Year A, Easter 3 Luke 24:13-35
In the past week, there have been 4 incidents
of people being shot for being in the wrong place and being a stranger. The first was a 16 year old boy who knocked
on the wrong door. He was shot twice.
The 2nd was a 6 year old and her father who went to retrieve a basketball that
had rolled into someone’s yard. The
third was a young woman who drove into the wrong driveway. She died. The fourth
incident involved two high school girls who accidentally got into the wrong car
and were immediately shot. One
week. One young woman killed and 5
injured for making a mistake that everyone of us has probably made. How many of us have knocked on the door of
the wrong house, drove into the wrong driveway, walked into someone’s yard to
retrieve a ball or tried to open the door of a car that looked like yours? I
have done all of those things.
These were all different areas of the
country. The victims were all young, but that was really all they had in
common. The perpetrators all seemed to
have little in common as well. It seems
to me that the only common denominator is fear, particularly fear of strangers.
None of the victims were known to those who did the shooting.
What I want to know is how we got to this
point, where 4 different people thought the best thing to do was not simply ask
a question and take 10 seconds to find out why the person was in the wrong
place, but instead, shoot the people.
How did we get to this place?
of the interesting things about the resurrection accounts is that the disciples
of Jesus never recognized him, not at first.
He was always a stranger to them.
It is not clear as to why his closest friends and disciples didn’t
recognize him. Some hypothesize that it
was a kind of post traumatic stress. And
that makes sense when you think about it.
Listen to what Simon and Cleopas told Jesus, “But we had hoped that he
was the one to redeem Israel.” Jesus had
been their chance at redemption and freedom and now he has been killed by the
very people who he was supposed to free them from, the Romans. They had hoped. They had put all their hope in this man, and
now he was dead.
They were coping with two kinds of trauma—the
violent death of someone who they loved and a lost hope. Anytime
someone we love dies, we experience a tremendous loss. Sometimes that comes with losing hope—hope
for a future with someone who is no longer living with us. Yet Jesus had promised more than just a
future with him, he had promised salvation and freedom. He had promised
redemption and healing to all people.
When he was killed, people were terrified that all those promises were
lost. It was a trauma of epic
proportions. Embedded in trauma is fear,
fear of what will happen next, knowledge that while we may have survived this
trauma, we may not survive the next.
Fear is what made it so difficult to recognize Jesus—to believe that it
could be Jesus.
On Easter, I talked about Mary Magdalene’s
relative lack of fear. I hypothesized that she was able to handle her fear
because of the afflictions she had coped with in her life. She didn’t recognize
Jesus immediately, but it didn’t take her very long. It took longer for the men
in our Gospel reading. I think these two men who met Jesus on the road had a
little more fear than Mary did. This is
the first time we even hear their names, so they probably didn’t have as close
a relationship with Jesus as Mary and the apostles. And they were heading away from
Jerusalem. They were basically fleeing
the scene. They were scared.
So it took them longer, longer to recognize
Jesus, longer to remember that hope that they once had. But they eventually did. They did because they spent time with him,
listened to him, got to know this man who they thought was a stranger. The more time they spent with him, the less
fear they had. The reason they were able
to overcome that fear was because hope was still there. They might have lost
their hope for a time, but they never forgot it. It was that foundation of hope that saved
To some varying degree, almost every person
in our world is dealing with some kind
of trauma, which means that everyone is afraid.
Not only that, we have become isolated.
It was happening before the pandemic and then COVID made it that much
worse. We also have this wonderful 24
hours news cycle that seems to feed off of fear, which really isn’t helping
So what’s different now? Why are people so
quick to shoot the stranger in front of them?
Part of it is because we have become isolated and it’s easy to avoid
people who are different than us. Many
people are able to avoid interacting with anyone not like them. It’s also
because fewer and fewer people have the foundation of hope that our faith gives
us. It’s one thing to deal with fear and
loss when you have a foundation of hope and love. It’s another thing to deal with that when you
have no hope to begin with. That is much
that has happened over the last week (and the last several years) makes me
angry. It makes me want to lash out and blame someone or something. That is what a lot of people are doing. But
that just feeds the fear and hopelessness.
Jon Meacham wrote: “Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points
ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer.
Fear divides; hope unifies.”
people of faith, we cannot allow ourselves to fear the stranger and to blame
the other. We can’t isolate ourselves in
our safe places of hope and comfort. We
have to share this hope that God has given us.
Because people are starving for hope in our world and that dearth of
hope is killing people. It is literally
killing people. What can we do? We can stop blaming the other political
party. We can stop blaming “the other.”
We can stop letting fear be our guide when we have a much better guide in Jesus
that Jesus walked with the disciples and they walked WITH him, even though they
thought he was a stranger. In the same
way, we can start walking along others, even the people who may scare us a
little. I am not telling you to start knocking
on strangers doors, but there are safe ways that you can get to know people who
are different than you. If you aren’t
quite ready for that, try to talk to the people who you know—who you know but
might not agree with, and talk about those things. We are so busy avoiding
talking about things that upset us, but it means we are no longer able to
understand where others might be coming from.
That means that even people we know are becoming strangers.
of my favorite psalms is Psalm 139. Lord
you have searched me and known me. It’s
all about the God who knows us so well because he formed our inward parts. It’s a gift to be known and loved by
God. Being known by an all loving being
is what gives Christians the strength to deal with trauma and pain. And guess
what, it’s not just us who God knows.
God knows all his children. So
think about that the next time you see someone who makes you a little nervous,
a little wary. Remember they too are
created in God’s image. For God, there are no strangers.