Jesus shows up in the oddest places.
On Sunday, we will read one of my favorite resurrection stories—Jesus’ mysterious Easter evening stroll down the Emmaus Road. (Luke 24.13-35). Filled with intrigue and pathos, challenge and surprise, it is in the quintessential Easter story. It is the quintessential Jesus story, who shows up in the oddest places.
Each of the post-resurrection stories shows a side of Jesus we’ve not seen before. In each recorded instance of Jesus’ presence, he provides exactly what that individual needs in order to believe. Jesus is not a one-size-fits-all sort of guy, believe-it-or-forget-it, my-way-or-the-highway, you’ve-had-your-chance. Faith is bespoke, tailor-made, unique to each disciple.
What did Mary Magdalene need in order to believe the figure in the garden was Jesus? He called her by name. (John 20.11ff)
What did the scared-to-death locked-up-tight disciples need in order to believe? He showed them his wounded hands and side. (John 20.19ff, Luke 24. 36ff)
What did the first witnesses to the resurrection, those spice-toting women, need in order to believe? They took the angel at its word, “He is not here.” (Matthew 28.1ff)
What did back-in-their-boats disciples need in order to believe? Jesus filled their nets with fish and fixed breakfast over a fire. (John 21.4ff)
And, to my earlier point, what did the blinded-by-grief travelers on the Emmaus Road need in order to believe? He broke bread at their supper table. (Luke 24.13ff)
Whatever we need in order to believe, Jesus will do it. And he shows up in the oddest places.
Unlike most of you, who excel at personal discipline and resolve, I have the attention span of a gerbil, the curiosity of a Golden Retriever, the discipline of a squirrel. I have friends who have not left their homes in six weeks, obedient to the authorities and concerned for their neighbors. But me? I’m out every day, sometimes just to open the church mailbox or count the cars in Costco’s parking lot. Isolation and I are not friends. But being out and about, masked and at a safe distance, gives me opportunity to see evidence of Easter in the oddest places.
During Sunday’s (zoom) staff meeting, I was moved to tears to see the faces of our musicians as we planned upcoming worship. “I miss you so much,” I cried. I work with such wonderful people.
On Monday my favorite rabbi left a voicemail, wanting to compare notes on the weirdest Passover and Easter ever. (I also spoke with my Muslim neighbors as they strung Ramadan lights and banners over their front door. “Weirdest Ramada ever,” they remarked.)
On Tuesday’s walk two children shouted from their front yard, “Look at us! Dad will pay us $5 if we pick up all these sticks. We’ll be rich!”
In Wednesday’s e-mail, a neighbor raised concerns about the significant uptick in demand at the Northfield Township Food Pantry and reminded us to buy extra groceries for the pantry. “I’ll deliver them,” she promised.
In Thursday’s mail I received generous personal checks from members of Ascension with a note, “There is so much need. You will know where this will make a difference.”
Perhaps these encounters don’t seem like Jesus to you, but his fingerprints were all over them. To love people so much their absence breaks our hearts. To hear from a friend whose voice makes the miles disappear. To watch children play. To feed hungry people. To be trusted with your generosity.
Jesus shows up in the oddest places. And sometimes he looks a lot like you.
Our staff and leaders remain faithful to their tasks, already planning for our return to “normal,” though life-after-Covid-19 will be anything but normal.
Your generosity with Ascension, with our ministry partners, and with your neighbors is breath-taking and life-changing.
Your faithfulness under duress is inspiring.
Your openness and honesty are humbling.
One day soon we will be reunited—as a congregation, as friends, as families, as citizens. Please know that while we are apart, you remain close in my heart and my prayers. And also know that, wherever you are, Jesus’ wounded, healing love is not far away. He shows up in the oddest places.
Pastor JoAnn Post