I'm trying something new. I'm a little nervous about it, but I've started recording my reflections or sermons each week. It seemed important to be able to share WildWood with as many people as possible. While it's not exactly like joining us on Sunday, I hope it gives you a little taste. I'm not super pleased with how my first attempt turned out, but I'm eager to keep working on it and I welcome you feedback and suggestions. So below you'll find the text of my reflection along with the MP3 audio.
**I tried to try something new, but the website host removed the ability to upload audio. I'm trying to find a work around**
I was walking with a friend the other day and she asked me, “What is capturing you these days?” It was a question that made me pause and I mumbled something about wanting to have an interesting answer. I suddenly panicked because I wanted to say that I was captured with something that really mattered. I panicked and instead of embracing the question and honestly sharing what was capturing, I rambled on and on about all that was distracted me. What was distracted me from the things that I thought should be capturing me.
Later in the week as I posted on Facebook that I was having a hard time focusing. I had WildWood Gathering to plan, reading to do and a final paper to write, but there were so many things distracting me. There was Facebook of course and a little Instagram too. I was keeping tabs on the United Methodist judicatory response regarding the ordination of LGBTQ+ people that was due out that week. I let the dog out, and then I let her back in, and then because it was sunny I let her out again, finally leaving the backdoor open for her to go in-and-out herself, but track dirt all over the house. I wondered about our new neighbors moving in next door. I worried about the future, my future, our future, the future of the world. And I fell down more than one spectacular Google rabbit hole. Back on my Facebook post, several friends had responded offering suggestions, camaraderie (there seemed to be something going around) and one friend from Kansas said,
“Our distractions keep us from seeing Jesus in the room. In the moment. On the road. In the gossipy person at work. The crazy asshat that cat-calls us on the walk home every day. The one friend you have who only complains, and never sympathizes. Or the obvious: the guy on the side of the road wearing sandals and a way out-of-date robe. Why couldn't they recognize him? Distractions.”
These friends, walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, are distracted with their own grief and fear. They had such high hopes, they had such great expectation that Jesus would be the one to liberate Roman occupied Israel. And that all seemed dashed, the empire had won. We’ve all been distracted by our own dashed hopes, so sure we know the desired outcome that we ignore all else. These two are so distracted in their own story that they don’t even recognize the man who walks up beside them. Distractions.
What have we missed while we were to busy being distracted? What distractions do we allow to capture us so that we miss the sermon waiting to be written, the friend along for the walk or the gentle prodding toward what is next?
As they arrive at their destination and are getting ready to part ways, the two friends ask the stranger to say for dinner. “It’s nearly evening; the day is done” join us for a meal. Inside their hosts prepare the meal and set the table. As they all take their seats, this stranger, this guest, usurps the hospitality role of the host, he takes the bread, blesses it and break it, and they see.
But what do they see? Is there a person there one moment, then gone the next? Do they see a fleeting glimpse of Jesus in the actions of a stranger? Do they relive, in that moment, the memory of the last meal shared with those closest to Jesus, of him blessing and breaking bread, saying, “when you eat of this bread, remember me.” In that moment, they knew that resurrection has happened. They realized that all during their walk that day as they shared stories and conversation their hearts had been on fire, they had been aware of the presence of the Divine, but had not realized it.
Perhaps they had exceptions of what and how Jesus would be resurrected and because they had not see it transpire to their specific exceptions they had given up hope. They didn’t believe the women who saw Jesus, because women could never be the first to see resurrection? They knew what they were looking for and they had not seen it so it must not be true. Or maybe they had been so occupied with their own story they hadn't even been looking for resurrection. This story offers not a flashy story of obvious resurrection, but a gentle probing and nudging, a fleeting glimpse illuminating only the next step ahead. Yet it is enough, enough to send the followers of Jesus running back to Jerusalem reminded that Jesus was with them and that their hopes were not dead, that all that was hoped for, worked for, promised may yet be. In that moment they heard and saw what their hearts needed most.
In my reflection on Easter I reminded us that we are the resistance and the resurrection. Today I remind us that we must also be open to witnessing the resurrection and listening to those who have already seen it. We have to let go of our preconceived expectations of what we are looking for and be open to seeing the Divine in the stranger and in unexpected places.
In the coming weeks we will ask questions and explore what it means to be a community of faith. What kind of community, what kind of Church, we want to co-create together as this particular manifestation of the Beloved Kin-dom. We will seek to discern together that gentle probing and nudging and catch a glimpse illuminating the next step ahead. We will ask each other; What is capturing you these days? What is capturing us these days? How can we walk this road together, how can we both recognize the strangers in our midsts and how can we be the divine strangers to others.
In his book Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, Marcus Borg writes, “The risen Jesus journeys with his followers, even when they don’t know it. This story is the metaphoric condensation of several years of early Christian experience into one parabolic afternoon. Whether the story happened or not, Emmaus always happens.27 Emmaus happens again and again…” Just as Jesus used parables to teach important truths, the writer of Luke uses this parable to keep us alert to the Divine strangers along the road. May we, in all areas of our life, be open to Emmaus moments, when unexpected strangers join us on the journey, when glimpses of the Divine leave our hearts on fire and truly capture us.