Food For Thought
As we continue in this uncertain time of a global pandemic, many people continue to struggle. We are experience fear and grief. We’re starting to get antsy from staying home so much. Disturbingly, some people are in denial or acting out in violence. At times like this we might find great comfort in the knowledge that God walks with us even through the darkest valleys of life. I think it is just as important to remind ourselves that God is within the stranger. It is too easy to forget that we are all God’s beloved children when that stranger feels threatening to us because of what they are saying or how they are acting. That doesn’t mean we have to agree or accept their claims or actions but perhaps a little empathy and understanding would help. Jesus does tell us after all, that all of God’s desires for us are based on the commandment for us to love our neighbor.
In their grief at Jesus’ death, the disciples Cleopas and his unnamed companion also fail to recognize Christ in the stranger on the road to Emmaus (Luke, chapter 24). It’s only through the breaking of bread, sitting down to share a meal together, that they recognize Jesus in the stranger they’ve been spending all day with. It’s not just in church that we find the risen Christ, the presence of God. It’s in our every day activities, walking and eating, where we encounter something Holy as we enter into relationship with those we meet along the way. We come together as church communities to experience the Divine but it is only the beginning of the experience.
Christ is in the stranger we see on the street and at the store.
And in the grocery store clerk who still has to report to work in the middle of a pandemic.
And in the nurse caring for patients in an over-taxed health care system.
And in the homeless person who has nowhere to stay home in.
And in the single mother who lost her job because her employer had to shut down.
And in the protestor who out of fear or denial demands everything be returned to “normal.”
There are times when we too are disappointed that life hasn't turned out the way we wanted or expected, when it feels like our hopes have been dashed and life, and God, have not lived up to our expectations. Often we are too caught up in our lives, sometimes in disappointment and sadness but also just in the busyness of living, to recognize Christ and the love of God. The good news, though, is that Christ walks with us even when we don’t recognize him. Christ is still there, sharing our stories, our grief, and our pain. Then, in the breaking of bread together, in some unexpected intimate glimpse of humanity, we finally recognize Christ in the stranger. We are suddenly turned in a new direction, seeing and understanding in a new way.
What would it mean for us today if we learned to see Christ, to see the Divine, in everyone we met? In those who are oppressed or needy? In those who we don't like very much? In someone we disagree with, who doesn't hold our political, ethical, or religious views? In someone who doesn't like us or what we stand for? If we can see the Divine in people who are “other” to us, I think the world could not help but be a less violent, more peaceful, more caring place. How could we bomb or let die that which is precious and holy to us? It seems like our world right now is at such opposite ends with no middle ground but how could we be so rude or angry or violent with those who are different than us or disagree with us, if we could truly understand that they too are precious and holy?
P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from April 26, 2020, “Recognizing Jesus.” A recording of this and most other sermons can be found online at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.