Rev. George Miller
August 30, 2020
Luke 24:13-16, 28-35
We may not like them. They may make us uncomfortable. They can undo the very fabric of our lives.
Like it or not, revolutions happen.
In fact, we’re going through one right now. The signs are all around us.
Change is happening. How this change will be remembered, only time can tell.
Part of the current revolution is the way history is being revisited.
Some say history is being erased, but that is not the case. The history that’s been taught has often been told from the dominant view.
There are large swaths of that which has gone silenced, unreported, yet known by those who were there, and passed their stories on.
Now the internet and the inclusion of diversity has made way for those missing pieces of historic tales to find their way back into the narrative quilt of our country.
We’re beginning to remember those things we didn’t know we forgot.
Revolutions become even more revolutionary when we rediscover the missing voices.
For example, the Gay Rights Movement is often pictured with white men. Truthfully, it was begun when a black trans woman named Martha P. Johnson was at Stonewall and said “no” to injustice.
The Women’s Rights Movement may make us think of Gloria Steinem but we often miss the lesbian presence of trailblazers like Del Martin.
The Civil Rights Movement lifts up MLK, but ignored his right-hand man, Bayard Rustin, because he was gay.
Then we have the Women’s Suffragette Movement. The women who fought for justice while being told they had to be mindful of their men’s sensitivities.
They were dismissed as a “petticoat government,” compared to sirens, ignored like the Canaanite woman.
Not to be dismissed, the women boldly marched, showing off their petticoats. Instead of being silenced, they loudly raised their voices even more.
Refusing to be ignored, one mom told her son how to vote. “A mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow,” said the son, “and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.”
Unfortunately, the presence of black women in the suffragette movement was left out in the storytelling. Women like Frances Harper and Juno Pierce.
Revolutions are revolutionary when we reclaim the missing voices.
Thanks to the inclusion of voices that are female, black, brown, gay, trans, interfaith, differently abled, indigenous, we’re hearing history from the many, instead of just one.
Filling in the gaps we didn’t even know were there, making sure we’re seeing the full quilt stitched with the names of Marsha P. Johnson, Ivy Bottini, Bayard Rustin, and Ida B. Wells.
Revolutions are revolutionary when we resurrect the missing voices. Christianity is no different.
With its believers calling one another Sister and Brother, seeing themselves as Citizens of Heaven, followers of Christ were revolutionary. So revolutionary they were lied about, chased out of town, called threatening.
You know you’re doing something right when the powers-that-be try to silence your presence.
But, as with every revolution, to gain traction, there were the stories and figures that were hidden. Women almost became invisible.
There’s Thecla, a missionary force of the early church who was right up there with Paul, sharing the Gospel and overcoming the tyranny of her day.
The editors of the Bible left her out, making her only known to those who do the research or say to their Pastor “Why aren’t we learning about her.”
Mary Magdalene who was right there at the empty tomb. At one point folk followed her as the head of the church, until Peter’s side prevailed, silenced her presence, and shamed her with a made-up back-story.
Then, we have today’s story. It’s Easter evening. 2 folks are somberly walking into the sunset.
A stranger appears, asking why so glum. They tell of Jesus’ death and the news that his tomb is now empty.
The stranger talks with the two about scripture and prophecy. When they arrive at their home, they invite him in for supper. As he takes the bread, breaks it, they realize it’s Jesus, and the news about his resurrection is true.
Filled with joy they run back to Jerusalem and share their testimony.
Well, what does this have to do with women and Women’s Equality? There are 3 things to discuss.
1st- when the women at the tomb had told their story, it was dismissed as an idle tale, so they were not believed.
2nd- back then a woman’s testimony was not welcome in a court of law nor seen as valid. Testimony only mattered if it came from a man.
3rd- when Luke was written, it was common practice to not refer to the name of a spouse. When a story about two people appeared, and only one male name is given, it was assumed the other person was his wife.
Read Luke 24, you’ll see that there are two people walking on the road to Emmaus. One is named Cleopas; it appears they live in the same home.
Once the man’s name is mentioned, we never hear it again. Everything these travelers do is referred to as “they”, “we”, “us”, and “our.”
Meaning that although we can’t be 100% sure, it is safe to ascertain that according to the literally custom of the day, this story of the Resurrected Christ happens to both a man and a woman.
They speak as one, are perceived as equals, and share in their testimony.
Think of how radical this is; what happens if we take this bit of material and put it into the quilt of our faith.
Women didn’t just find the tomb empty, there’s a probability that a woman was among the first to experience and testify to the news of Christ’s resurrection, at a time when female voices were not to be believed.
Who knows- perhaps it really was SHE who did all the talking; Cleopas was only there to ensure she was believed, making him the prop of the story!
Is it possible this scripture has been viewed wrong for all these years and just now we’re finally hearing the truth because we have welcomed in all the other voices that were once ignored?
You may be thinking “What does any of this matter if we’ll never know for sure because she’s not given a name?”
Maybe there’s another approach.
What if Luke intentionally didn’t tell us the name of Cleopas’ companion, because YOU are that companion.
What if in a meta-physical way, Luke is telling us that WE are ALL on the Road to Emmaus and therefore WE are ALL witnesses to the resurrection?
Aren’t we all travelers of some sort?
Don’t we all know what it is like to walk in darkness? Don’t we all know what it’s like to be scared and unsure?
Don’t we all know how hard it is to believe something good right after something devastating has transpired?
Maybe YOU are Cleopas’ companion.
Maybe Luke is telling us that YOU are there to witness the Resurrected Christ. That whenever you reflect, whenever you remember, YOU are part of the revolution.
When you welcome the stranger. When you feed someone. When you break bread.
YOU are welcoming the resurrected Christ even if you don’t realize it, even if our eyes don’t see.
By not telling us the name of the 2nd person, we can become that person.
Which means that on the road to Emmaus, Millie, you are there. Evelyn, you are there. Fae, you are there.
Nancy, you are there. Diane, you are there. Ruthie, you are there. Marg, you are there. Kathryn, up in Ohio, you are there. Carnide, you are there.
Every woman, every man, every child, every adult is there, each with their own testimony to share.
Though we may feel sad, surrounded by darkness, when we remember, when we welcome, when we share, we are there, and so is Christ.
THAT is so revolutionary and beautiful to believe.
We began our month exploring how women have had to reclaim their inheritance, been mistreated, abused, called names, ignored.
But now we end by placing all women, upon that road to Emmaus, beside the risen Christ, equals and partners, witnesses, and way-makers.
And our world is the better because of it.
In Christ, the Resurrection Revolution continues.