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April 4, 2008
The Worst of Times

They stood still, looking sad.
Luke 24:17a

There is a stillness to all sorrow. It is immobilizing, whether it is the wistful sadness of a loss that fits all too well into the scheme of life's expected events, the harsh grief of a sudden and unnatural one or the mocking paralysis of a depression that carries with it no narrative that would help it make sense. We can't move when sorrow holds us, and we don't even want to.

In this condition, we sense no internal force that would help us begin to move again. Nothing within us sparks action; it feels as if we could just stand there forever. That the world goes on about us annoys us faintly, and saddens us still further; how can people shop and drink and laugh and keep appointments? Will I ever do all those things again, in that light-hearted way? Impossible, we think. Henceforth, I will have weight and take up space and that's it, and eventually I will disappear. And that will be a good thing.

They had been walking and talking. At least they had been moving. Where were they going, only three days after their world crumbled? Where, and why were they going? Was something within them trying to heal, lobbying for health and motion again, impelling them to get outside into the sun? Maybe we'll feel better if we walk for a while, they might have said, get the blood circulating a little. Or maybe they lived in Emmaus, and they were going home.

And someone came and asked them to tell him everything. And they stood still, looking sad. It crashed in upon them all over again, when they had to recite it. But their tale kept the stranger with them, long enough for them to feel a stirring of love toward him, whoever he was. Long enough for them to invite him to dinner. The rest, we know.

You never know what will end it. What will help you begin to turn around. Sometimes the most you can know, at the worst of times, is that it will not always be like this.

And here is the ERD meditation:

Walking and Talking

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. Luke 24:35

They must have talked and talked, as they walked along -- it helps to talk, sometimes, when something terrible happens, and something terrible certainly had happened. Soon, they had a receptive hearer: the curious stranger who joined them on their way. So they told their story again. Later on, they would tell it again, this time to their friends back in Jerusalem, who, by then, would have a story of their own to tell.

People need to talk when important things happen. We must make a story out of the events in our lives, discern the manner in which they fit together, or the randomness of life overwhelms us. And, when terrible things happen -- even life-threatening things, physical things, events demanding a practical and immediate response -- we continue to need to make a story of it in order to get through it.

The bustling city of Atlanta was shocked two weeks ago when violent tornadoes ripped through many of its neighborhoods, destroying 75 homes and many other structures, rendering more than 250 people suddenly in need of everything. With the support of Episcopal Relief and Development, the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is working with the Red Cross to provide shelter, hot meals, a ride to work and other emergency needs to those displaced by the destruction of their homes.

It's a debit card system -- Atlanta is a modern city, with plenty of places that take plastic. But the church volunteers who manage the distribution of the cards find that those who must ask for them need more than a card and a smile: they need to talk, to tell what they have lost, where they were when it happened, what's ahead in the weeks and months to come. They need to talk as much as they need the other things they need. So do other people in other Georgia communities. It's a good thing there are lots of diocesan volunteers.

They two men walked and talked, and then they walked and talked with their new friend. Then they knew him, when they ate with him. But they still needed to talk -- to each other, to their friends, and, across the centuries, to us.

To learn about ERD or to make a donation, visit,org or telephone 1-800-334-7626.
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