Come to the Table :: A Reflection

A reflection on Luke 24:13-35 by Andrew Stephens-Rennie for Come to the Table :: An Evening of Story, Stillness, and Song.

I can see myself on that road
It’s not all that hard
It’s a road I’ve walked
A thousand times
Will walk
a thousand times again
Before I can walk no more

And tonight, standing before you
With you, amongst you
I find myself on that road
A road
Of pain and loss
Of heartache and disappointment
Of unmet expectations
And unrealized dreams…

It’s easy to place myself on that road
Because if I’m honest,
It’s a road I haven’t left in years
I have known pain and loss
Heartache and disappointment
I can tell you a thousand tales
Of unmet expectations
And unrealized dreams

Some days it almost feels
As though I missed the news
The others discovered
When they went to the tomb
And perplexingly found it
Empty

Two creatures in dazzling clothes
Tending to the door
Leaving those who came to it
Terrified. Questioning.
Yet with a strange, astounding
Sense of Gift.
Finding it difficult to believe
What they said,
Asking why they were there looking
For the living
Among the dead

Two creatures in dazzling clothes
daring to suggest
That the tomb’s former inhabitant
Had gone for a walk
And was planning
to tend his garden – of all things —
before returning home…

All of which seems unbelievable
Tho might have been moreso
During last night’s
parade of souls
moving from one door to the next.
Expectant knocking..
Rapt attention and excitement
At the wonder of it all
Of what they would find
On the other side of that door…
But that was last night
And here we are today

In this place,
A motley assortment
All Sinners. All Saints.
All Beloved.

In this place,
the time for masquerade
has passed

I can see myself on that road
And maybe you can too.
Cleopas and his companions
On the road

No towers, no service for miles
No way to receive
Instantaneous updates
Or moments of levity
– cat videos, and the like –
That might jolt us out of the sadness
In which we dwell

The sadness that comes
After it all falls apart,
After everything solid
Melts into air…

The struggle that comes
When there are no guarantees
And there are no guarantees
And there are no guarantees that

All shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well

Breathe.

From behind us on the road
A stranger
Moving at a faster pace
Catching up
Pulling out so as to pass
Quickly. Discretely.
Not wanting to interrupt

Until he finds himself drawn in…

Into our conversation.
Drenched with emotion
Heartache and disappointment
Pain and loss.
Worn on our bewildered sleeves

He cannot pull away
Chooses to stay
To enter in
And in so doing

Takes part of the burden upon himself
Shares the pain.
The sadness.
The upset.
Shares the road.

“What are you discussing with each
other as you go along?”, he asks,

“What could have possibly left you
in such a state?”

Anger wells up
Disbelief too
Ignorant
of all that’s happened
of all this world
has forced us to carry.

For my own part, it all fell apart years ago
When black and white faded to grey
When the stories I’d been told
And the answers I’d been sold
Lost solvency

More bankrupt than any
Political campaign this
World has seen.
And it’s been a long road.
And it’s a long road
And together with the stranger,
we take the long road home.

And it is a long road.
At least it has been for me.
It’s a long road home,
And half the time I don’t feel …

I don’t feel as though I’m there
I don’t feel as though I’m home.

Too many questions.
Too few answers
for a mind
obsessed with certainty.

Which is why the hovering haze
The mist over the mountains
The endless downpour
And the slick city streets
Can have such a profound effect

Keeping my eyes low
to the ground,
focused on my feet,
but rarely
on all that has led me
on all who have accompanied me
to the table.

The stranger walks with me
And talks with me
Reminding me
Subtly,
Slowly at first,
Speaking of all that has been
Of all that has come before

Looping this moment, this trauma
This pain and this loss,
This blow to my faith…
Enfolding it all
in a story far more resilient
Than I’d realized.

I’d always been taught
That the story was leading
To a particular end point
Was pointing to a particular destiny
But what I couldn’t figure out
What I can’t seem to grasp is how.

I’d always been taught that the story was
Pointing forwards, and it was my job
To jump on the track, and run the
Race that had been laid out for me.
Not a sprint
Won with a bolt of speed
But over hill and vale
If only I’d follow the map.

What do you do
When the old maps no longer work?
When the directions and directives
That used to guide you
That used to bring comfort
Lead you into the uncertain wilderness
Far from home?
What do you do
when words of comfort
have turned to pillars of salt
rubbed in deep-felt wounds?

The stranger walks with me
And talks with me.
No line on the horizon
Reframing the story
By which I’d always tried to live.

Reminding me of the many
Who have walked this road before.
Who have worn these same shoes.
Who have confronted the oppression of certainty
With prophetic energy
With fierce poetry
And with lives well lived
In the face of smug condemnation.
I turn around.
Take a moment to bask
In the witness of the saints
Gone before.

The stranger walks with me,
Drawing my attention to
Contours of the story I had
All but forgotten
Stories of the ones who didn’t fit
The mould.

Who called the whole colonizing enterprise
into question
and dared

Dared to suggest a new way forward.
A new future
a new humanity,
and indeed,
a new creation

in which the big story no longer
obscures
or obliterates
the little stories

in which the big story no longer
obscures
or obliterates
my story – or yours

A future in which every story matters.
A present
A gift to live
To live into who we are
who we are becoming

I can see him now,
The stranger on the road,
Turning towards me
Turning towards us
Hearing our stories

The real stories we carry
The real stories we bear
The real stories written

On our arms
Our hearts
Our inmost selves

The stories we tell
no one else

The stories we struggle
to tell ourselves

I can see him now,
The stranger on the road,
Turning towards us and
Reminding us that
Every story matters

That your story matters
And mine does too…

That there are stories
not present in this room
no longer present to us
and that their stories matter too…

Almost too quickly
Almost before I know it
We’re home.

The table is set.
There is bread. And there is wine.
In our midst, brokenness

Right here on this table

There is bread, and wine, blessing, and revelation.
And in this moment I see
Something I dared not see

That in the brokenness
Of this body
Of this heart
Of this community
That in the outpouring of mercy and grace

That in the midst of it all
We are beloved.

Our hearts aflame

And that we will know endless love
In this place.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

Andrew serves on staff at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC as an Assistant for Evangelism & Christian Formation, with primary responsibility for St. Brigids, an emerging Christian community where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.
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2 Responses to “Come to the Table :: A Reflection”

  1. danny

    ??

    Reply

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