One of my favorite ways to celebrate Easter is taking a walk by myself...
Luke 24:13-35 13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
I'm not going to church this morning, rather intentionally in fact. Presently, I'm sitting in my living room, ambient music playing in the background, coffee in hand. I'm wearing my pajamas, and in all honesty, my mood is somewhat melancholy. We're often told how happy Easter is, but given my slant towards honesty and authenticity, I didn't quite feel like putting on the face this morning.
We don't know what the first Easter was like for its main character. Jesus didn't ring in that Sunday morning with bright pastel colors, mimosa-filled brunches, large family get togethers, or any of the other modern occurrences we associate with the holiday. I imagine the first Easter to have been very quiet (given its unexpected nature). No one expected Jesus to come back, and so his welcoming committee was probably rather sparse.
...For Jesus, his death and his resurrection had one striking similarity: he was alone...
Sure, there were countless people gathered on Friday to watch the gore that was his crucifixion, but no one really shared that experience with him. Likewise, the morning of his return, because even his dearest friends had been so blind to his message, none of them were waiting when his grave door was suddenly cracked wide open. He walks out, and I imagine, came to a realization similar to this: "Everything is different. Nothing will ever be the same." That isn't to say Jesus wasn't thrilled about what was next, but I have to wonder how he felt about his friendships and his relationships. Life as he knew it had been forever transformed, and it just might not be possible to connect with those he loved as well as he did before.
Then we have this morning's reading: the walk to Emmaus. It's one of my favorite stories. It doesn't take place with the disciples in some locked, secluded room. It isn't all about pomp and circumstance, much less extravagant celebration of any kind. It's about a journey between strangers, a telling of stories (aka theological sparring), and a sharing of a meal. Emmaus is only 7 miles from Jerusalem, a walkable distance. At breakneck speed it could be done in just under 2 hours. But with how the story reads, it sounds like it took a lot longer. But it was a walk filled with richness and connection.
...Even Jesus needed people, and sometimes the presence of strangers is the most welcome presence of all
I thought about going to church this morning, but given the changes in myself, in my faith and beliefs, and in what I find important, I honestly think that to go, to dress up, and to "put on the face" would have been an insult to Easter from me. Life comes with many changes, and sometimes those changes require us to spend some time either alone or with people we don't really know. I miss my church community, and I am thankful for all they've given and taught me.
I don't know what you're doing today, how you're spending your Easter, or what significance this day has for you. If you can, spend some time alone, away from the noise and the busyness. Think about the changes taking place in your life and how those changes have impacted your closest relationships. Don't be afraid of the silence or the solitude. I heard it said once that, when we fail to make time for solitude, we often end up forcing ourselves into isolation. The former is healing and restorative. The latter is painful and debilitating. My hope is that you experience some kind of resurrection today, some part of you being made new, made whole. My hope is that, in whatever time you have for solitude and silence, you know you are loved.