Suzanne’s introduction: The mission of my book and iPhone App, Women’s Inspirational Daily Prayer, is to lift up the lives of ordinary, and not-so-ordinary, women as holy. Writing my book opened my eyes to the many women who use their God-given gifts every day to help bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, sometimes in surprising ways, and usually without recognition. My husband, David Strom, suggested that I invite guests to blog on my website from time to time. What a great idea! I hope you are as inspired as I am by our inaugural guest blog by therapist Allie Wills, based on the gospel for the Third Sunday of Easter, Luke 24:13-35, Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Wills’ words recalls those of author Garry Wills (no relation) in his book, What Jesus Meant: “People often wonder how they should imagine life after death. Jesus used the imagery of the scriptures, presenting it as a great welcoming banquet.”
Here’s Allie Wills’ blog:
If you were at an Episcopal Church this Easter Vigil, you might have heard this last part of the Apostles’ Creed. I’m sure it’s familiar in other churches, too. I grew up in a Presbyterian Church that prayed the Creed quite frequently, and I think it formed much of my own visions of the Gospel and of our faith. During the Great Vigil, as we prayed the Creed, I thought of it specifically in regards to Holy Week, the Resurrection, our Easter season, and the walk we’ve been taking with the apostles in these seasons.
I believe in the life everlasting.
We’ve seen life everlasting. We stood at the empty tomb with Mary, Mary, and Salome. We cried, “Rabboni!” with Mary Magdalene.
I believe in the resurrection of the body.
We were there for the resurrection of the body. We were with Thomas as he pressed his fingers into the nail wounds in our Lord’s hands and put his hand into our Lord’s side. We’ve seen the resurrection of the body and we believe as best we can.
I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
We stood on Golgotha and saw our Lord on the cross. We heard him cry out, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” even after we shouted “Crucify him!” Even after the whole world turned against him. Although it hasn’t quite become real for us yet, we’ve heard our Lord forgive us!
I believe in the communion of saints.
Welcome to today’s reading. Two apostles are walking to Emmaus and Jesus arrives, although of course, they don’t know it’s him. This is one of Jesus’ teaching moments. He explains scripture to them all the way to Emmaus. And then they arrive at dinner and the real teaching starts.
N.T. Wright said, “When Jesus wanted to explain to his disciples what his death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” That meal, of course, was our Maundy Thursday supper, our Eucharist. But here Jesus is again trying to explain his death and, in the end, all our deaths. And he doesn’t use words– he uses a meal.
At first it seems a little odd that Jesus doesn’t shout, “It’s me, you guys! I am the one to redeem you!” But then, I imagine, they would bombard him with questions. What would you want to ask Jesus who was back from the dead? I can just imagine all the questions the disciples must have been bursting to spill out:
Jesus has a limited time to walk on earth and he has a message to convey to these disciples who seem to be pretty slow to catch on most of the time. Even if he could answer all their questions, would they believe? Are answers ever enough for us to believe, deep down in our bones?
Jesus does spend the walk there carefully explaining the scriptures to them, but then they arrive and he couldn’t possibly have answered all their questions. Instead of trying to answer them all verbally, he gave them a meal. They sat down after a long, weary walk. It was an interesting walk, of course –think of what they learned! of what they saw!– but they were tired and here there was fresh-baked bread. They sat down to the meal surrounded by friends and family and this stranger.
When I was a child learning the words of the Apostles’ Creed, that’s how I pictured the communion of saints. It’s sunny out and sandy. I walk barefoot toward a table that extends out as far as I can see. At the table are all my family and friends, everyone I’ve ever loved and everyone I’ve ever hated. We’re all pure, though, washed in God so that all the pain of this life has been washed away. I stand back for a second just to absorb the scene. People laugh and chatter and pass bread this way and that. Children and animals run around and duck under the table. To pull me out of my reverie, someone dear to me shouts my name and waves me towards the table. All of a sudden, I see Jesus in them all! I’m filled with joy and I race to the meal.
Jesus’ physical resurrection back here on earth is a gift, to the disciples and to us, a window into what awaits us in our own resurrection. What will happen when we die? What do we believe about the communion of saints? A long table with freshly-baked bread and our loved ones by our sides. We’re not resurrected on our own on some vast, foreign plain. We come to the life everlasting to join the communion of saints, to be surrounded in eternity by everyone whose lives we’ve touched and everyone who has touched ours. Just as our life on this earth is in community, so is our life everlasting.
Welcome to the table.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Allie Wills is a therapist, and former Sunday school teacher and Director of Christian Education. She is currently working on her master’s degree in clinical-counseling psychology at Illinois State University.