Recognizing the Lord – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Sirach 48:1-11
Matthew 17:9-13

The prophet Elijah is one of the great figures of the Bible, and straddles both the Old and New Testaments. In our first reading today from the Book of Sirach, we have this great paeon of praise for Elijah: ‘How glorious you are Elijah in your wondrous deeds’. There is also a profound hope that he would come again, to prepare the way of the Lord. This hope grows through the Hebrew scriptures, and culminates in the very last verses of the Old Testament, in the Book of Malachi: ‘Lo I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.’  And to this day, when Jewish families celebrate Passover, they leave a place at the table for Elijah, and at one point a son goes to the front door to see if Elijah has come.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, the disciples Peter, James and John are coming down the mountain having just experienced the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus. At the Transfiguration they saw Elijah, as well as Moses, who were talking with Jesus. As the disciples walked down the mountain they questioned Jesus about Elijah. They wanted to know why Elijah had not come earlier, as promised in scripture, preceding the coming of Jesus. Jesus told them that Elijah had already come, but that people did not recognize him. ‘Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.’ John came preaching repentance and prepared the way for the promised Messiah. In this way, he was fulfilling the role of Elijah, but the religious leaders simply did not recognize him. They did not recognize him. The scriptures are full of this theme of failing to recognize the one who is in their midst; of not truly seeing; of spiritual blindness. Of course, Jesus’ enemies did not recognize who he was. Remember all those chapters in John’s Gospel, where the Pharisees keep asking him hostile questions about his identity. ‘Where are you from? Who is your family? How do you know so much – you’ve never been taught. You are not yet fifty; how have you seen Abraham?’  Finally, in chapter 8: 25 in exasperation, ‘Who are you?’  as the prologue to John puts it, ‘He was in the world, yet the world did not know him,’ Read More

Open Eyes, Burning Hearts – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 24:13-35

“Jesus himself came near and went with [the disciples], but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk 24:15-16).

Stop and think about that. “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” This was the man whom these two disciples had chosen to follow, the man for whom these disciples had given up their jobs and left their families. His good news defined their reality. And suddenly he was gone, brutally executed, his body now missing from his tomb. Imagine how they must have felt.

I can imagine these two disciples, shocked and confused by the recent events, walking down the road. I can imagine them praying the words of our psalm this morning: “The cords of death entangled me; . . . I came to grief and sorrow” (Ps 116:2). I can imagine their eyes, taking in their surroundings but not really seeing them. Is it surprising, really, that they perhaps failed to see what was right in front of them?

But is there something more going on? After all, their eyes were kept from recognizing Jesus. The word translated as “kept” can also mean to hold, to seize, to restrain, to arrest. It’s a forceful word. The disciples don’t just fail to recognize Jesus; they are actively hindered from knowing that this man walking and talking with them is their Lord and teacher, risen from the dead. Disciples in other accounts may not recognize Jesus immediately, but only here are they kept from recognizing him. Only here are the disciples’ eyes made to be closed, to be unable to perceive the reality in front of them.

So what’s happening here? In the way the evangelist distinguishes seeing from perceiving, I am reminded of how Jesus, quoting Isaiah, explains the purpose of parables: “to you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand’” (Lk 8:10, quoting Is 6:9-10). This seems to be what is happening here. These disciples look at the man accompanying them, but they do not perceive him. Read More

Present Alongside – Br. Luke Ditewig

We never thought today would be like this, never considered we could lose so much. Death keeps shattering us, our plans and expectations with loss upon loss. Everything is upended. We are sad, so sad at all that has happened and is happening. It is confusing. Life is so strange. Things don’t make sense anymore. What in the world happens next?

Two companions are talking this way on the road to Emmaus, sharing grief. They talk of Jesus, their friend, whom they expected would save them, but who was betrayed, killed, and buried. There is talk of the body missing, and people supposedly seeing angels.

