from Marie H.
In her sermon on April 26th, Wendy preached on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-25). One of the points Wendy made that struck me was that that, according to N. T. Wright, we might see the followers on the road as upset because Jesus was not the military Messiah they expected. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” they say in verse 21–talking to Jesus himself, though they don’t yet know it. Though the followers had heard of the empty tomb, they were still in despair because the Messiah had not broken the hold of Rome over Israel. They were still a captive people. Then, Wendy points out, Jesus “opened the scriptures” to the followers on the road, showing that the Messiah was not the one they had expected. He was freeing the whole world from a greater captivity. Jesus, Wendy said, meets us where we are, he meets our needs, and he upends our narratives.
This is a powerful statement: that God meets our needs rather than our expectations, and shatters our stories about ourselves and our lives in the process. God’s presence and God’s action doesn’t always look like what we think it will.
Wendy applied the followers’ situation to our current one with quarantine and the spread of the virus. Like Rome, the virus is an enemy that keeps us in captivity, that keeps us living in fear.
This makes sense to me because in both situations, there are still concrete actions of resistance that need to take place. I think NT Christianity was very subversive of Roman control in many ways (just look at the works of Warren Carter for some examples). And Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed. Christianity didn’t stop being subversive and concerned with justice in physical, this-worldly ways because Christ’s liberation was larger than a military overthrow. And we also need to take concrete action in resisting the virus (wash your hands! social distance! wear a mask! and so on), even though God’s work in our lives is larger than the physical wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones.
I often wish God’s work would be simply what I want it to be. That God’s action in the world would mean that no one I care about would ever be sick or die. That God would work miracles and end suffering directly. But that’s not usually what God does. The narrative of what I want is often one that gets overturned.
There are many narratives about myself that have been overturned over time
- that I am someone who believes “all the right things” according to how I was raised
- that I am someone with a successful and lucrative career
- that I am someone who has a living mother
I don’t mean that God’s actions themselves overturned these narratives. But I mean that I have to realize that God’s presence in my life isn’t dependent on my life following the narratives I want–ones in which I have no conflict with others over my beliefs, in which I’m successful by whatever shifting always-unreachable standards I might set for myself, in which no one I love dies.
Wendy pointed out that God is present in our lives and is acting, even when we don’t recognize it at first. It is an immense comfort to know that Jesus is walking alongside me. God is right there despite the muddled stories we make about ourselves, and God is still there even as the narratives shift out from underneath us. God is the bigger, all-enveloping story, always ready to catch us when our own narratives shatter.
What were some things that struck you in Wendy’s sermon? What is a story in your life that has been upended? How has Jesus met you where you are, whether in the recent past or earlier in your life? As Wendy said, “What has he said or done? How has he drawn us closer to other people? Has he given us new direction? Has he given us words to say? Has our fear or anxiety pushed us closer to him? What is he whispering or shouting? He is right here. If you haven’t seen him yet, you will.”
Please share your thoughts below.
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