Reflection for Sunday – April 30, 2017
Readings: Acts 2: 14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24: 13-35
Preacher: Christine Kvam
Last month I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to put my 2 ½-year-old nephew, Miles, to bed on the night his parents were at the hospital after the birth of their second son. I was delighted to sit on the bed next to him as he snuggled under the covers. We read a Thomas the Train book, then I kissed his forehead, told him I loved him, and started to stand up to leave the room. At that moment he reached out for my hand and looked up at me. His eyes were filling with tears and his lower lip started to quiver. “Stay with me,” he pleaded.
Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in today’s Gospel, Miles was in a liminal moment—he was about to go from being an only child to a big brother—and he was uneasy. Similarly, the disciples were uneasy on the road that day; they had put their hope in Jesus only to see him crucified, but then heard news that he had risen. They were on a threshold not sure what was coming next. And when the stranger walking with them seemed ready to continue on, their response was the same as Miles’s —“Stay with us.”
I read a great reflection on Holy Saturday about how most of our lives are spent in the “in between” moment of that day—not in the tragedy of the crucifixion or the bliss of the Resurrection. In many cases, that Holy Saturday feeling continues long after the Paschal candle is lit at the Easter Vigil. Even though we are three weeks into the Easter season now, and in spite of the blossoming of new spring life all around us, many of us may not be feeling the joy of the Resurrection.
A couple we met in our adoption education sessions has been waiting over three years for a child without a concrete possibility on the horizon. Here in Rochester just before Easter, the news reported the tragedy of the Lynch family who lost their 14-year-old son after he was hit by a car on his way to school.
And in Syria parents continue to grieve for their children killed by chemical weapons. In the midst of this, we dutifully sing along with the “Alleluias” in Mass, but it may feel more like Leonard Cohen’s “cold and broken Hallelujah” than a victorious acclamation. While we notice the bright yellow forsythias as we drive to work, our hearts may still feel numb or even lifeless like the bare branches of Lent. And the guilt of not feeling joyful during this most jubilant time of year can make us feel even worse.
In these moments, perhaps we can find a way forward by requesting, just as Miles and the disciples on the road did, “stay with us.” During times of uneasiness, confusion, disappointment, or loss it can be so easy to turn away from Jesus. His promise of hope and new life can seem too far off or even downright unreasonable. The challenge of faith in these moments is to urge Jesus to stay with us no matter how much we might want to just let him keep on walking down that road as we turn in on ourselves. At particularly tough times, our request can feel more like a demand; some translations of this text say the disciples “pressed” Jesus. Whether it’s a gentle plea or a bossypants command, the Emmaus story reveals the Good News that regardless of our blindness or lack of faith, when we ask Jesus to stay with us, he does.
And when Jesus stays with us, we will eventually come to experience the hope and new life he embodies. Unfortunately it probably won’t be as quick for most of us as it was for the disciples whose faith was so profoundly invigorated just moments later when Jesus broke bread with them, but if Easter tells us anything it’s that hope is stronger than despair, good does win out over evil, and life triumphs over death. So, until our faith is invigorated and we experience the reality of those Easter truths, until we all feel the deep joy in the Easter Alleluias, let’s keep begging Jesus, “stay with us.”