Into the Unknown


Scripture and Meditation            

HL Holder-Brown

Sermon Given via Zoom for Jubilee Baptist Church

Lectio Divina: Close your eyes for a moment while I read this passage. I want you to try putting yourself into the story and use your senses. 

Luke 24:13-35

The Walk to Emmaus

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[f] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[g] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[h] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[i] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[j] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[k] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The Word of God for the people of God

Thanks be to God


Into the Unknown

“These are unprecedented times…” – literally everyone.

How many times have you heard that sentence or something similar over the past few months and weeks? If you’re like me, you’re either tired of that phrase or terrified because everything changes from day to day and it’s scary. Change is scary. Grief is scary. These are the emotions I feel when I read this passage. 

Today in our story these disciples of Jesus are traveling to Emmaus from Jerusalem. This in-between place is where they call home. There were several towns called Emmaus in this part of the world so scholars aren’t exactly sure where This Emmaus is located. Our only clue is that it’s near Jerusalem.

The city of Emmaus is an in-between place. It’s not the final destination. It’s sort of the middle of nowhere on the way to where you really want to go. Imagine again with me. All your friends are hiding, isolating themselves in grief and afraid for their lives. But you–you choose to process it in your own way. You’ve gone to Jerusalem and heard stories that the friend you’ve lost might be alive. 

And then…Jesus appears to grieving people walking home. It’s like a scene out of Lord of the Rings almost. You know, the one where Gandalf appears to Hobbits and brings them comfort when he was previously presumed to be dead. Jesus shows up on the road to Emmaus but he isn’t recognized. I guess you could say death and resurrection change a person? Jesus also asks Cleopas what has been going on and why they look so sad? It’s not every day you rise from the dead and get to talk to your friends about it.

So, there’s a series of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy where they deal with losing their friend and fellow Doctor, George O’Malley dies tragically. The doctors were treating their friend who was unrecognizable because of his injuries and finally, someone recognizes him even though he doesn’t look like himself and can’t talk.

In these few episodes, all the main characters walk us through their stages of grief. The theory of the Five Stages of Grief comes from an American-Swiss psychiatrist namedDr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. 

The thing about these Stages of grief  is that they aren’t linear; they’re cyclical and you can be experiencing more than one at a time. Also, you don’t experience them in order. 

Maybe you’re experiencing

Denial or…





Maybe you’re experiencing all of these at once.


I know we’re in a season of Easter where we should be celebrating hope! And Resurrection. I want to draw our attention to those things too. But I also don’t want us to miss this experience Jesus has with his grieving disciples. He gives them time to process what has just happened and THEN he provides them with comfort. It isn’t until he is breaking bread with them that they recognize him. 

I’ve heard so many sermons on this passage pondering what it was that made Cleopas and the other disciple recognize Jesus. One theory is that they recognized Jesus in the breaking of bread because they had so many meals with him before. They KNEW him. He was their friend and this was something they missed doing with their friend. Much like today, where we are separated from one another and miss sharing meals and stories together in person. Even though we’re not grieving the loss of a friend, like these disciples, we’re certainly grieving time together and that is a process. 

Unlike the story of Thomas and the other disciples, they don’t get a chance to really talk to Jesus before he disappears! He gets whisked away as if by some magic and then reappears when they’ve met up with friends again in Jerusalem to talk about their experience.

So, what’s the point? I could tell you that because Jesus conquered death through rising from the dead that we should be comforted because sickness and death don’t have the final say. I could tell you we’re all going to get through this together! But the realist and the cynic in me tells me that’s not what you want to hear right now. I could say, one day this will all be over and we will be together again. And that’s true. I also know we’ve lost so many lives tragically and I want to acknowledge that. So now what. I don’t have any warm fuzzies from this passage other than I look forward to reuniting with all of you and I miss you. We will be together again soon. Amen.

Show Me the Scars


[Image of Mary Magdalene telling the disciples Christ was risen while they stand apart from her in silence.]

John 20:24-29

Reflections on the Resurrection at midnight on Easter because I have insomnia

When I was six years old, I got my first scar. My first grade class was lining up to go back inside from recess. I remember what jacket I was wearing–it was a pink and teal windbreaker because it was cold. And because it was the 90s. I had a red turtleneck and jeans. I remember that it was really cold that day.

