For this week’s Events and Happenings, click “Download PDF.”
For the Easter spiritual practice led by Steve Watson, click HERE.
Good morning and Happy Easter to you.
I’m pastor Lydia and I’ll be sharing the Easter message with you this morning. Let me read the text, and pray for us before we begin.
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem.
14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;
16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast.
18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;
21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.
22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning
23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive.
24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.
29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together
34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”
35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Resurrected Lord, open our eyes now that we may see you. Would you burn our hearts up as we listen? Speak to us, not through my lips, but through each of our hearts. Would your Spirit of resurrection anoint each and every heart gathered here this moment and ignite in us the truth that cannot be shaken, love that cannot be moved. Teach us we pray, show us yourself, your holy presence, that we may know and experience in our bodies now, the power of new life and resurrection we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Things are looking uppity up y’all! Vaccines are making their way. There’s Spring sun and flowers. I even saw a bunny the other day on my walk, literally hop hopping through my neighbor’s yard. And, Christ is risen!
But to get here, man have we had a year. To get here to resurrection, boy have we seen some death and losses and grief.
With the year we’ve had, with all that you’ve seen, if you’re a bit skeptical, I get it. Even with the vaccines, masks are probably here to stay for a while. And I’ve learned when I moved to Boston, don’t get too settled into Spring even in April. We could still have another snow! And this past year we’ve gotten some wake up calls about racial injustice, and it’s been good to see the awareness and conversations opening up. But I know that for many of us, who’ve seen the old sturdy systems of injustice slow to change at work, sometimes it can get tiring, asking for change, when all you’ve seen is more of the same perpetuated and reinforced.
So what do we do now? How are we to move forward?
Maybe this is how the two people in our text today felt. The trauma of events that led up to the arrest of Jesus, how he was betrayed by their own leaders, who handed him over to be murdered by the state. And after that gruesome death, they experienced so much grief that their bodies ached, tears hurled on, the community distressed. And then, after three days, they heard rumors that he was alive!? Like an ex who broke your heart calling you back to say they want to get back together, and you’re like wait what? They were distraught and confused, not sure what to believe.
A side pondering on the characters. The text doesn’t say much about who these two people were. It mentions one of their names once, Cleopas but that’s it, nothing else about this person, not even whether it was a man or a woman. I always imagined that these were two men. Well probably because there are drawings of this scene in that manner and because any unknown character is usually assumed to be a guy. I noticed that I do this even when I’m harmlessly playing with my daughter, a lego block she has personified and feeding, I ask her “what’s he eating?” or a water bottle she’s putting on a truck I ask, “where’s he going?”
I mention this because I’m a female pastor and the excavation of women characters that were present and vital to the story is important to me. I don’t mean just making up female characters, but at the least not assuming every character is male. In fact, when I looked closer into the text, it never once said that they were male. I just assumed so. The text only refers to them as them. In fact, some say that it would’ve been more likely to be a couple, which probably was a woman and a man then, traveling together rather than two men. Just giving us new eyes to imagine the text as we read. But also I like how the text just refers to the two as “they/them/theirs” the whole time too actually.
Alright back to the story. So. The two of them, they were going to a village called Emmaus.
Why? Why were they going away from Jerusalem, where everything had happened? Why were they walking away?
Maybe because it hurt too much. Maybe they were ready to call it quits from all that they thought and hoped. Maybe they needed a break from all the drama. Jerusalem was where everything had gone down and they were leaving. I mean I get it. Sometimes when we’re afraid, we retreat. Especially in the midst of great change or uncertainty, it’s easy to step away. Understandably, these two were trying literally to get some distance from it all.
Has that ever happened to you? Where for some reason, maybe you faced a loss too difficult, grief and anger too consuming, that you walked not toward God, but away? Have you ever felt so hurt that you didn’t have the energy or vision or hope to stay in it and the only thing you could do and needed was to get away? Have you ever felt like you wanted to turn away from God?
I actually think we feel this throughout our faith journey. Faith is not just something you have. Like, “I have faith”, But the process of not believing and struggling, walking away and finding ourselves at the crossroads, IS doing faith.
Our story tells us that when these two found themselves on the road to Emmaus, away from the center of all the drama, that there, right there on the dirt road they were trekking on, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, asking,
“What are you discussing?”
What are you thinking about? What’s on your mind? Jesus asks.
And when they answered with despair, Jesus asked again, probing, “what thing?” Jesus came alongside them, curious, asking them questions, listening to what was on their hearts. Their hearts were broken. Their hearts were barely hanging on. And the first two things he said to them were, open questions.
How would you answer Jesus on your walk today? Whether it’s on a speedy brisk walk to figure things out, a churning mind on a hike, or a downcast barely-got-out-the-door stroll, can you imagine Jesus coming alongside you and asking you,
“hey what are you discussing amongst yourselves?” “what’s going on in your community?” “What’s your heart holding and contemplating on?”
