FROM THE CURATE’S HOUSE — Andrea and I were students together. After a lengthy session of putting the world to rights one night, Andrea said, “Well that’s a pretty big pile of iron filings we’ve made.” I was baffled. She told me about Proverbs 27:17 where we are told that as iron sharpens iron, so friend sharpens friend. Andrea’s theory was that any time that happened, there must be a pile of iron filings left over!
One of the most cherished stories we have of Easter season is a tale of two friends, travelling from Jerusalem to their home village. This is a wretched return to Emmaus for them, walking the lonely seven miles, reflecting sadly about all that had happened in the last few days. They had pinned their hopes on something that was now shattered and broken. These two friends were part of the Jesus movement that scattered in disarray as the torrent of events rushed onwards from Maundy Thursday evening to sundown on Good Friday. No wonder they were talking with each other about everything that had happened, as they trudged home. At least they had each other.
As these two friends talked together, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them. Although they were kept from recognising him, it’s as if their conversation has summoned him, compelled him to draw near. That’s actually hardly surprising, for Jesus himself had said that where two or three gathered together in his name, he would be there in the middle of it.
These two friends on the Emmaus Road give us a picture of our lives as pilgrims, telling us that “we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ” (Eugene Peterson). The Emmaus Road challenges us though to see that this pilgrimage is something we undertake in community, in relationship with others. The two walk together and make room for a third. At the story’s climax, they then rush back to Jerusalem to tell the wider group of friends what they have discovered about the risen Jesus in the midst of their friendship. And in the upper room in Jerusalem, as they all talked together, they found the story was deeper and more glorious than they had dared imagine. And while they were together, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Things shattered were restored and that which was broken was made whole.
Poet Wendell Berry gives us the enigmatic yet seasonal instruction to practise resurrection. I believe that our friendships are a good place to start. We need to practise resurrection in our relationships. We need to build bridges of friendship that are strong enough for Jesus to walk across. That was the idea behind the name I chose for the Christian group in my secondary school: The Bridge Club. In retrospect this may have been a mistake, because the posters were always being defaced with the words Poker and Blackjack scrawled over the word Bridge in marker pen, but the name still spoke of how important friendship is. Relationships, whether deepened, widened, renewed, initiated or repaired, all carry the same explosive potential – that they will tell the story of resurrection to a world hungry for the hope that things shattered can be restored and that which is broken can yet be made whole.