slow our pace, praying for God’s protection and comfort for those who might be fearful, suffering or grieving at this time. God knows the stories of the people behind the doors along our route and he is able to meet with them, even when we cannot.
A moment of remembrance
‘Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.’ (Psalm 116.15)
at a time when many are being lost to us,
and when even the last goodbye may be stolen
by the measures needed to keep others safe;
we thank you that every one of your children is precious in your sight,
seen by you and known by you,
from the first to the last of our days.
Comfort and strengthen those who mourn,
bring peace to those who are frightened,
and be with us all,
ever more. Amen.
Rebecca Froley was the web editor for ROOTS when it first launched and continues to work in online publishing. She is missing the face-to-face fellowship of her local Baptist church in Carshalton Beeches, Sutton
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