We are talking this way, talking much of our grief at so much death and loss. Talking of we have lost or fear losing: loved ones, health, employment, plans, and direction. The disorientation of life upended: staying at home, now all the time with the same people or so starkly alone, of aching added work or loss of work, with little idea what’s next or when this will change.

As the two walk to Emmaus, Jesus comes and walks alongside. They don’t recognize the one whom they most love and grieve. He is a stranger to them. Jesus asks about their conversation, sees and hears their sadness, and then shares about his own suffering, talking through scripture. Read More

Easter Remembrance – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Luke 24:13-35

 The gospel tells us that two followers of Jesus were walking and talking as they made their way to the village of Emmaus, a distance of about seven miles from Jerusalem.  Just a couple of days had passed since the tragic death of Jesus, and the confusion, fear, disappointment, and grief of that event weighed heavily upon them.  Some of those closest to Jesus had contributed to the tragedy: he had been betrayed by one of his own disciples, denied by another, and abandoned by his followers and friends, who had fled for their lives.  Furthermore, the body had apparently gone missing!  Some women who had visited the tomb earlier this same day had reported a strange encounter with“two men in dazzling clothes,” who had greeted them with the amazing news that Jesus was not there, but risen!  They had reported this curious and inexplicable experience to the disciples, but the disciples took it to be “an idle tale” and sent them away.[i] And now, as these two were walking along, they were trying to make sense of all of this, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, trying to work through their grief and confusion, trying to find some point of light to illumine the darkness and despair that had overshadowed their hearts. Read More

The Radical Practice of the Real Presence of Christ – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

1 John 4:7-21;
Psalm 63:1-8;
Luke 24:13-35

Like the founder of our Society, Richard Meux Benson, I grew up in an Evangelical tradition of the church.  The word ‘evangelical’ comes from the Greek euangelion, which means “bearer of good news,” and it is the charism of the evangelical tradition to spread by word the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.  And so from a young age I was taught vivid Bible stories in Sunday School,that were often accompanied by handouts that I could take home and color with pictures of Jesus telling stories to children seated all around him.  I also learned songs that I would sing ad naseum in the car on the way home such as ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children.’As a child I knew Jesus to be my buddy and as long as I had these Bible stories, songs, and coloring sheets, Jesus was with me wherever I went.

As I grew older, my dad encouraged me to leave the coloring activity sheets behind and begin to listen to what our pastor was preaching in church, something that I wasn’t thrilled about because I didn’t understand the message he was articulating.  I didn’t yet have the vocabulary and experience to grasp concepts such as ‘sin,’‘atonement,’ and ‘repentance.’  It would take a while for me to gain an understanding of this adult expression of God, one that seemed so complex and at times frightening.  What did resonate with me was when the pastor gave what was called an “altar call.”  After the sermon and before the final hymn, he would invite anyone who wanted a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to come forward and stand with him as a public profession of that desire which was the next step in the journey of faith.  I think I was eleven when I made my way to the front to proclaim what I already knew in my heart:  that Jesus and I had had a personal relationship since before I could remember.  I always looked forward to that moment in the service to see who else might come to be friends with Jesus the way I was.  I imagine it is with a youthful twinkle in his eye that Fr. Benson once wrote:  “If we are to have Jesus our friend, we must know Him to be continually near.  The companionship of Jesus!   It is strange how many there are who look forward to being with Him in another world, but never think of living fellowship with him here.”[i] Read More

Walk With Me – Br. Luke Ditewig

Luke 24:13-35

Walk with me. I need to get away. Let’s go to Emmaus. Two friends go walking. Talking their grief, their expectations dashed, dreams shattered. Talking of Jesus, their friend and their hope for the future, now betrayed, executed and buried. They talk of deepening disorientation: the body missing, people supposedly seeing angels. Two friends go walking, raising questions, discussing distress, sharing sorrow and confusion.

Resurrection comes amid the deep loss that plunges us into darkness, when life hurts and makes no sense. When we are bent under the weight heavy hearts, when lips tremble and tears flow. When we call a friend and say: Let’s go to Emmaus. I need to get away. Walk with me. Read More