Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-- BCP, page 225
Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:24-30;
1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
This may be the boldest collect yet for Eastertide. Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus, the Christ, ...that we may steadfastly follow his steps. Wow. It asks not that we may believe things about Jesus but that we may so perfectly know him as to be able to follow him.
And how may we do that? How can we know Jesus like that?
In Luke 24:13-35, Jesus, disguised as a stranger, meets two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus on the evening of Easter Day and speaks to them as they walk. In the story, Jesus opened the Scriptures to them, so they could begin to appreciate the pattern central to true life-suffering, death, and resurrection-that the Messiah would reveal.
(Messiah, by the way, is the Hebrew word that means "anointed." Its Greek counterpart is the word Christ.)
We are told that though their hearts were burning inside them, they did not know that it was Jesus. The story goes on to tell us that when they reached Emmaus the disciples insisted that the stranger stay the night with them, even though he looked like he was going to keep on walking. It was while he broke the bread at table with them that their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
He then vanished from their sight and they rushed back to Jerusalem that very hour to tell all the others.
Here is the thing: None of this would have happened had they not insisted that the stranger stay with them.
Our own Carol Sethman pointed this out to me in a conversation a couple of years ago: it was their compassionate action, it was their hospitality to the stranger, it was their insistence that he not spend the night walking in the dark, that gave those disciples the opportunity to know Jesus in the opening of Scriptures and the breaking of the Bread.
How do we know Jesus? By doing acts of compassion.
Compassion is the gate to perfect knowledge of Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. Compassion is not a sequel to knowing Jesus; it is the entryway. Orthodoxy follows Orthopraxis. Right believing follows from right doing. Ours is a hands-on faith, not a set of statements tucked away in a dusty book. Begin by loving the neighbor and you and I will come to the perfect knowledge of the Christ.
Begin by doing that which upholds the dignity and worth of the person in front of you.
Compassion is concrete, not abstract.
Direct and immediate, not postponed to a better time or more appropriate moment. Compassion is embodied behavior, not pure thought.
Knowing by doing. Embodied knowledge.
Rolling up our sleeves and engaging in acts of compassion: This also is, as Eugene Peterson would say, to practice resurrection.
Under the Mercy,