A couple of decades ago, I made my first trip to Africa, to visit my cousin who was teaching in Kenya. I would be there over the Easter weekend. I have such fond memories of flying kites on Easter–a sure sign of resurrection as they danced in the wind atop of the hill. What I did not ever figure out until tonight as I walked from my car to my church was the crazy sermon that was preached that Sunday morning. We were in a small village east of Nairobi, the only two white folks in the crammed church and the rather evangelical pastor was preaching on how evil spirits prowl around, seeking ways to get into a good man’s house. He was miming out the event, trying to get in through invisible windows, wildly pacing at the front of the church. Stepping over imaginary objects, he created a huge visual drama about how Evil does not give up. I sat there puzzled wanting to hear the old familiar stories of Easter.
Tonight though, my mind was on those two disciples who were walking those eleven kilometres to Emmaus from Jerusalem. I noticed how Evil was already harassing these two followers in their despair though their house was fairly secure. Jesus begins to explain it all to them, and in the breaking of the bread, their eyes are open. Love breaks through their sorrow and their spiritual homes are once again protected.
In my many years of doing bereavement ministry, I know that grief can turn people away from God. The followers of Christ did not know what was coming. We see that in the Gospel reading from the morning with Mary and the men running to and from the tomb. A frenzied panic comes over all of them until Jesus grounds Mary by calling her by her name. We will see it with Thomas who hides away from the others, and into whose heart crept doubt. Grief can be a negative turning point for people. Instead of turning towards God, they turn away.
A friend of mine reminded me tonight that Christ, in his dying breath, gave his dear mother to his beloved friend and vice versa. They did not have to bear the weight of their sorrow alone. Together they could build a solid house, protected against the Evil that tries to shatter faith at moments like this.
Our hearts can burn within us if we too discover that Christ gives us one another for the most challenging of times. Christ is risen and hope lives! Secure your doors and windows with the Word who dwelt amongst us.
May the joy and hope of the Risen Christ be yours today and always.