I have now gone without a haircut for eight weeks. EIGHT WEEKS! Since my hair has been graying and thinning, I have preferred shorter hair. My hair has required regular maintenance every three weeks or so. I do have access to a clipper and I am not afraid to use it.
Even with the extreme hair, I am still recognizable. My facial features have not changed. I MAY have gained a few pounds thanks to the pasta and potato chip diet. Even with a protective face mask, I am fundamentally me.
The Gospel lesson assigned to this Sunday describes the encounter of Jesus with some of his disciples seven miles away from Jerusalem. Luke tells us that it is still the third day since Jesus’ death. Jesus joins the two walking and talking but they don’t recognize him. They don’t recognize his face. They don’t recognize his voice. They don’t recognize his gait or anything else that would define him as the Jesus they knew previously.
Curious. Were the disciples so unprepared for his Resurrection that they couldn’t conceive of him not being dead? Was he simply incognito in order to evade Romans, and Pharisees, and crowds? Was the Resurrected Christ simply unrecognizable?
The first two possibilities warrant further consideration. The last one, that the Resurrected Christ was simply unrecognizable, challenges and informs my faith and understanding.
I wonder how many times Jesus has accompanied me while I was unaware. I wonder how many times I have driven past Jesus with a flat tire too busy, too consumed with my own worries. I wonder how many times I have missed the opportunity to simply walk with him awhile.
Our quest for FACT drives us far more than our quest for TRUTH. Like Thomas proclaiming that he WILL NOT believe without proof of the Resurrected Christ, we scour the Bible and the Holy Land seeking proof: the physical nails, pieces of the cross, the tip of the spear. Ancient churches throughout the Middle East and much of Europe boast of actual artifacts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. There are no less than 30 Holy Nails stored in reliquaries around the world. Facts require proof.
Truth requires trust. Sometimes truth is embedded in the story. Aesop’s Fables come mind. Slow and steady wins the race…unless you are running the 50-yard dash, it which case slow and steady loses the race. There are stories you trust because of the story.
There are stories you trust because of the person telling the story. The truth lies in the one telling the story.
The disciples’ truth lies in their experience. Jesus’ veiled encounter with his followers offers them a chance to share their truth, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”. They recite the story of Jesus life and death. They hint that there may be more to the story, but they stick to the script.
You and I bear a trustworthy story built on the story itself AND our ability to convey its truth in our lives. It is a wild story of creation, salvation, and blessing. It is a story lived and fulfilled in our faith, love, and hope. It is a story so simple children and elephants understand. It is a story so complex it defies words and relies on actions to be fully experienced.
You may find the truth recognizable, in human form, with hands and feet and a face of love. You may find truth unrecognizable, in a human form, with hands and feet and a face of love. Either way, the truth is out there and it might be closer to you than you realize.
I love you.
[I need you.]
I hope for you.
Please be safe.