As I ran to line up, my foot caught a crack in the sidewalk and I fell head first into a brick wall, leaving a gash on my head right above my right eye. My teacher Mrs. Bray freaked out and called my mother to come get me. As we held ice over my eye once I got home, my mom called my dad who took me to the emergency room where I got seven stitches. I still have a scar across my right eyebrow almost 23 years later. Scars have memories. We all have stories of how we got them and why. 

Coincidentally, also in 1st grade, The Lion King was my favorite movie and my family still calls me Scar every now and then. 

There was also this guy named Thomas who followed Jesus around. He was a little obsessed with scars too. When his friend Jesus died and all the disciples said he came back from the dead, Thomas naturally demanded proof it was really him: “Show me the scars.”

Scars are also a memory of trauma the body has endured. Jesus’ body had endured one of the worst deaths imaginable and he had the scars to prove it. The trauma didn’t go away just because he was alive again. Scars bear witness. 

When a trans person undergoes gender affirming surgery, they are proud of their scars. The scars bear witness of the lengths they have gone to in order to be themselves. I plan on having surgery to remove my breasts and have a flat chest. I can’t wait to have two horizontal lines across my chest that symbolize the journey I’ve been on. Scars show us who we are. 

[Image Description: The new Image {on the right} by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin is of three people leaning in to look at the chest of a fourth person holding open their shirt. They are looking down at their chest which reveals scars from top surgery. The finger of one of the other people is pointing to/just touching the scars on the chest. This is a play off of the old “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” painting wherein three men leaning in to look at the bare chest of Jesus post-resurrection. “Doubting Thomas” has his finger inside the wound on Jesus’ chest from a spear.] Originally seen on“>Facebook on enfleshed.

Thomas said he wouldn’t believe Jesus was really back unless he could put his hands on the scars Jesus had from being crucified. Jesus’ scars were still fresh–he was three days dead and newly resurrected scars don’t heal quite that fast, I’m assuming. But scars show us we are real. That our bodies can bear pain and survive it. 

The resurrection reminds us that the impossible can happen and that there is hope. It doesn’t take the trauma, pain, or scars away. I used to think the hope of the resurrection was that death is not the end. And it is. It gives us something to hope for but it sounds impossible. I think what we learn from Jesus’ scarred body is that the resurrection shows us that death still happens but it doesn’t destroy us. 

For every queer/trans person who’s ever drowned in a sea of doubt, who has ever left scars on their own body because they weren’t sure they could be loved for who they were, this story is for you. Jesus said “This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” We remember the scars that show us who we are and we remember that we are more than what has broken us. Amen.

No One Should Die Alone

301B3712-AD0B-4365-92D1-BD78012DF368A grieving, angry meditation for Good Friday

Mark 15:33-47

Jesus’ friends watched him die. 

‪People talk about letting themselves grieve what this pandemic took from them. Ya know, I finally found an amazing faith community/friends where I could be myself. And now. I can’t be with those people. And that’s what I’m grieving because this is the first time in my life I’ve had that. And I’m fucking pissed about it. 

Today is Good Friday, the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus, the man who claimed to be the Son of God. The hero of our story fucking dies. Our heroes aren’t supposed to die and leave us staring into the darkness after we’ve watched him bleed out and struggle to breathe. I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to know that the phrase “We did all we could” doesn’t help in a time like this. When the guy you’ve been following around for several years gets crucified…

How do we sit with that? Peter and company ran away and hid. John the beloved stays beside Jesus’ mother as she grieves. Mary Magdalene in this particular account stays and watches him die and watches where his body is laid to rest so she can anoint him. What’s it like watching your best friend die? Or having one friend betray you and sell you out for a few pieces of silver, another pretends he doesn’t even know you to protect himself.

There’s not anything fair about death and grief. They fucking suck. We’ve seen so many reports of people dying from COVID-19. Many of them are dying alone because family members aren’t allowed to be with them. Dying is awful enough; dying alone is absolutely tragic. There are so many lonely people out there right now having to live in isolation. I miss being with my friends. I miss being with my faith community. I miss the laughter and moments shared in a room full of people who care deeply for one another. I’m an introvert of the introverts with social anxiety that’s off the charts, and I still need people. Everything is hard. Everything takes so much more energy. We’re all so very tired. So tired of watching people die. Especially when it’s because of lack of access to medical care and supplies that everyone should have but doesn’t because there are selfish people and power hungry government leaders. I digress. Or maybe…this is exactly what I should be talking about. 

So Jesus dies. Actually, