For those of you unfamiliar with the church year calendar, it is still Easter. It can be hard to tell in most churches, the extra flowers are gone, the extra musicians are gone, the extra people are gone. In many churches the Sunday after Easter Sunday is notable for its low attendance. It’s all over, right? Business as usual, right?
As humans we seem drawn to the big, the dramatic, the flashy. I suppose that’s partly why most of us want Easter services to be special. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the resurrection, we should. But as I wrote last year, there does seem to be a disconnect of sorts between our celebration of the risen Christ and the actual appearance of the risen Christ who is mistaken for a gardener.
But that’s the odd thing about Easter. Really it’s the odd thing about Jesus. The incarnation, God becoming human is decidedly low key. Born in a small rural backwater village, Jesus spends his life away from the power centers of the empire.
And the resurrection? How could that not be dramatic? But the first sign of the resurrection is absence. Jesus just isn’t there. And even when he does show up it is to his followers behind closed doors ( Luke 24, John 20).
But we like the dramatic. The near escape, the daring rescue. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, no matter how cliched the tale. Even among Christians there is an unspoken preference for dramatic conversion stories. Have you ever noticed how apologetic people can be when they are asked to share the story of their faith journey if it’s not sufficiently dramatic?
“Well, its not very interesting….”
“I don’t really have anything to tell….”
But if Calvin is right, and God does reveal God’s self to us in ways that we can understand, then whatever our story is, it’s good and worthy of telling. The dramatic and the not so dramatic.
The New Testament writer we call Luke gives us two conversion stories to consider. In Acts 9 we have Paul’s dramatic conversion story on the road to Damascus. This story has it all- blinding light, voice from heaven, the dramatic conversion from persecutor to believer. It’s a wonderful story and worth telling. But it’s not the only conversion story Luke gives us.
Luke also tells us the Emmaus story. Two guys are walking down the road. Cleopas and the other one. We don’t even know the second guy’s name. Two discouraged guys walking along, perplexed, confused, wondering what to do now. They do the undramatic, mundane things believers do. They befriend a guy they meet along the way. They discuss current events. They talk about Scripture. They share a meal with a stranger. And they only figure out what’s going on after its over.
I don’t know about you, but I know those Emmaus guys. Who am I trying to kid? I am one of them. Perplexed, confused and unable to see the Risen Christ right beside me in the daily stuff of life. And only able to understand in retrospect- if I’m lucky.
There is a move within Christianity today to recognize the sacred in the everyday. There is a growing recognition that God doesn’t only show up for the grand festivals, the special events. Yes God is there, just as God is present in dramatic conversion stories. But God is present also in the housework, the homework, the drive to work, the yard work and the paperwork. No blinding light, no heavenly voice, no drama. Just the steady presence of the God who does not leave us. The God who journeys with us.
Really we don’t have to choose between the dramatic and the mundane. Sometimes drama is exactly what is called for. Angels and thunder and a Temple curtain torn in two. And sometimes what is called for is a walk along a dusty road with friends, a little conversation and a meal.
So enjoy the drama of Easter Sunday. But don’t ignore the quieter Sundays of Easter-tide as we slip gently into the Ordinary days of summer.