Risen and revealing God, you walked with us for a long time before we knew who you truly were. We talked about this world as if we were the ones who saw it clearly. Now that we more fully recognise your continued presence with us, give us eyes to see the beauty that surrounds us, as well as the problems we have too long ignored. And may our hearts then burn with your illuminating and catalysing fire that we might see the world that you envision. Amen.
Cleopas and that other disciple, they are doing what people quite often do when they find themselves lost, disoriented, grieving. They are going over and over what has recently happened, remembering, second-guessing, arguing. Overnight, their familiar lives have become strange to them, so much so that even when the risen Jesus approaches them on the road, they see only a stranger. When they begin to speak, it is only of endings. The day of resurrection, for them, is only a confounding. Normal perceptions are confounded, and deliver only a failure to see. Reasonable expectations are confounded, and deliver only a failure to grasp what has happened. And even when visions are granted, they prove unreliable. These two, like the women confronted with an empty tomb, have missed resurrection. And so they are taking refuge in a continuous loop of disbelief, confusion, and perhaps even shame. When Cleopas speaks, it is the longest uninterrupted speech made by any of the disciples in the whole gospel. But it is just here, at the point where the disciples refuse to let go, where they insist on going over and over what so confounds and disorients them, and where their imagined future has already vanished; it is just here that the risen Christ appears.
Perhaps that tells us something important about ourselves as people who – even in these strange and difficult times – are summoned from the midst of our own confusion to proclaim resurrection. For the story we will come to tell will also be about what we have seen and heard and experienced. But like their story, it will also be about what we have missed, and what we still struggle to grasp in any lasting way. For the events that upend our lives overnight, the losses that fracture our familiar lives in a moment – they mark us for good, like the wounds the risen Jesus bears. They persist, stubbornly, and sometimes they haunt us. But the announcement that earthquakes the world on Easter morning is that love survives the breakage, and persists with even greater stubbornness, blessing and breaking bread, not lives, in our presence. And not just for comfort, but because there is work to be done. Once we grasp this, of course, our testimony becomes both more truthful, and – what is more important – more trustworthy. The witness we bear is not about tulips poking up through the soil, beautiful and spirit-lifting as they are. The witness we bear is that yes, every day, something ends, and loss and suffering are real, and there are events in life that we do not ever get over. And yet. And yet, just at the point where we are overwhelmed by all that has ended, all that we cannot grasp, and all that we have missed along the way; just at that point, another life begins to be given, a life we cannot yet see. It is a given at a table, as the bread breaks and the crumbs scatter across the plate, and a beloved face vanishes again, and our hearts burn. It is given when the whole story is told again, and again, but this time with a different, and open, ending. And at that point, we become those with a witness to bear. Not that we know, even yet, the whole story; not that we are not still sometimes haunted by the world’s scars. But that the love of God is fiercely stubborn, and even when we are in the way instead of on the way, the tomb remains empty. And love is resilient. And there is work to be done. And so even in our confusion, we can truthfully proclaim: Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. You are witnesses of these things, Jesus tells the disciples. We are witnesses. And we will see, we will see for ourselves, what comes next. And to God alone be the glory.