Message from Fr. Michael
Wait a minute Father Michael, some of you might be thinking, Easter was last Sunday. No, my friends Easter is not a day, it is a season. The season of Easter, Eastertide, lasts until May 23, the Day of Pentecost. It is a season during which we not only rejoice in the wonder of the risen Christ but also find how we will follow him, now and forever. This is a season for living into the love of God and into the new resurrected life that God’s love opened for us.
Resurrection always makes things new, but this year particularly, in light of our journey through pandemic, there seems a palpable poignancy to this season.
Luke’s account of Easter, Resurrection Sunday, includes the story of two dazed and distraught disciples traveling along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. On Friday these two disciples along with many others had witnessed the painful, humiliating and violent death of their beloved leader, teacher and friend. That night and through the day on Saturday they sat with each other in utter despair. These disciples had lost so much more than just a friend. Their dream of what the kingdom of God would look like as they had imagined it, the hopes and dreams around which they had oriented the last three years of their lives, may have seemed foolish in retrospect. Each one who had been a part of the community of Jesus now had to come to terms with life on the other side of the death of their dreamed desire.
Not knowing what else to do, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple were now wandering home, trying to make sense of it all. They were suspended somewhere between loss and possible gain, grief and possible joy, profound human suffering and perhaps some kind of redemption, dashed hopes and maybe daring to hope again. They had been powerless to prevent the events of the last days, and they were powerless now to do anything to change their situation. They surely were experiencing some of the same emotions that many of us share following the suffering and turmoil of 2020. For them, the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus was the road between the now and the not-yet.
Richard Rohr has written, “Liminal space is a unique spiritual position where humans hate to be, but where the Biblical God is always leading them.” Although they were probably not aware of it, these disciples were, as we are today, in what Richard Rohr calls “liminal space”.
The disciples’ choice to walk together and talk about all the things that had happened to them was courageous. They could have decided that what they had been through was so personal, so traumatic and so confounding that they didn’t want to talk about it, chatting away about anything else but that. Yet, while the experiences of the weekend were still fresh and raw, unvarnished and unresolved, they chose to walk together and talk with each other about all these things that had happened. In that, they and we become Beloved Community. It was in their courageous willingness to walk together and speak honestly about the fundamental issues of their lives that caused Jesus himself to come near.
The encounter that took place between Jesus and these two disciples completely reoriented and transformed their lives. And that is the essence of Beloved Community. Before Jesus draws near, a group of people journeying together is merely a human community. Once Jesus joins us on the road, it becomes Beloved Community. As we discover ways to open to Jesus’ transforming presence on the road between the now and the not-yet, it becomes a resurrected community!
We are all in a sense on that road to Emmaus, as we journey at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Becoming Beloved Community. As the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, N.T. Wright wrote in his book The Challenge of Easter, “Our task is to implement Jesus' unique achievement. We are like the musicians called to play and sing the unique and once-only-written musical score. We don't have to write it again, but we have to play it.”
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