I like this time of year, and not just because it is Spring and the plants are blooming. I like this time of year because all the scriptures that are read in Church tell stories of Christ walking about after His resurrection, showing up at parties (Luke 24:13-49) and peoples’ places of work (John 21:1-14) and sometimes spooking folks when they thought they were hiding behind locked doors (John 20:19).
I especially like how Jesus is always showing up at meals like some hungry street person – or like that person who is always asking for a bit of your lunch (Luke 24:41). In this way, he is really making sure his disciples heard Him when He told them to share their food, their clothes, and all that. Jesus has a habit of showing up at mealtime and in the middle of your day and whenever He pleases and that is really what the Eucharist (Communion/Lord's Supper) is all about.
I mean that Jesus likes to make Himself known, especially where food is being served and it is this singular drive of His that really birthed all that wonder that happens during Mass/Church with the bread and the wine (or grape juice for all you Methodists out there). I actually wrote my dissertation on this point and could literally go on for hundreds of pages about how wonderful the Eucharist is, and how Christ is always showing up, and how He really just wants us to save Him a seat at the table.
I will spare you.
But what might be worth our consideration is this: What do we do with this God that shows up, asks us if He can eat with us, and then says stuff like “Surely I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20)?
I would suggest using this time of year, when all your quiet times have you reading about what a magnificent party crasher the risen Christ is (Luke 24:30-31, John 21:1-14; Acts 1:4; 10:41; Revelation 3:20; John 20:19; Luke 24:36-49; Matt 28:20), to engage God as Companion.
As far as the practice of “Engaging Mystery” goes, this is as good a time as any to drop (superficially) the whole “mysterious” part of the equation and really work on engaging the terrestrial, human Jesus as friend. There will be times when all the scripture read in Church, etc. is about this big Maker and Mover of mountains and it is good to never forget that part. But for now, the Lectionary gives us human, tangible Jesus and I think we would be remiss if we didn’t spend some time using all of our intention to engage those qualities. Like Martin Buber says, “he is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overwhelms; but he is also the mystery of the obvious that is closer to me than my own self.”
Check out this most beautiful allegory (or is that metaphor) C.S. Lewis paints of companion Christ:
And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.
What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock.
The Thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him…
If the horse had been any good…he would have risked everything on a break away and a wild gallop. But he knew he couldn't make the horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.
"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper.
"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep…
"I can't see you at all," said Shasta after staring very hard. Then he said, almost in a scream, "You're not - not something dead, are you? Oh please - please do go away…"
Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows."
Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the Tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey."
The Voice is obviously separate from Shasta, and so real that he can feel its breath and hear its footsteps. I love this passage because C.S. Lewis depicts the truth of the situation, which is that God has been there all along, waiting for us to speak. He is readily among and alongside all our work - listening, sitting quietly, weeping, rejoicing, and longing to be recognized and invited to participate. The transcendent God is portrayed as a fellow traveler, warm and curious, with an inclined ear and a patient gait.
Now, if you are wondering “how” and thinking that I am filling your head with sentiment and no praxis, I guess I can render a couple of scenarios suggesting what I mean for a person to draw their attention to companion-Christ:
1. Have Christ drive with you to the store. This is quite easy since there is already an empty chair right beside you. If the chair isn’t empty because it is covered in granola bar wrappers and dog toys, clean it (with intention). Once you get to the store, tell Him you don’t know what to do about dinner and that maybe you’ll just pick up a rotisserie chicken…again. Laugh with Him about it.
2. Have Christ there while you pack lunches or change diapers. Complain about how your beautiful blessing of a child sometimes smells like trench warfare.
I know they are absolutely silly examples and your intellectual self feels thoroughly offended. I only mean to activate your own imagination and help you see a glimpse of what I mean “to engage God as companion.” Simply remember that Christ has the habit of showing up right in the middle of your monotony. All the scripture this time of year points to this Truth, so just go ahead and get into it. Sit with Him, Eat with Him, Work with Him. Draw your attention to that which is already with you, among you, in you. Listen quietly. Speak boldly. Be friendly. He is, He does, and together...you are.
I leave you with yet another person's thoughts:
[bra_blockquote align='left']"He [Christ] led me on to understand that the sign of bread testified to his hidden presence, not only during the Great Sacrifice, but at all times, since the Eucharist was not an isolated moment in my day, but a line which stretched over twenty-four hours: he is God-with-us... I must emphasize that this vital realization that the sign of bread concealed and pointed out for me the uninterrupted presence of Jesus beside me was a unique grace in my life. From that moment he led me along the path to intimacy, friendship with himself. I understood that he longed to be present like this beside each one of us. Jesus was not only bread, he was friend. A home without bread is not a home, but a home without friendship is nothing. That is why Jesus became a friend...I learned to stay with him for hours on end, listening to the mysterious voices that welled up from the abysses of Being and receive the rays of that light whose source was in the uncreated light of God." In Search of the Beyond, Carlo Carretto [/bra_blockquote]