The Miracle – The Rev. Michelle Meech
April 23, 2023
Today we celebrate Earth Sunday, a day where we as a larger church celebrate and acknowledge our gratitude for and, hopefully, our commitment to the earth. This earth, our island home. It’s an intimate relationship we have with this home. We are made of the same elements of this earth. We eat things that are made of these elements. We breathe the respiration of its life. We have life because of this place, this planet. There is no “us” without “it.”
Because we worship an incarnate God, the incarnation – this tangible collection of cells in various forms – is integral. The incarnation of God is woven through us, through all of creation. As a part of creation, we are a part of God. God is the ground of our being.
We celebrate this every time we participate in Eucharist. We consume the bread and the wine and our metabolism breaks them down into nutrients that become us. Our body. It is an act of reconciliation with God so intimate, that we are reminded of the very intimacy of creation itself and the miracle that it is.
I think, sometimes, if we had a more direct relationship with the wheat and the vines, then the sacrifice Jesus made might make more sense to us. We might just see the miracle. The miracle of the grain broken open to make flour. The miracle of the grape pressed to make juice. All of which gives us nourishment. Life. When God’s gift gives way to the love present within it.
We gather around this bread and this wine every week, recognizing it, naming it, blessing it as the love of God incarnate, real and tangible. The acts of Eucharist – taking, blessing, breaking, sharing – is the sacrifice that love incarnate makes for us. The sacrifice of the wheat, the sacrifice of the vine… both remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus made, in giving life to serve love itself.
Our cells are made of the bread and the wine because Eucharist is a sacramental act of becoming that which we eat, becoming that which was given as love for us. It is the nature of life – to give of itself in the name of love. We have life because life gives of itself. This miracle is the very nature of all of creation, the very nature of Earth, this our home.
We usually miss the miracle. Because of the chaos, the busyness of our lives, we usually miss this miracle. Which is why it is so important to celebrate it, to make it central to our lives, if in no other way than a weekly ritual done in a building like this one. The chaos and drama of our lives are most certainly temptations for our attention. When something goes wrong, when what is happening doesn’t meet with our expectations, we tend to focus there.
We are told that Mary and Mary went to the tomb and found it empty. And that the disciples decided Marys’ revelation was an idle tale. We are told that Jesus appeared to the disciples in that locked room so that they would also believe as the women did. I can imagine that the miracle would have been difficult to take in if I had been there.
We are also told, from today’s Gospel, that on “that same day”… when the other miracles were taking place, this miracle story was also happening. This story that we have come to call the Road to Emmaus – the 7-mile walk from the city of Jerusalem to a small village, during which our travelers were so swept up in the chaos of their lives, they missed the presence of the one who journeyed with them. They missed the miracle too.
This healing journey from a place of pain and trauma to a place of hope and renewal. This is the Road to Emmaus.
Almost assuredly, the two people who left the city that day were leaving in disappointment, in panic, and in shame. Unable to witness the miracle, using avoidance as a way to cope. It’s a typically human thing to do. We all have coping mechanisms, after all. And the disciples all displayed different ways of coping: denial, shock, cynicism, escape.
That Cleopas and his friend decided to skip town makes sense. To escape the disappointment of feeling stranded by their messiah and the anger at those who had him killed. Escape the anxiety caused by some of their friends who had started seeing things and the distress of watching their friends in deep grief. Of course, they missed the miracle.
But the truth is, sometimes we do need to leave. Sometimes the most loving, most life-giving decision we can make is to leave. So, this isn’t a story about sin. This is a story about healing. It’s a story about Resurrection. Not Jesus’ resurrection – but the miracle of our resurrection through Christ.
One of my favorite Christian mystical poets is Ranier Maria Rilke. He wrote a poem in the late 1800’s called Go to the Limits of Your Longing
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
When we find ourselves in pain, it’s usually because something that is a support for us, something or someone that we love, is taken away in some way. And we can easily find ourselves a little stuck there in that pain… sometimes for quite a long time. No judgment. It takes as long as it takes.
But to believe that there is an other side to the pain we experience, is how we live into the Resurrection. God does not cause us pain. There is no test, no trial given by God. But God does give us Christ, God incarnate, who acts in our lives to bring us back to witness the miracle in our midst. Jesus finds us in the midst of whatever coping mechanism we’ve chosen, wherever we are experiencing our pain and shock and disbelief… and says, “Give me your hand.”
When we’ve risked ourselves, giving ourselves away, flaring up like a flame to make those big shadows… and then are hurt in some way, brought to disappointment, Christ finds us and says, “Don’t let yourself lose me.” “Don’t lose sight of the miracle.”
Jesus always finds us, whatever road we end up on… and falls in step with us – teaching us, feeding us, hosting us, holding us, staying with us – until we come back to ourselves, come back to the Christ within us, and find the strength to come back to one another… again. So that even if we flee, we are found.
God’s promise is that Love will always be the last word. Cleopas and his friend found themselves at their wits end, ready to lock themselves in the deathly tombs of confusion and fear… and Love found them. Something happened. Someone happened. Their eyes were opened and they were shown Love. Given Love.
In his book, Inside the Miracle, poet Mark Nepo says, “Going on without denying any aspect of the human drama is what strength is all about… We are carved by life into instruments that will release our song, if we can hold each other up to the carving.”
As much as we might try, we are not immune to this carving. We cannot escape life and all that it gives us. And, as we offer ourselves and our gifts as fully as possible to this life, it is Christ that nurtures us through times of hurt and pain and shows us the beautiful instrument that we have become so that God’s Holy Spirit can give us the breath to make it speak.
The miracle is that we are given new life when we come to recognize that, as Rilke says, no feeling is final. We come to believe in the Resurrection when we start to see how God turns all the world’s pain on its head, how God turns our pain into something new. When the miracle finds us on our own road, after all our running, all our cynicism, all our denial, all our anxiety, all our self-abasement… we need only to turn our eyes to see the miracle of love looking back at us.
What we believe about the resurrection of Jesus matters less than what we believe about the capacity for Love to come and find us. And our deeper healing begins when we come to believe that this continual rebirth is Truth incarnate. That this miracle is real. We are resurrected, with Christ, in Christ, and through Christ.
This Road to Emmaus, this journey of healing, changes us into new instruments for God’s Holy Spirit.
We are not the same as we were before we left.
Our very bodies have been renewed, the wounds scarred over.
Our cells have been rearranged and our thoughts realigned.
Our hearts have mended and opened more fully.
Our minds are more clear.
Grasping the beauty of being nourished by the bread and the wine, by life itself and its intimate gift of love given to us, our souls are, finally, at rest.
This is the miracle of the Resurrection.