Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ, You call us to come
To be with you,
And to bear the cost
Of giving up our false self. By your Spirit help me To see you, To hear you,
Even when I hide and doubt. Help me to follow you in all of life,
And to walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection
Season of Easter. Week Three
This week the lectionary guide leads us into Luke’s gospel narrative (24:36-48) and back again into the upper room in Jerusalem. The disciples, still disillusioned and afraid, are listening as two of their group, Cleopas and another, tell them about what had happened on their walk home to Emmaus that afternoon.
While in deep conversation, a man had drawn near and walked with them. After a while he asked what they were discussing with each other. In response they tell this traveler about Jesus of Nazareth, and how he had been condemned to death and crucified.
If they were grieving it was because they had hoped that this Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel—to set their nation free from Roman domination, and to restore peace and justice. But now he was dead, and with him their hopes had also died.
Cleopas and his companion go on to relate to their friends how this man then began to speak to them about what Moses and the prophets within their scriptures had declared, and how that it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer and then be glorified. They remember that as this fellow traveler continued opening up new windows of understanding to understand their writings, their felt a deep warmth spread across their hearts. But there was more that happened! As they broke bread together in their house, he had been made known to them: It was Jesus! Jesus was alive! That’s why they had returned here!
We hope for many things, usually within the boundaries of what we name as good. Sandra and I were having conversation together one cold January day. We had both been driving on icy roads in Iowa, and were sharing our experience of losing control. Three times in my journey to the grocery store that day my car had spun out of control, and I was profoundly thankful that I had not slid into someone else’s vehicle, or landed in a frozen ditch beside the road. Sandra’s vehicle had slid across the highway and into a frigid snow bank in a ditch. She had not been injured, but felt shaken up and fearful. “Why did God let that happen?” she asked as we sat together sipping hot tea. “Why didn’t God protect me, and stop me sliding across the road like that?” We talked about hope and faith for a while, and explored the reality of how our hopes are about God preserving our comfort, and do not often stretch to trust in God’s presence and care when we slide beyond the boundaries of our safe haven of hope. As a nurse who was present to many persons who experienced living beyond the boundaries of God keeping them healthy and strong, Sandra gradually found her understanding being stretched. She found herself more open to trusting in God when bad things happen. In this present world they do. Creation groans, we groan, and the Holy Spirit is present with us in our suffering, groaning in prayer alongside us; translating our sighs into prayers and interceding for us according to the will of God . We live in hope of something better—something we cannot yet see, but for which we wait with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
As we allow our story to include the experience of suffering, then we are able to look for the presence of the Spirit of Jesus in what we suffer. For he too suffered. But that was not the end. He walked through and beyond death, and then returned in his resurrection! This gives us hope. And it restored hope to Cleopas and the other disciples.
It was in the midst of their telling of their afternoon encounter that Jesus appears, speaking words of peace and reassurance to these troubled followers. And then he leads these joyful but questioning disciples through the scriptures in the same way that he had done for Cleopas and his companion earlier in the afternoon.
As we companion others, and others listen to our life experiences, we are invited to pay attention to hope–and loss of hope–within our storied experience. In this way we become story-listeners, always alert to where there is hope within the person’s story, and where there is despair. If we are unable to name and be present to our own experiences of loss and despair, of pillars crumbling which have formerly felt safe and secure, then we will find it hard to stay present to the story of others. As story-listeners we will hear the bright, hopeful content, and be unable to hear the desolation and grief, fear and loss, also imbedded in the narrative. Here we are invited to assist those we companion in this journey of the soul to explore the content and the boundaries of their story, and to invite them to grow in their understanding of the Greater Story of God. This understanding will call them to embrace the suffering Messiah, and Jesus’ call to notice his presence and help in the midst of suffering in this world.
As we come to this honest recognition and naming, and allow ourselves to be willing to be present to suffering, then we begin to live into a hope which is beyond the safe boundaries we have clung to. Simon Peter, along with the rest of our gospel companions, came to embrace this living hope and reality. To the believers scattered throughout the world around the Mediterranean because of suffering caused by persecution for their faith in Jesus, he begins his letter with a blessing:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living
hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
(I Peter 1:3)
Look back over your life and become aware of those times when your hopes were disappointed, and your felt disillusioned and disempowered.
In what ways has God restored hope in your life?
In what ways are allowing your understanding of suffering and hope to
grow beyond the immediate hope for good things to happen?
In what way does Peter’s reflection on this “living hope through the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” invite your attention?
Where do you desire to invite Jesus into some of the locked rooms
of your life experience?
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence
In this Holy Week,
And to learn God’s way
Through death to resurrection,
Season of Easter: Week Three
- 4/16 Monday: Luke 24:36b – 43
- 4/17 Tuesday: Luke 24:44 – 48
- 4/18 Wednesday: Psalm 4
- 4/19 Thursday: Acts 3:12 – 19
- 4/20 Friday: I John 3:3:1 – 7
- 4/21 Saturday: Luke 24:36b – 43
- 4/22 Sunday: Luke 24:44 – 48