Reflection - Eric Laurenson

Eric is a member of the Pitt Street congregation.

How are you managing in the lockdown? No, I don’t mean how are you managing with shopping and working from home and all the other new things we are having to learn. No, I mean how are you really managing in yourself? Are you quietly at peace with yourself and any others in your bubble or are you perhaps feeling pangs of loneliness, boredom or even panic? Does the future look grey or threatening? Humans are social creatures and I’m sure that, even if we’re used to living on our own, all of us are missing in one way or another the daily contact with others at work or in shops or cafes, wherever everyday living takes us. To recover that sense of wider human contact will be one of the greatest pleasures of coming out of isolation.

For some strange reason an old Sunday School song that some of us can remember from our earliest days, floated to the surface of my mind recently…

Jesus bids us shine with a clear pure light
Like a little candle burning in the night
In this world of darkness so we must shine
You in your small corner, and I in mine

This must have branded itself into my memory because I still feel that we have to do our best no matter that we feel on our own, or the tasks may seem overwhelming or that there is too much opposition or criticism. I’ve learned that we are all part of something greater than our individual selves and our own little efforts can contribute meaningfully to the greater good. No matter how isolated we are, this little song enjoins us to shed whatever light and love that our circumstances permit.

Today’s lectionary gospel reading from the book of Luke is the beautiful warm story of the walk to Emmaus. It’s also one of those strange stories where the followers of Jesus seemed to have difficulty in recognizing Jesus in the days immediately following his death. Remember in the book of John how Mary, weeping outside the empty tomb of Jesus, mistook the figure of Jesus for the local gardener! Traditionally, we have been asked to simply accept these stories as told, without question but, in more recent times, people are more questioning as Ian reminded us last week. So, do we with our modern minds start to search for logical explanations of such stories where people could not recognize a very familiar person, even when face to face?

The older I get, the less inclined I am to start digging into the literal truth of the Biblical stories. We need to always look beneath the surface of every story and try to discern the enlightenment that the writer is trying to convey.

In this story of the walk to Emmaus for example, the fact is that there was a village called Emmaus, only a few kilometers west of Jerusalem on what is now the main road to Tel Aviv. Today, it seems that it is a tourist campsite. We can also probably accept that a couple of people were walking away from Jerusalem towards their home village discussing the shattering recent events and the death of their friend who had promised so much. That they met another traveller on the road who seemed to know all about their scriptures and what they foretold seems very possible and their offer of hospitality to him was very much in the tradition of that part of the world. So far so good. But how could they not recognize him until they were sitting around the meal table and what about the sudden disappearance? For goodness sake!

For me, the message of this lovely story is found in the words of Jesus as he explained to his hearers what his sense of mission was. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”. Even though he was going to die, he would live on amongst his followers. As Teresa of Avila, Spanish nun, one of the great mystics, reformers, and religious women of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th Century, said. “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

As we manage as best we can, each in our own small corner, let’s keep our own little candles burning brightly, secure in the knowledge that, as John Wesley said as his last words, “Best of all, God is with us”.