I learned many Bible stories by watching movies in Sunday school. They were those old-fashioned movies, shown on a reel-to-reel projector, that tried to portray the stories as some Cecil B. DeMille wannabe imagined they took place. They were seldom more than a few steps grander than the local Christmas pageant; most of the disciples basically wore fancy bathrobes.
From Easter morning until Ascension Thursday, Jesus is present and absent, enfleshed and distant, there and not there. He breaks bread and disappears. He shows up like a ghost, and then eats fish like everyone else. At the end of the story he blesses them, and then he withdraws.
It’s striking that the disciples’ response, rather than to be confused or bothered by this yes and no of resurrection, is to head back to Jerusalem and worship with great joy. I think I would have wanted more.
I have been preparing to walk across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, a journey that pilgrims have made for a thousand years. In order to break in my hiking boots, I’ve been walking through Atlanta. I expected to notice neighborhoods and neighbors in new ways, and to find little places of sacred rest.
At a recent wedding, I watched a mother try to lure her little boy onto the dance floor. She invited him to dance to a slow song, and then tried again when a fast song was played. She winked and cajoled; she pretended to be sad dancing alone; she pretended she was dancing while he stood on her feet. But he wouldn’t dance.