But we had hoped...
Yes indeed. Here at Shepherd of the Valley, we had hoped to baptize little Lauren today.
We had hoped to celebrate Jackson's first Communion.
We had hoped to bless and thank God for those who are a bit farther down the road with Jesus, closer to sunset, the wise elders among us.
We had hoped to read this gospel in celebration of the long road of life, the walk from font to table to maturity to fatigue to the final resurrection glory of fully opened eyes.
We had hoped to gather to thank God for the great journey of faith, together with companions at multiple stages and stops along the way, including two beloved young ones at the sacramental milestones of baptism and first Communion ... after which I had hoped to go order a beer with lunch and watch the Dodger game.
We had hoped.
Instead, we are shuffling along the great journey from kitchen to living room, grieving.
Jesus does not make the same mistake that keeps tempting me.
Jesus does not rush the conversation or short circuit the grief.
He does not tell the disciples, at least right away, to get over it, to move on, to remember
that others have it worse, to see the silver lining, to suck it up, to seize this opportunity... or any of the other things we might say someone is standing still, looking sad.
Even though these two are grieving the death of someone who is alive, he lets them talk.
I hope we can be as gracious with others, and with ourselves.
I hope we don't close down conversations as quickly as we want to reopen the economy.
Slowness of heart is part of being human.
Sudden losses, whether they are profound like loved ones' lives and livelihoods, or relatively
trivial like parties and baseball, take time for us to process.
Plans and dreams and hopes have died, or at best slipped into a coma.
The world changed without our consent, and it looks like life will not be the same for a long time, if ever.
We're talking and posting and blogging and praying and thinking and obsessing and watching and reacting a lot these days, because we have to.
That's how life is on the road to Emmaus.
Some scholars think that Emmaus was a Roman military outpost.
If so, the two travelers are walking, maybe drifting, toward the very power that crucified
the one they had hoped would save them from it.
They are in the tractor beam of empire, going along with the way things are because what other choice do they have, really?
They are walking away from their community of believers in the dead pretender who they had hoped would be the Messiah, all the while wearing their grief on their sleeve.
They are talking through devastating facts and fanciful rumors.
They are rehashing the story, not because the story will change, but because they have to.
They are weighing the credibility of reports and the evidence doesn't look good.
By biblical storytelling standards, which tend to conserve precious papyrus space, their
voices are given a lot of air time.
The first part of this good news lesson is that the hidden Jesus is not in a hurry.
We don't have to get it together yet.
We don't have to figure out faith or life or quarantine immediately.
We don't have to wrap up our pity parties or put on our grown-up pants right away.
We have a long way to go, and he's got time, and also the willingness to walk the wrong way
with us for awhile.
Remember his stories about the sheep and the coin and the son who were lost?
Optimism dies, but hope does not, so searching the house and horizon continue until they
The risen Christ will not vanish from your side until you are ready, and it might be a long walk
with a lot of talking in circles and missteps and ugly moments.
Even when it feels like all is lost, you are not.
Eventually, Christ will turn us around, even if he does think us foolish and slow.
This will take Scripture and time.
Looking back, the two disciples saw that he was patiently building a fire in their ashen hearts.
It takes a while to open Scripture, and even longer for it to open us.
There is a lot of ground to cover in all those pages and years.
God's stories and ours both have a lot of wrinkles and nuances and possible meanings.
There are a lot of surprises and disappointments and discoveries along the way to work through.
There are a lot of unmet expectations and frustrating outcomes to sort out.
There are miles to go before we sleep.
The risen, unrecognized Christ walks with us.
Eventually, we come to see.
In bread shared and broken like a heart, the two disciples see that the impossible is true.
Their evening return to Jerusalem goes so much faster than their sunlit meander away, because sadness is a stroll and joy is a Ferrari.
Thirty days of pandemic last longer than thirty years of good romance.
Thankfully, Easter is eternal.
Jesus has time, and so do we, because grace has already happened.
The happy ending has been secured long before we ever become aware of it.
We can take our sweet time allowing Jesus to rekindle our hearts and open our eyes because God will not abandon us on this road.
Deep within the mysterious words of Scripture is the good news that God has already won the day and saved the world, we just don't know it yet.
We keep reading Scripture until it teaches us how to read the news.
We keep talking through these stories until our hearts finally catch fire.
We keep walking together, not always the right way, until beauty and brokenness open our eyes.
We keep going until what we had hoped gives way to God's surprise that is a thousand
times stranger and stronger and better still.
Winston Churchill once said, "When you're going through hell, keep going." It's a road Christ has already walked – he's already found us, whether we know it or not.