How do we celebrate Easter when Good Friday continues for our neighbours?
That’s the question isn’t it?
There have been so many thoughts and feelings this week… Disbelief, shock, anger, grief, fear, definitely fear, as the alert came across our cellphones yesterday and my son and his family live in Sackville. First let me say, if you are experiencing distress, I mean distress that is beyond what is normal for these times, please reach out, don’t try and tough it out on your own. Call me, I have contacts!
I mostly gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling this week… to be distracted and unfocused and to eat all the things!
As I said earlier, the carnage of last weekend brought home in a deeper way, the events of Holy Week and Good Friday. Betrayal, abuse and broken bodies. So when we hear this reading from Luke, remember that it takes place shortly after the events of Good Friday and on that first Easter Sunday.
On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him.
He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk along?” They stopped, their faces downcast. The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place there over the last few days?”
He said to them, “What things?”
They said to him, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth. Because of his powerful deeds and words, he was recognized by God and all the people as a prophet. But our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel. All these things happened three days ago. But there’s more: Some women from our group have left us stunned. They went to the tomb early this morning and didn’t find his body. They came to us saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who told them he is alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women said. They didn’t see him.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! Your dull minds keep you from believing all that the prophets talked about. Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then he interpreted for them the things written about himself in all the scriptures, starting with Moses and going through all the Prophets.
When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?”
They got up right then and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying to each other, “The Lord really has risen! He appeared to Simon!” Then the two disciples described what had happened along the road and how Jesus was made known to them as he broke the bread.
This is one of my favourite passages of scripture… Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Bread is a delight to the senses… but it’s kind of useless, until it is broken open. And there is no joy in hoarding bread… only sharing it. Just like your heart. There is no joy in hoarding your love… even at the risk of your heart being broken.
The disciples said to one another that their hearts were on fire when Jesus was with them… hearts on fire with love… hearts that had been broken just a few short days before. Hearts that were broken… but this time broken open with love.
Parker Palmer writes this: “Suffering breaks our hearts, but the heart can break in two different ways. There’s the brittle heart that breaks into shards, shattering the one who suffers as it explodes, and sometimes taking others down when it’s thrown like a grenade at the ostensible source of its pain. Then there’s the supple heart, the one that breaks open, not apart, the one that can grow into greater capacity for the many forms of love. Only the supple heart can hold suffering in a way that opens to new life.” Parker J. Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old
Two phrases kept going through my head this week.
One was from the Blessing I used at the end of the United Church vigil on Wednesday: The only cure for love is more of it. (Jan Richardson)
The only cure for love is more of it.
She wrote that blessing on Valentine’s Day just a few short months after her husband died very unexpectedly. The other is a line from a Leonard Cohen Song: There ain’t no cure for love. They both speak of overflowing love… but the blessing speaks of giving more love, sharing more love. The Leonard Cohen line and the rest of that song’s lyrics speak of wanting more love. I am a huge Leonard Cohen fan; I’ve been listening to his music and reading his poetry for almost 50 years. There is nothing wrong with wanting more love. Each person killed last week wanted more love, more time. They also had more love to give.
How do we celebrate Easter when Good Friday continues for our neighbours?
Let’s face it, Good Friday will continue for many people for a long time. The families, the first responders, the police, and for us. Although, we grieve, we grieve from what Dr. Mallory Ryan in Bedford called, a privileged position. She spoke of three groups of people: the beloveds… the ones left behind to pick up some sort of pieces. She spoke of the brave… the police, the first responders…
Then there are “us”. And I quote: We are the “GRIEVING PRIVILEGED”. Privileged because we likely slept through half the event, had our coffee, caught wind of it on our phones, and locked our doors. Looking back, we were safe, although we may have felt tremendously scared and vulnerable, we are okay. But we are also not okay. We are grieving. We are hurting. Not because those fallen were in our orbit, and not because we ran to help, but because the innocence of our province was replaced with malice. Our sense of security swiftly replaced by fear. This event has painfully broadened our collective “realm of possibility”.
Collectively, we must face that we here in Nova Scotia are not immune to the virus of misogyny and violence. I have heard over and over again that this won’t change us… but you know, it will change us and it needs to change us… change us into a community, a province, a country, perhaps even a world, where this kind of thing can’t flourish. Where hate’s seed falls on barren ground.
You may have been asking this week: Where is God in this? The answer to that question may depend on the kind of God you believe in. And, when I say, Believe in, I mean Trust… Do you trust in an all powerful God, or an all loving God? If God is all powerful, how and why can this kind of thing happen? But, what if God is more like Jesus, after all? Not all powerful, but deeply and persistently loving… With us when we don’t know what to think or say. With us when we see and hear almost unimaginable horrors. With us when we are afraid.
These words from Rabbi Harold Kushner, written after the death of his son, give me comfort.
How do we celebrate Easter, when Good Friday continues for our neighbours?
We let our hearts break open with love… we let our hearts be warmed by Jesus words… we let ourselves grieve… we do something to mend the world.
Lighting a candle… colouring a heart… tying some Nova Scotia tartan around a tree or hanging it on your front door… making a sign… Feeding the hungry… clothing the naked… sponsoring a refugee. Faith, love and community.
I’m going to close with words written by an on-line colleague, Paul Hutchinson; it’s another verse for the hymn: We Shall Go Out With Hope of Resurrection.
We’ll share a light with those whose hearts are grieving,
We’ll sing a song that lifts our hearts in love.
We’ll be a place where all can come together,
To share the promise of God’s dreams to come.
We’ll be a light when all feels dark and empty,
We’ll be the strength enfolding you in prayer.
We’ll be the hand that reaches through the heartache,
Bringing the promise that says we are not alone.
Amen and amen.
April 26, 2020 – SMUC