Some stories are so familiar that they are hard to hear afresh. Some stories are so familiar that we need to hear them afresh.
(My friend and colleague Casey FitzGerald at Faith and Wonder offers encouragement for telling scripture in such a way that our ears & souls are newly fascinated by familiar stories.)
Ideally, the whole of worship supports a fresh hearing of a familiar biblical story and — more importantly — a renewed understanding of God’s ongoing story! No matter how familiar certain verses may be, in and through worship we discover our stories within God’s story.
This coming Sunday (May 4th, the Third Sunday of Easter in the Revised Common Lectionary), we dare to recognize our own stories and questions in that too-familiar story of two disciples walking and talking together en route from Jerusalem to Emmaus following the resurrection.
As I hear them, these are the familiar questions of our daily lives, as told in Luke 24:13-35 —
What the heck just happened??! (“Two of them were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.” 24:14)
Doesn’t the whole world see life from my/our point of view? a.k.a. Isn’t it all about me? (“Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 24:18)
How can we make sense of what others have said? (“Some women of our group astounded us” and “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them…” 24:22 and 24:27)
How did we miss seeing what was in plain sight? #foreheadslap (“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” 24:32)
The familiar human story: We are full of doubt and worry over the unknown, skeptical of what we see and hear, suspicious of the perspectives of others. In fact, we can be so caught up in disbelief that Jesus himself cannot talk us into faith.
The good news of God’s story: Jesus is with us all the same.
The call (or lesson) of God’s continuing story: The ability to welcome a stranger precedes understanding. Our doubt, distraction and skepticism should not overwhelm our hospitality; even when we do not recognize God, we must not fail to welcome God. (“Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is nearly over.” 24:29)