Jesus meets us wherever we are
There’s a story that we usually tell during the Easter season about how Jesus appeared to two disciples after his resurrection. You can read it in the Bible yourself (Luke 24:13-35), but here’s a summary. The two disciples in question were traveling to a village called Emmaus, just a few days after his death. Some of their friends had spread the rumor that Jesus was alive, but they didn’t seem to know what to do with that information.
While they were talking, Jesus appeared to them, but they didn’t recognize him. When he asked them what they were talking about, they began to tell the story of Jesus’ death and the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection, not realizing it was Jesus they were talking to. Jesus expressed disappointment with their inability to have faith that God would come through, but he stayed with them. When they reached their destination, they invited him to stay and have supper, which he did. And during that meal, when he blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them, they suddenly realized who he was.
What I love about this story is that it shows God revealing God’s self to people in ordinary ways. There was no burning bush, no angelic announcement, no going mute (as Zechariah did), and no going blind (as Paul did). It was just Jesus meeting two people on a journey and sharing food with them.
This year, however, our life is anything but ordinary. Perhaps this helps us hear the story with “new ears.” Because all of those ordinary actions that Jesus uses to reveal himself are things we are currently restricting ourselves from doing during this time of pandemic.
Most of us are not traveling very much these days. When we do, we’re not likely to engage strangers (or people we think are strangers). And we’re definitely not likely to share a meal with those strangers.
So many of the activities with which we can normally connect to this story are not part of our lives these days. But one thing that these two disciples experienced is still present for us: disappointment. As they talked to Jesus, they shared how his death seemed to bring an end to their hopes. And that’s when he intervened.
We may not be doing any of the other things that those two disciples were doing that day, but we do know what it means to have our hopes dashed. Certainly, most of us have had our share of disappointment due to the pandemic. But most of us have experienced such disillusionment outside of it as well. It happens any time we come to the realization that the world is a harsher place than we had hoped it would be.
Like those disciples, we can be blinded by disappointment. When life doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped, sometimes we adjust, give up hope, and move on, as those two disciples were trying to do. That’s not always a bad thing. Some dreams are ill-advised, after all. But not those which hope for the world to be as God intended it to be. And when those types of dreams are seemingly crushed, that is when Jesus shows up. We might not recognize him right away.
We might be so resigned to defeat that we accept disappointment as “the new normal,” as the disciples did. But rest assured, Jesus will continue to walk along side of us, waiting to reveal himself at the right opportunity.
The Rev. Jeffrey LeCrone, interim pastor, St. Luke Lutheran Church, Williamsport