Rolled Over in his Grave, Pastor Kinsey
Jackie was a dear old lady – though, she had wild-eyed kind of laugh, which gave away the years of torment she endured at the hands of her husband, Floppy, as everyone called him. She never gave up through the years of his drinking and abuse, mostly, I suppose, for the sake of the kids, but also because she had an indomitable hope and a steely strong faith, that things might get better.
When we came to Iron County, and our 2-point parish, Jackie was just one of 41 home-bound members on the list Bill Kopinen had handed us. Kim and I visited everyone every month, together, at first, but as we came to realize the scope of our work, we started splitting them up. Jackie, became Kim’s visit, because she preferred a woman pastor, someone she felt more comfortable telling the intimate details of her life with Floppy, to. Kim figures that in our 20 years of monthly communion visits to homebound members, she visited Jackie some 240 times, hearing some of her stories, almost that many times, too! Kim kept Jackie’s counsel confidential. All I knew was that Jackie was a survivor, she endured much, she protected her kids as much as she could, that they were dirt poor, and that, thank God for Jackie’s sake, Floppy finally kicked the bucket somewhere around year 5 that we were there.
And Jackie made it, almost to the end of our 20 years – she was our last pastoral act in the final week of our leaving, when she died and we had her funeral – and she was the last of the 41 people on that original list, that we buried.
On one visit, when Kim went to see Jackie, towards the end of those 20 years, she somehow forgot the bread and wine, and didn’t even remember she had forgot it until she had walked inside Jackie’s house. So when it came time for communion, Jackie was able to find a dinner roll for bread, but told Pastor Kim that she didn’t keep wine, or booze of any kind in the house, even now that Floppy had passed on. But, as soon as she said this, suddenly a wry smile grew on her face. And Jackie said, hold on, this might take a minute, I’ll be right back. And she made her way down the basement stairs, and when she returned, all out of breath, she put two bottles of wine down in front of Kim. ‘The last of Floppy’s home-made choke-cherry wine,’ she said!
As Kim wrestled the cork out of the dusty old bottle, she wasn’t sure what to expect. Kim lifted the bread and the wine, recalled Jesus’ words of Institution, and they ate and drank in the name of the Lord, ingesting Christ’s body and blood. And Jackie, Kim says, started to laugh, which turned into tears of great relief. ‘ I can’t help thinking,’ she said, ‘that Floppy must be rolling over in his grave, that we’ve taken his wine and used it for this holy occasion, used it for good, instead of for how he always used it for himself. But I hope,’ she said, ‘that now he might actually be changed, wherever he is, he might be able to see what he did, and that what we have done with his choke-cherry wine, is a new and cleansing thing for all of us.’
When Kim was leaving, Jackie presented her with the remaining bottle of Floppy’s choke-cherry wine, saying she didn’t want it in her house any more, and that she’d feel better if we had it.
Our gospel reading today concludes a pretty wild and unusual Passover week in Jerusalem. And Jesus’ disciples were still not feeling any better on Sunday morning, the first day of the week, even after Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women had returned from the grave of Jesus with the news that the tomb was empty, and Jesus was alive! The 12 disciples thought their story was an idle tale, and didn’t believe the women – at least at first.
This is where our pericope begins – with Luke’s account of the Road to Emmaus. Two previously unknown disciples – Cleopas is the only name we get – decide to walk away from Jerusalem, to see if they can clear their heads, get some perspective, perhaps visit a friend. It was about seven miles away, a good little walk. And as they began, a stranger came near and joined them. It was Jesus, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him, says Luke.
What did, the resurrected-Jesus look like? In John’s gospel, in the upper room where the disciples were hiding, they recognize Jesus right away, even though he somehow materialized through locked doors! To Cleopas and his companion, though, Jesus appeared as any Palestinian guy they might encounter on the road.
So, when he joins them, Jesus asks them what they were talking about – which makes them sad, and then, a little indignant. Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that have taken place in these days? But Jesus doesn’t let on, doesn’t react, just asks them to explain – what things? To which they are happy to oblige, and recall once more everything they know about Jesus of Nazareth, his death and resurrection, and the high hopes they had, how they had hoped he might be their redeemer, and liberate them. We had hoped he would. But even though they went to the tomb and saw it empty, like the women told them, they didn’t see the angel who announced his rising.
We had hoped… What a simple, but human phrase. How often have we hoped, for that which we were later disappointed in? We had hoped our child would have survived; we had hoped our company didn’t have to lay off so many workers; we had hoped our insurance would have covered our medications; we had hoped our elected leaders would have had our best interests in mind instead of fighting amongst themselves again!
When Jesus finally takes a turn in the conversation on the road to Emmaus, he says, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” And Jesus interpreted to them all the things about himself in the scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, to help them understand.
Actually, he was the only stranger in Jerusalem who completely understood what things had happened and what they meant! Indeed, he was alive, as the women had testified, and was the promised hope of their redemption!
But there is one more scene, which is the most revealing of all. Just as Jesus was walking on ahead past the turn off to Emmaus, the two disciples have the strong desire to share hospitality with this stranger, and invite him in: “stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” And there, while they sat at table together, Jesus lifts the loaf of bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them – and suddenly their eyes were now opened to recognize him. How many times had Jesus done that with them before, from Passover meals, to the feeding of the 5,000, to meals with tax collectors, and with peasants in every village they visited in Galilee and Judea.
When they recognized him in the communion meal, Jesus’ work was accomplished, and he vanished from their sight, says Luke.
How long is the road we must travel, to see Jesus? How many trials and tribulations must we endure? How many conversations must we have? How many people must we invite in? How many children must we protect? How many women must be disbelieved? How many men must in their foolishness be blinded by their privilege or roll over in their graves? How many strangers will be kept out… how many, before our eyes are opened?
Jesus walks with us, whether we recognize it or not. Jesus comes near, in our times of need, just as his kingdom and realm have come near to the world. Even, and especially, in the shared dusty bottles of our choke-cherry wine, pulled out from the cellar, the long lost forgotten pains of our lives – even they can be redeemed and made whole again, in the resurrection and power of Jesus’ new life poured out for us.
Jesus, Rolled over in his grave, and walked out ahead of us, so we could join him, and in coming near, find hope for every trial and tribulation we face. Let us rise, and walk with him.