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Lectionary Living

Four not-so-easy steps

Acts 2:14a, 36-41  •  Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19  •  1 Peter 1:17-23  •  Luke 24:13-35

    Growing up, my mother hung clothes on a clothesline to dry, a little self-conscious about what was on it, as all the neighbors could see. A clothesline display of what we humans are up against is provided in today's reading from Luke. The story begins with two followers of Jesus on a long walk – seven miles – to Emmaus. One is named Cleopas, and the other unnamed person may have been his wife, Mary (see John 19:25). Whoever they are, the two are walking along, talking about the death of Jesus and all the things that had happened in Jerusalem, joining together in their views and their feelings. It is comforting, in a strange way, to stir the pot of anxiety with someone else who is similarly upset – sort of like selecting a cable news television channel these days, but I digress.

    When Jesus joins the pair on their walk, they were so deeply engrossed in their conversation that they did not recognize him. He listens for a while as they describe the recent events, but can only take it for so long, finally saying "How foolish!" Not only had they been unwise, he also says that their hearts were slow.

    Jesus then breaks it down for them. He begins with their blaming the crucifixion on the chief priests and governing leaders. He is quite matter of fact: it was not their fault, it had to happen in this way. He then began to unpack the story, beginning way back with Moses, bringing it forward so that they could see the larger picture. Their fears were calmed, as they began to understand that his death was not in vain, but part of a larger purpose. He does one more thing. He blesses the bread they are about to eat, seeing to their hunger after a long walk. And it is at this point that they start to understand.

    In essence, Jesus did four things. He stops the blaming, takes a bigger view, calms the anxiety, and attends to physical needs – remembering that we are but dust. He gets what it is like to be a human being, and provides us with a four-step process, a way out of our confusion. Depending on the circumstances, the order of these four things may be different, or more of a weaving of several threads, than in the chronology of this story – still, it seems that they all matter.

    Blaming others, around since the garden of Eden, deserves a special mention. Blame not only gets in the way of understanding events more deeply, it also impacts relationship processes. Sometimes, two people find blaming a third person an easy way to agree, so that getting along is at the expense of another. Or, as with the pair on the road to Emmaus who found blaming the authorities for Jesus's crucifixion an easy way to think about his death; blaming provided a helpless, immature posture making few demands on their lives.

    Blaming others can use up a lot of energy, diverting attention and strength away from one's responsibilities for self and to others. When a person can get clear, though, about what has happened, what her choices are, and what she is going to do with it – then, energy and motivation follow. Suddenly, one can begin growing up, stopping the blaming, accepting responsibility for one's own life, and getting interested in what might happen. As the story ends, and the pair is walking back another seven miles to Jerusalem to tell the disciples what they have learned, they have a new energy for what lies ahead.

For reflection:

Morning: What do I have energy for today? Where might my way of looking at things lack wisdom?

Evening: When did I get stuck in blaming another? Where did I find a bigger view than I had understood before?

Psalm 116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?   

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