October 19, 2020

Another Look – Sad of heart

Compassion, Bouguereau

Easter Monday
Another Look: Sad of heart (Luke 24)

“They stopped, their faces drawn with misery…” (Luke 24:18).

When we meet our friends on the road to Emmaus, we can see that they are sad of heart. Their faces are downcast, their voices hushed, their shoulders slumped. The two are absorbed in a serious conversation punctuated by sighs and shaking heads.

Sad. So sad. Indeed, so sad their sorrow keeps them from seeing Jesus when he comes alongside them.

So sad they can’t believe there’s a person alive who doesn’t know about the events that made their world collapse.

So sad they are sure all their hopes had been dashed.

So sad they can’t stop talking about their painful experience, can’t stop obsessing about it, can’t make sense of any of it.

And when strange news came from women who went to the tomb and found his body missing — well, that was just crazy talk! Insult added to injury. Grief now irritated by impossible, incredible tales.

So sad.

Henri Nouwen reminds us that loss is part of the very fabric of every life.

If there is any word that summarizes well our pain, it is the word “loss.” We have lost so much! Sometimes it even seems that life is just one long series of losses. When we were born we lost the safety of the womb, when we went to school we lost the security of our family life, when we got our first job we lost the freedom of youth, when we got married or ordained we lost the joy of many options, and when we grew old we lost our good looks, our old friends, or our fame. When we became weak or ill, we lost our physical independence, and when we die we will lose it all!

…What to do with our losses? That’s the first question that faces us.

• Henri Nouwen, With Burning Hearts

As painful as our natural losses may be, the losses these disciples mourned represented even more than personal grief. They had lost their religion. Their hope, their prospects, the anticipated course of their lives. Their hopes of God’s Kingdom coming — and it had seemed so near! — were now crushed. Their dreams of a new world of peace and justice emerging in their lifetime evaporated.

The trust they had placed in the Man who seemed to fit the role of Messiah perfectly now seemed misplaced. He was gone. Dead. Publicly shamed. Crucified. Buried. It was over. Where was God, who had seemed to be with him in such power, displaying such love and grace through his words and works? This was a darkness darker than dark, a black hole of an abyss, a full-blown crisis of faith. Hopelessness.

We can see, however, two slight glimmers in the dark.

First, there is human companionship. Two walk side by side. Their spirits may be as dead and dry as sticks, but perhaps together they can produce a spark of hope.

Second, there is an unrecognized Presence. Even when the two travelers are prevented from knowing him, Jesus is with them. His questions prime the pump, get their attention, lift their eyes, get them thinking outside the box of their stunned grief. His presence adds an extra dimension to their fellowship, pulling them out of their tight huddle of mourning. His encouragement and instruction begins to renew feeling in their numb hearts and minds once more. Gently, he listens and responds. He doesn’t overwhelm them with advice or counsel, but simply helps them reframe their perspective and consider other possibilities. He creates curiosity, awakens a sense that there might be more to the story than the darkness they feel.

When we suffer loss, when we are hurting, when our faces are downcast, when we are sad of heart, we need a friend. And we need a Friend.

We need (and have access to) more too. But that awaits the rest of the story…

Comments

  1. CM, Wonderful message. I appreciate your ability to capsulize the essence of a message and make it meaningful. You also do that in the sermons I have heard here. I personally love to be reminded and retaught many of the wonderful passages in the Bible that convey so much that grow dim in my memory. Of course I knew and have heard this story but this renews it in my heart and gives it more context. Thank you.

  2. Who is the third who walks always beside you?
    When I count, there are only you and I together
    But when I look ahead up the white road
    There is always another one walking beside you
    Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
    I do not know whether a man or a woman
    -But who is that on the other side of you?

    -T S Eliot

    Where are you going?
    Where are you going?
    Can you take me with you?

    For my hand is cold
    And needs warmth
    Where are you going?

    Far beyond where the horizon lies
    Where the horizon lies
    And the land sinks into mellow blueness
    Oh please, take me with you

    Let me skip the road with you
    I can dare myself
    I can dare myself
    I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
    And watch me walk (watch me walk)
    I can walk! I can walk!
    I can walk!

    I shall call the pebble Dare
    I shall call the pebble Dare
    We will talk, we will talk together
    We will talk about walking
    Dare shall be carried
    And when we both have had enough
    I will take him from my shoe, singing:
    “Meet your new road!”
    Then I’ll take your hand
    Finally glad
    Finally glad
    That you are here
    By my side

    -By My Side, Godspell

  3. This, simply this. In our darkest times the Presence of Jesus. We can’t always feel or see it, but He is there. And this is what we share. The heart of the gospel. No matter our differences we share Jesus. This sharing is what I treasure about Imonk. Thank you CM and everyone here for this fellowship that is the best of Imonk. We are familnd I love you ally

  4. all

  5. anonymous says

    “Yet the children of your bereavement will say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; make room for us to live here.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has begotten these for me? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. So who has reared them? Look, I was left all alone, so where did they come from?’” This is what the Lord GOD says: “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and raise My banner to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders”
    -Isaiah 49

  6. If anyone ever wanted a clue about how God speaks to us, here it is. Jesus was already transformed from an earthly state. How he communicates in this and other interactions after the resurrection could be a glimpse. His leading and hinting drew them in and made their hearts burn within them but he did not simply state who he was and what he was doing there. It is very reminiscent of dream language. Sometimes we wake up in a ‘real state’ but cannot put our finger on precisely what about a particular dream, upon a brief waking analysis, should actually be making us feel that way. Deep intuitions gleaned during meditation and prayer are akin to that. Tending is the critical element and the thing we are least inclined to do. If we aren’t listening how can we expect to hear. Most of the time, sadly, we are simply not giving credence to His voice. We’re not paying attention. We are not giving heed. Grief creates the space for the necessary silence and as such is sometimes an odd friend.

    • Christiane says

      +1

    • By Thomas Hood

      There is a silence where hath been no sound,
      There is a silence where no sound may be,
      In the cold grave—under the deep deep sea,
      Or in the wide desert where no life is found,
      Which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound;
      No voice is hush’d—no life treads silently,
      But clouds and cloudy shadows wander free,
      That never spoke, over the idle ground:
      But in green ruins, in the desolate walls
      Of antique palaces, where Man hath been,
      Though the dun fox, or wild hyena, calls,
      And owls, that flit continually between,
      Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan,
      There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.”

    • Burro (Mule) says

      When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion
      We were like unto them that drempt

      • That’s a very curious and interesting verse. From one standpoint you could say it was tailor-made for these two apostles.

  7. In addition to their sadness, I can’t help but think they all felt “lost,” too. Their loss made them feel lost.

    Feeling sad AND lost… that’s almost beyond what a person can bear. Despair follows. They were fortunate that Jesus so quickly came to them and showed himself to them. Some of us… I think some of us wait a lot longer than a few days to feel his presence again.

    And I agree with the post: Companionship and fellowship help enormously. When you can bounce sadness, lost-ness and despair off others, it can be quite cathartic.