Sometimes fear gets the better of you. Sometimes grief. Sometimes emptiness.
Sometimes you just have to run like the dickens. Sometimes you just have to get away.
Staying put is more than you can take.
So it is for Cleopas and his friend. They have to get away—away from all the horror of the last few days. Away from all the sadness. Away from the deep emptiness that sucks the very breath from them.
They take off—off to Emmaus, off to a different place, a different feel, a different set of characters. Maybe off to home.
On the road to Emmaus they take their flight. On the road to Emmaus they struggle to make sense of all that has happened these last few days—the cross, the tomb, the stone rolled away, the women’s tale.
There they are. Heading home in the vain hope that a change of scene might change the way they feel.
There they are, walking down the road, trying to make sense of what has happened. Going over it all again and again.
Don’t you know how that is? Don’t you know how, when horror strikes, you push the replay button again and again hoping against hope that in the replay things will change. Hoping against hope that the job will last, the child will come home, the biopsy is wrong.
Hoping against hope that the news you just heard isn’t true.
They keep walking—Cleopas and his friend—they keep walking away from Jerusalem—the city of their shattered dreams, the city of their dashed hopes. As they walk, they push that replay button going through the horror of it all—the farsical trial, the long walk to the cross, the blood caking dry in the heat of the day. The way Jesus’ head dropped—not in piety or humility but in the deep exhaustion of the moment. Over and over again they replay the scene. Every time it comes out the same.
Then sadness stops them in their tracks. Sucking their breath away. Making it impossible for them to move a single step.
Their conversation opens to include another voice, another point of view.
They begin again. Tentatively. In fits and starts. Still they can’t move beyond the horror of it all. Still they hear the howls they stifled as He was lifted to the cross. Again they feel the gulp of air they took when they heard him breathe his last.
“Are you the only one who has not heard?” they ask as they weave their grief and sadness into a single cloth of mourning.
They begin again this time telling their story to one who somehow seems to understand their pain, their grief, their utter emptiness.
“We had hoped,” they say to him, and in that phrase we hear our own dashed hopes and disappointments—for who among us has not hoped that the disappointments, pain and grief that are a part of life might somehow change?
Who among us has not hoped that the job offer would come? that our friend would live? that the abuse would end?
“We had hoped”—a phrase laden with despair
And who among us has not been in that place of deep despair?
Who among us has not known the darkness of those days that followed Christ’s capture in the garden, his trumped up trial, and that awful crucifixion?
Who among us has not wept with Mary or hid behind locked doors with the disciples?
Who among us has not stood suspended in disappointment and despair?
Who among us has not—at one time or another in our lives—mistaken the Risen Christ for just another stranger on the road?
Sometimes it’s a cloud of sadness that blocks our sight. Sometimes it’s deep grief closing in on us. So it is for me today. I can’t see the resurrection. The cross is obscuring my view. I’m dead center in dashed hopes and fractured dreams.
My friend Jennifer is dead. Killed by a hit-and-run driver. In front of U.N.M Hospitals. I don’t know her age. I don’t know her story. All I know is that a sweet, sweet spirit died last Thursday after being hit by a hit-and-run driver.
I am sick. Sickened by the carnage I have witnessed in the last few months:
A man shot to death by the police;
Another dead from alcohol abuse;
Women—more than one or two—turned away from safe houses because there was no bed for them;
A mother and a daughter—both recently losing jobs—fretting over where they’ll get the money to pay the rent.
“Do not ask me about Resurrection” says the poet Dorothee Soelle.
I nod in deep agreement. “I’m not ready for Resurrection,” I say to myself.
And then I remember my friend Jennifer. The way she reached out for the communion bread. The hopeful look in her sad eyes. The words she always used to say “goodbye”—“I love you”.
“Do not stop asking me about Resurrection,” Dorothee Soelle replies to herself.
“Do not stop asking me about Resurrection,” I say as I remember and re-member those whom I have lost
We remember the One who meets us on the road. We tell the story once again. We eat the bread. We drink the wine. And as we do we become the One we thought we lost.
You are the Body of Christ.
I am the Body of Christ.
We are the Body of Christ.