“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”Luke 24:21
This verse always strikes me. In this “Road to Emmaus” story from Luke’s Gospel, which takes place on the day of Resurrection, the disciples are not celebrating. They are not joyful. They are grieving. In the 3 days that had passed, they had seen all their hopes and dreams dashed. The Easter season can leave room for grief.
In the course of the past month or so, I have been called on to do many funerals. A number of them have been Covid-19 related. It is striking to bear witness to so much grief and loss in a season that we assume is to be about new life and resurrection. The makeshift caskets, socially distanced graveside services, masks, no physical comfort of hugs or touch – what a horrible time for families to grieve.
Not that there’s a “right” time. The Easter season bears witness to human grief and loss in powerful ways, and on Good Shepherd Sunday we are reminded that our way, at times, goes straight through the valley of the shadow of death. In many, many ways we are in that valley.
I wonder, what is it that we are grieving? What had we hoped, as disciples? All of our plans, hopes, and dreams have in many ways been dashed, and 2020 remains full of uncertainty.
And yet we are in the season of resurrection. The disciples in this Emmaus story have heard the good news that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The reality of grief in our human lifetime does not negate the promise of resurrection. And in this story, as they describe their grief, they discover that they are in the presence of none other than their risen Lord!
Life is neither one nor the other, but both and. Joy and sorrow. Praise and blame. Gain and loss. If resurrection leaves room for our grief, then our grief leaves room for the promise of new life.
And we can indeed trust the promise of new life. Even now, signs of goodness and mercy abound. We are going through a time of great change, and yes, change means loss. But change also results in something new. I wonder if we can grieve the loss around us AND look forward with hope to the new life to which God is calling us.
I truly wonder what it will look like. What will it look like to be the Church post CV-19? What about our congregation? Our communities? Our planet? There is plenty of uncertainty and challenges, yes, but also much to hope for and work towards. As we journey this road together, as we grieve, may we also too realize the presence of our risen Lord.
The peace of the Lord be with you always.
Rev. Ian Hill