A peculiar thing happened this past spring. After dropping two of my children off for a monthly zoology class at a medium-size zoo in the middle of Massachusetts, I strolled to a nearby nature preserve with my toddler. Moss-covered rock walls outlined sleepy, green meadows, and robins dug for worms in clusters of daffodils. An expansive, white farmhouse accompanied by a red barn sat on a hillside in the distance. Chattering squirrels, twittering songbirds, and water babbling over rocks in a swollen stream were the only competition for the whispering wind. The landscape was so serene, so quintessentially New England, that I felt as if I had stepped into an 18th century painting.
Then, just when I was feeling most relaxed; a thunderous boom ending in a snarl shattered our tranquil stroll. So forceful and foreign was the noise that I instinctively snatched up my toddler and darted for the cover of the nearest tree. My imagination ran wild as I frantically scanned the peaceful countryside for what could have possibly made such a shocking sound. Not until the blast reverberated around us for a second time, however, did my intellect catch up with my imagination. I had been so immersed in the splendor of a New England spring, that I had completely forgotten that my toddler and I were wandering around less than a half mile from the zoo, which houses wild animals from every continent on the planet.
As it turned out, my imagination had been correct. It had been the roar of a lion, an obviously hungry, but hopefully still-caged lion, that had unsettled our stroll through the countryside. The experience was a good reminder that things aren’t always as they appear to be, or as the saying goes, that there is often more to a situation than meets the eye, or in this case, than meets the ears. God’s presence among us on earth is one of those.
In Luke 24:13-35 we are told that Jesus, after His death and on the day of His resurrection, joined two of His followers on the road to Emmaus, but that they did not immediately recognize Him. It was not until He broke bread with them, that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” As those believers strolled through the countryside with Jesus, things were not as they appeared to be. Jesus was not dead as they supposed, His body had not been stolen from the grave as they feared, nor was all hope of Israel’s redemption lost. In fact it was just the opposite. Jesus was right there walking beside them, and Israel had on that very day been redeemed.
As we leave the Easter season behind and enter Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar, it is good for us to remember that even if the church building is not bedecked in Advent blues or Lenten purples, even if it doesn’t physically appear to be so, Jesus is still here with us. You know, especially with all that is going on outside the church building these days — the continued unrest in the Middle East, tension in our own families, a troubling economy, etc. — it is important to hold on to the truth that God is still here with us.
As physical creatures, we tend to go with the maxim that “seeing is believing”, but wasn’t Jesus still Jesus even before the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus recognized Him? Wasn’t there a lion only a half-mile from where my toddler and I were strolling even before we heard him roar? Are not the natural forces of gravity, magnetism, and love real, powerful, and influential even though completely invisible? All of these are good analogies to God’s supernatural presence in our world. He is here with us, real, powerful, and influential, even if unable to be detected by the naked eye.
This summer I hope you will keep watch, use your spiritual intellect, and not be deceived by appearances, because it won’t be just your imagination that God is trying to show you his love. It will be as true as my hearing a lion’s roar while strolling through a quintessential New England countryside.