Philip Meyer – American Rust
He Qi – On The Road to Emmaus
There was a farmer in a poor country village. He was considered very well to do, because he owned a horse, which he used for plowing and riding. One day his horse ran away. All the neighbors said how terrible it was, but the farmer said “Maybe.”
A few days later the horse retuned and brought two wild horses with it. The neighbors all rejoiced at his good fortune, but the farmer just said “Maybe”
The next day the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses; the horse threw him and broke his leg. The neighbors all offered their sympathy for his misfortune, but the farmer again said “Maybe.”
The next week the conscription officers came to the village to take young men for the army. They rejected the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. When the neighbors told him how lucky he was, the farmer replied “Maybe.”
Two new horses are good news until the gift is seen through the context of a broken leg.
A broken leg is a bad thing until it is seen in the context of being drafted for the army.
The meaning of any event depends upon the frame in which we perceive it.
The Gospel reading for this Third Sunday of Easter follows the account of the walk to Emmaus where Cleopas and an unnamed companion are on the to the village of Emmaus when the unrecognized Jesus joins them as they walk. They are depressed and he asks them what is the matter? They ask if he is the only one who does not know of what happened to Jesus who that had hoped was the one for the consolation of Israel. Jesus then tells them that Messiah had to suffer if you read the scriptures correctly and opens their minds to see this. At the village they invite him to stay and at the table he, takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to them. In that moment their eyes were opened and they recognized him. They rise from the table and return to Jerusalem where they are told that Jesus has appeared to Peter and they recount their tale. Just then Jesus appears to them all.
They are profoundly startled. He says, “Peace be with you. Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that It is I myself. It is I myself: the most profound expression of the person, the deepest place, the place where the human leaves off and the divine can dwell. It is really Jesus.
One of the earliest errors in thinking of Jesus was Docetism (from the Greek δοκέω [dokeō], “to seem”) is the belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. The Gospels are written in part to refute this very error.
Jesus then said, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it. They can’t believe this is happening. He shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. Ghosts are not flesh. Then he eats something they provide for him. Ghosts do not eat.
He then explains to them from the scriptures that the events of Good Friday were indeed part of the divine plan. What seemed like the end was not only prologue. He reframes the events. The frame has just gotten bigger and the failures of Good Friday are now revealed as part of the pattern of resurrection on Easter.
The actions of the Eucharist: he takes, blesses, breaks and gives happened at the table in Emmaus. Now he appears and eats with them. What does he eat? Fish. Here the story has levels upon levels. He ate fish, what they had in the room. He eats because ghosts don’t eat. He eats FISH, itself a symbol of layers, the letters that spell the word fish in Greek, Ichthus is an acrostic, each letter being the first letter of the words, meaning, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. He eats fish that same food he multiplied when he took, blessed, broke and gave feeding over 5000 people by the Sea of Galilee.
He eats fish. Fish becomes his symbol. Eat my flesh and drink my blood, he told them at the last supper. He appears when the community gathers, even when they don’t immediately recognize him. This happened at Emmaus and it happens in Jerusalem.
You are witnesses. You are witnesses to the reframe of the cross from an instrument of humiliating death to a vehicle of eternal live.
Peter tells those who are amazed by the healing of the lame man that this man is well because of Jesus. “…God raised him from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in him name, his name itself has made this man strong…”
Death is not the end of the story. It is reframed.
How many of you have seen Susan Boyle on You tube? Susan is a 47 year-old spinster from Scotland who appeared on the Glasgow audition of Britain’s Got Talent television show. To be kind she was a middle-aged, frizzy haired plump woman who strode on stage in a dowdy dress and said that she had hopes of being a professional singer like Elaine Paige, a star of British musical theatre. Everyone catcalled and laughed at her until she opened her mouth and out came the most mature incredible singing of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables. This is a great reframe. What you thought was true suddenly was not and what you thought to be the case was contradicted in the most amazing and transformative way.
That is the power of the resurrection. Jesus is dead really dead. The disciples grieve, downcast in despair, their deepest hopes for the consolation of Israel dead and buried with him. Until he appears.
The joy the disbelieving audience of Britain’s Got Talent at the singing of Susan Boyle is the faintest glimmer of what the disciples felt in the upper room that night.
Saint John in his first epistle writes, ”Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
Those words are to us. The resurrection changes everything, it reframes not only Good Friday but last Friday and next Friday and all the Fridays of our lives until he comes again. On that day all that has ever happened will be framed in the glory of his eternal love and glory.
Until then let us gather and break the bread and drink the cup as we proclaim his resurrection until he comes. For beloved, in matters of faith as well as in matters of nutrition, you are what you eat!
Psalm, “Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.”
Return of the Sun
I can’t prove this but I believe it’s true: any person who remains a “professional Christian” in the evangelical world for a lifetime, especially pastors, risks becoming atheists. They put on an act of certainty that the actual uncertainties of life can’t sustain. Sooner or later they become flakes faking it, or quit.
We have two lives…the life we learn with and the life we live with after that.
Bernard Malamud U.S. novelist, 1914-1986 from The Natural