Finding Jesus in our midst

Today’s readings include a Resurrection scene in which Jesus appears to two friends who are walking away from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. See Initially, when Jesus joins them, it is not apparent to the two friends that he is there. The friends are caught up in their narrative of a tragic end to Jesus’s life. Their walking away from Jerusalem seems to symbolize all the disappointments and hopes of what they had hoped to accomplish. Imagine walking away from a place of special significance in your own life, a location where you had hoped that wonderful things were happening and finding yourself instead in a place that you had not planned to be.

Perhaps during this pandemic, this scenario is not too far from our own hearts, when all kinds of projects and plans, from the work we do at our jobs, to attendance at church services, to visits to see families, or even hikes and extended outdoor exercise are limited or changed by the current pandemic. Last weekend, my husband and I drove to the local Arboretum that we often walk in, only to find orange cones and “no parking” signs set up on every side street nearby, because so many had been going to the Arboretum that it had become too crowded for anyone’s safe use. And so instead we drove back home, and walked in our own neighborhood. As Boston residents, we still seem to run into people walking without masks and ignoring social distancing on nearly every walk that we go on; so even the local neighborhood does not always feel like a comfortable and relaxing place to walk. We have some enjoyable moments, but these are often interrupted by figuring out how to be vigilant so that we can cross the street when we see the maskless runner coming straight toward us.

No pilgrimage to the holy site of the Arnold Arboretum, a place that we have visited year after year with our kids, since our now 25 year old was born; the place where each of our kids learned how to ride a bike, and where we have gone many weekends for strolls, to explore different botanical species, to bicycle, or shoot photos of the wonders of nature. I have so many memories of what must cumulatively been hundreds of visits over 25 years and more, sometimes with my family, sometimes solo, and so the sight of orange cones where we usually park the car was a great disappointment.

In the story, though, Jesus is with his friends as they yearn for a different time, and eventually, they discover it. They find that their hearts are opened when he interprets Scripture for them, and in the breaking of the bread. For me, this reminds me that God is present in the space of my home, in the baking of sourdough bread from starter I began a few weeks ago, and the breaking of it over our now lengthier family meals every night. God is present when my husband and I read poetry and interpret it with one another, or even just interpret the latest Star Wars movie to one another. I miss my workplace, my church, and many of the friends that I now can only see on Zoom rather than in the flesh, but Jesus is also at the table, and in the garden. How do we find him? By paying attention to where we feel that warmth and burning in our hearts, as did the friends on the Road to Emmaus, and when we allow God to be in on the process of interpreting our lives and even their simplest moments. Then we, too, can say that “the Lord has truly been raised” in our midst.

**addendum: I just discovered that the Arboretum is, in fact, open with social distancing measures so if you live nearby, I recommend a visit. We will be heading back there soon!