it was an ordinary day.
but they were carrying an extraordinary weight...of sadness and despair.
two friends stumbling along a road, supposedly leading to a destination, but really for them, leading God only knew where.
their friend, who so beautifully embodied a Love that embraces and enlivens all, was swallowed by the fear and anger of others into the womb of the earth, the tomb of his death.
their hope had died. literally.
and they were left with a brief flicker of a dim memory fading in their minds, and a dark cloud of a dire tragedy hanging in their hearts.
until a stranger walked up beside them and joined their disjointed journey.
clearly he had been a bit 'out of the know' regarding all that had happened in recent days, and asked these two wandering and wondering pilgrims to fill him in. and they did...with trembling voices and tear-filled eyes, they gave him the 'cliff notes' version of the violence their friend had endured, and the shame that saturated their souls for leaving his side in his moment of greatest need.
the stranger heard their sad tale of woe, but was not dispirited. rather, he told them that this was simply how things had to play out for their friend. 'it was just meant to be', he said. great 'advice' for people mourning the loss of a dear friend. didn't this stranger know better than to paint a 'rainbow' over the stormy sky of people in grief?
but he continued anyway. in fact, this stranger began recounting the whole history of redemption for the ones known as 'God's chosen people', right from their scriptures, chapter and verse, story after story, generation after generation, step by step, mile after mile, the 'goodest' of all the 'good' news ever revealed to humanity. the guy might as well have been the 'religious' version of an amway salesman, giving them all the reasons why they needed the 'product' that God had to offer - 'salvation' - and how God had offered that 'product' to them through their newly departed friend, who may have only temporarily 'departed'. it was a 'sales pitch' to which they could not refuse to respond, a 'gift' that they couldn't help but receive.
and the two friends, glassy-eyed, numb from all the miles of wandering and all the words of wondering, weren't in any shape to buy any of it. tired and hungry, they invited the overly chatty stranger, the spinner of grand stories, to take a break and stay with them for dinner.
and he did.
they entered the house...in silence.
they made some food...in silence.
they sat down to eat...in silence.
and the stranger, the teller of extraordinary tales, did a very ordinary thing.
he took the loaf of bread on the table, and he broke it.
and in that instant, the ordinary became extraordinary.
the face of the stranger was no longer strange to them, but familiar.
the hearts that were aching and cold within them began to beat with warmth, even burn like fire.
the words and wisdom, the parables and promises, the stories of salvation were background noise to the symphony of silence and Spirit that appeared and disappeared as quickly as the breath they lost while gasping at the presence of glory momentarily in their midst.
for them, in that instant, what changed their lives weren't the rhapsodies of religion they heard on the road.
it was the breaking of bread at their table.
it was the simplicity of silence in their minds.
it was the reverberation of relationship in their hearts.
it was the sacred revealed in the secular.
it was the magnificence manifest in the mundane.
it was the divine embodied in the daily.
it was the holy embracing the hungry.
it was the extraordinary Hope and Love washing away the ordinary despair and fear.
it was the Light of life overcoming the darkness of death.
their hope had risen. literally.
i write this still stumbling on that road...
neither here nor there...
somewhere between now and then...
headed God only knows where...
tired from the journey traveled thus far...
trembling at the prospect of the journey to come...
all the stories and psalms reverberating in my mind like the song that you're so sick of hearing, and yet, can't get out of your head...
longing for less language, and more Light...
fewer platitudes and promises, and more Presence...
a decrease in babbling beatitudes, and an increase in broken Bread...
less religion, and more Relationship.
but i sense that maybe it's by sojourning through the deep darkness that one can develop 'night vision' and recognize the traces of Light in unexpected places.
maybe it's in hearing the old stories and psalms again and again that one's heart can be opened to more fully experience the Presence that transcends the platitudes and promises.
maybe it's by allowing the beatitudes to babble on like a brook and the religion to ramble on like a road that one's spirit can more surprisingly encounter the extraordinary in broken bread and the revelatory in real relationships.
so, as my spiritual ancestors would say, 'L'Chaim!' ('To Life!' in Hebrew)
and 'Salaam Shalom!' ('Deep Peace to you!' in Arabic and Hebrew)
and 'Cristos Anesti!' ('Christ is risen!' in Greek)
and Happy Easter to you all :).