My friend was walking on a beach in Florida over Thanksgiving weekend, when he heard a familiar voice behind him. Another stroller, hat pulled low over his eyes, aviator glasses covering most of his face, was calling his dog who had run off. My friend paused to think about how he knew that voice. And then it came to him. It was a voice he’d heard on television for months prior to last summer’s Republican convention. My friend slowed his pace until the other walker was nearly beside him and then said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I know your voice. Are you _____ (name of Republican presidential candidate)?” The man hurried ahead, grunting an unintelligible response. My friend also picked up the pace and said, “My apologies again, but I just want to thank you for your persistence and courage. I’m a big fan; I voted for you in the primaries and really wish you’d been our candidate.”
The man slowed, lowered his glasses and said, “Thanks. Most people who stop me on the street aren’t as nice. I’m vacationing here with my family and really don’t want to talk about the election, if that’s okay with you.” Instead they fell into conversation about dogs and Florida beaches and the best way to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey. (“Deep fried,” won both the electoral and popular vote.)
What must it be like to be known everywhere you go? To know that millions of strangers have an opinion about you? To flinch every time someone wants to talk to you, expecting either unsolicited advice or undeserved criticism? In fact, my friend who was walking on the beach that day asked that if I ever shared this story I keep the name of the candidate confidential. “He’s suffered enough,” my friend said.
On Sunday we read one of my favorite resurrection stories—Jesus on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24.13-35). Until a few years ago, this story was read during worship only on Easter Evening—heard only by liturgy junkies who just can’t get enough church. But now this unique tale about a post-resurrection appearance is part of our regular lectionary fare. And unlike the Beach Candidate who can’t get away from the crowds, Resurrected Jesus seems almost invisible.
In last week’s Gospel (John 20.19ff) Jesus was in Jerusalem, appearing both wounded and resurrected to frightened disciples in a locked room. The gospel writer Luke tells a different story, placing Jesus on a road that night, walking alone and anonymously. He was overtaken by two who had witnessed all the events of Jesus’ crucifixion and death, who had heard about the empty tomb and were hurrying home to Emmaus to tell their tale. They fell into conversation with Jesus (think “Undercover Boss”) and were stunned that their nameless companion professed to have no knowledge of any of it. “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” Jesus responded, “What things?” The denouement occurs when, after being invited to stay the night and offer the table prayer in Emmaus, “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus (in the breaking of the bread); and he vanished from their sight.”
How it possible that an unsuccessful presidential candidate can go nowhere without being recognized, but the Son of God, resurrected from death, walks though the world unnoticed and often ignored? That is one of the issues we will ponder on Sunday, since we struggle with the same.
Please join us for Sunday Forum, where we will begin a three-week study of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in the gospels. Our Sunday School children are singing and studying the stories of Jesus’ resurrection, and preparing to offer a special Mother’s Day song. After worship, Director of Ministries Jan Hincapie and I will meet with any who are interested in attending Lutheran Day 2017 in Springfield on May 9. You can read more and register at www.lutheranday.org.
This morning on the radio I heard an interview with that presidential candidate-turned-beach bum my friend accosted in Florida. I smiled as I imagined him sauntering, sandy-footed and head down on a windy November day. What does it mean for him, for me, for you that Jesus , who suffered more ridicule and judgment than any politician could survive, meets us where we are, walking down the roads of our lives? What would it mean for us to “have our eyes opened and our hearts to burn within us” when we encounter Jesus?
I invite you to meet Jesus for yourself, as we open the scriptures and break the bread together on Sunday. I invite you “stay with us” for awhile, lingering over love in the waning Easter light.
Christ is risen, and meets us on the road.
Pastor JoAnn Post