Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
A bustling kitchen scene. In the foreground, there’s a makeshift butcher’s table overflowing with meat: a leg of mutton, several rabbits, chickens, some fish…next to it, a woman sits peeling a parsnip while a child plays with a puppy nearby. Behind them, another woman peers into a pot bubbling over the fire. Other workers are busy in the background. One is carving into a slaughtered animal carcass. Others have stopped to engage in conversation. Servants bustle up and down stairs laden with trays, while cats, and dogs, and chickens roam around…practically every inch of the frame has something going on…everyone is busy…everyone is utterly absorbed in their own work.
And far up in the right hand corner…like a postage stamp on an envelope…you can just make out the doorway into another room…where three people sit at a table…one lifts his hand in a familiar gesture of blessing… but no one in the kitchen is paying the slightest attention to what’s going on in that upper room.
“Kitchen scene with supper at Emmaus,” is an early seventeenth century Dutch artwork. It’s a busy, sepia-toned pencil and ink drawing. And it captures something profound in this resurrection story.
Because, it’s the Emmaus story told from our perspective…the perspective of the ones who are are close, but not yet aware of what’s happening….not yet cognizant of the power…the game-changing, earth-shaking transformative power of the resurrection.
It’s a parable about how our busyness keeps us from seeing what’s really going on…how we tend to focus on things that are immediate…urgent…right in front of us…things that might indeed be necessary, but aren’t necessarily the most important. Now…that has become more complicated this year, because we are really are focused on things that are urgent…necessary…right in front of us…but what are we missing?
Our separate world’s have become so much narrower…so much more circumscribed. In the past six weeks, I’ve been no farther than a few blocks from my house. The dog gets a walk around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, or Fisher Hill, but I haven’t even been down to Washington Square, let alone Coolidge Corner, or the Fenway, or anywhere else…my world has narrowed to whatever is actually outside my window…most of our world’s have.
And yet, I am aware that many don’t even have these luxuries…a house with plenty of room…a green space to walk in…There are those living and working in spaces more like this kitchen…Packed into apartment buildings with lots of other people…or crammed into apartments, with multiple generations living under one roof…Those who—out of necessity—work in close quarters, unprotected or barely protected to keep the food supply going…Those working to keep people healthy and safe… … Those who…even if they could make it to the store wouldn’t be able to afford enough food to last a whole week…Those who can’t find shelter…Those locked in rooms or cells with no possibility of escape. I’m aware of them…but I don’t see them.
One of the most unsettling effects of this pandemic—(beyond the fear and uncertainty)—is that—even at the best of times—those of us who are white and privileged have a hard time really seeing those who are not white or privileged, but now with all that is happening…that’s even harder.
Yet, we know that the impact—not only of the virus, but of the economic fallout because of it—is much greater on people of color, and those already living at the margins. “We’re NOT all in the same boat,” is the phrase I’ve been hearing. “We might be in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat.” And right now, because of the storm, it’s harder than ever to see what’s not right in front of us…to really see those who remain segregated from us…the ones with leakier, less sea-worthy boats…who have always lived with “social distancing” because of systemic racism, and inequitable economic systems. It’s not simply our busyness or our inattention that keeps us from seeing them…it’s the stress and reality of this pandemic. We have to work harder at a time when it feels like we’re all working plenty hard.
That’s why I’m profoundly grateful for our Courageous Conversations group, who met last week and reaffirmed their commitment to creating spaces and opportunities for us to come together (virtually) and talk about race and racism, and the disproportionate impact this pandemic has on people of color and people at the margins in our community. We are all affected by this…but we are all affected differently, and we are not all going to recover in the same way. I hope many of you will join us after church on May 10th—and every month after that—to continue that conversation.
I’m grateful to the Men’s Book Group who continues to meet and grapple with the residue of racism that is both exposed and perpetuated in works of American literature.
I’m grateful to the Living Stones Listening Project group who is planning other ways of drawing us together to build social solidarity in the midst of physical isolation.
I’m grateful to all of you who continue to give to support MANNA and common cathedral, St. Stephen’s Youth Program, and Episcopal City Mission and local and regional feeding programs, and all who are committed to “building relationships and collective power across the Commonwealth for racial and economic justice as the expression of God’s transforming love.” [source].
I’m grateful for the work that continues…even when we aren’t aware of it, or can’t exactly see it.
And I know the magnitude of racism and economic disparity feels overwhelming at the best of times…and it probably feel especially impossible now…And you might wonder how just having a conversation about it is going to change anything?
I’ve wondered that, too. But then I remembered…that’s how this Emmaus story starts…with a simple conversation…an honest sharing of what this recent experience has been like…the sadness…the despair…the hopelessness…the questions…the invitation…and the beginning again…beginning anew together.
From that one conversation on the road to Emmaus the whole world changed, because Jesus was a part of it. Which is another insight this parable of the Kitchen scene at Emmaus offers…everyone is busy with their own stuff…but the resurrection happens anyway. The resurrection is God’s action…God’s loving action towards the whole of creation… it is in no way dependent upon us…(thanks be to God)…and it happens whether we are paying attention to it or not…AND we also have a role to play in it. We can choose to be part of the conversation…part of that deep conversion…or not.
See, conversation—done intentionally—is a way of building social solidarity: it’s a strategy for moving us through our fear and anxiety and into a discovery of work we can do together…it’s a way of moving from “How are you?” to “What does this mean for you? This is what it means for me…and how are we in this storm together? And where do we want to be when it’s over?
Just as at Emmaus, conversation is a way of “opening the eyes of our faith, so that we may behold Jesus in all his redeeming work.” And this year especially, that’s work I very much want to be involved in, don’t you?