When my husband and I go on walks together, we say it almost every time. I stop us and say “listen!” It’s a bird or the water stream nearby or children laughing. “Listen!” and it brings us back from whatever momentum we were on before, just going and busy, to pause and take in. Listen.
Let me tell you a story. A few years ago I met a young man named Shayok. He was fresh out of college, young charismatic energy, dark-skinned, and had an infectious laugh. We started having these meetings (one-on-ones they call them in the community organizing world) where we would meet up and we’d try to tell each other stories that shaped us. Stories that at some point maybe changed you, or solidified you. The story that left an imprint. Stories that broke us and motivated us.
We were sharing these stories because we were trying to find ways to work together towards making a change. But what change? How? He shared about walking around near Harvard campus and passing by a homeless guy that made him stop in his tracks to wonder –all this prestige and power, right next to this guy. But he didn’t just tell me what happened or what he knows about the inequity and discrepancy in his mind, but how he felt. It made him angry.
A year ago he started telling me about his dreams of trying to build some power and coalition locally in Cambridge, which is why he kept his relationship with me, a pastor in Cambridge. He was developing relationships with other leaders in the area like the pastor of Outdoor Church of Cambridge and leaders at the Unhoused Advocacy Group.
By April 2021, at the height of Covid, something was coming to Shayok’s attention and his friends. With all the public places closing, cafes, libraries, the homeless community was suddenly at a loss of bathrooms. Bathrooms where they would’ve washed their hands. Bathrooms where you do the usual stuff and get water. They all halted to an abrupt stop, especially at a time when it was needed the most. Shayok shared with me a recording of one person’s experience. It was a recording at the Outdoor Church asking about access for the homeless and sharing that..
there is only one bathroom for all of us from the Arlington line to Central Square…
Shayok rounded us up together. All the relationships that he had been developing in the last few years…it resulted in a series of letters being sent to the City Manager and Mayor of Cambridge, signed by 56 institutions (including us, Reservoir Church), strongly urging the city to provide more washing stations, bathrooms, shelter beds. It took some messy Zoom meetings, and more letters to sometimes no response but I’m going to skip to the end of the story cause I don’t have a lot of time left.
I got an email a year later, March 2021 from Shayok saying:
Our collective advocacy has resulted in the expansion of public bathrooms including in Davis Square and Alewife, the institution of shower facilities outside First Church Cambridge, and notably, the creation of the 50-bed Green St. Shelter run by Solutions at Work, Inc., which has helped address the severe shortage of shelter beds.
Which by the way, we’ve had an asylum seeker come through our congregation that a few of us have sweetly been serving for months, ended up living in that very Green St. Shelter. Although now, their story continues with twists and turns. And actually the latest is, we really need your prayer for this person, who’s currently at the hospital, I last heard. I won’t share the details but that’s the honest update. So it’s not a total happy ending to all this story…The stories of death and resurrection continue on.
I wanted to share this story with you all because it started with listening. It started with our hearts burning for the stories of the homeless, and our hearts burning for this asylum seeker, and it moved us into and through these stories towards actively finding life and actively engaging hope in these stories. In fact through listening, we joined the story and became the conduits of life and hope, shaping these stories towards the arch of justice.
This morning at the Sunrise gathering we read when Mary first realized Jesus’ body was missing. He asked her,
“Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? Shayok and I ask these kinds of questions: what is the world as it is, that you’re crying about, and the world as it should be, that you want to look for and find? Why are you crying and what are you looking for?
Friends, I want to remind you that Jesus is listening. And when Jesus walked along the two that day, when they arrived to Emmaus, they urged him, “Stay with us!” stay with us!
And as Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he promised to them in
49 “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit. That spirit is among us and with us even now. The power of life, resurrection, and hope– we have been CLOTHED with the power from on high.
Do you want to invite Jesus to stay with you? Will you share your story and listen to other’s stories? Will you let your hearts burn, even if it hurts, with the stories that arise within us and the stories we hear? Even if those stories are ones of disbelief and walking away? Will you stay with us?
We’d like to invite you next coming weeks to Listen to the Spirit among us, and ask one another as Jesus did, coming alongside one another saying, “What are you discussing?” “What things are burning our heart? Why are you crying? What are you looking for?
Throughout April and May our church’s Faith Into Action, a group of us who care about putting our faith into action through organizing toward public good and justice, and the Reservoir’s Equity Diversity Inclusion (REDI) team are partnering together to host Listening Sessions in our community and groups.
Listening to our stories. And that through listening, our collective hearts will burn and that maybe we will stop in our tracks, turn around, and go back to the source and assemble together to say, “It is true! Jesus is risen! There is new hope and new life!” And live into that resurrection reality together.
Would you join me in prayer…
Jesus, our teacher, Living God, May we boldly gather around tables (or over zoom) breaking bread and sharing with one another, that you may open our ears and open our hearts, that we may see and recognize Jesus, right there in our midst, We pray, in your precious and holy name, Amen.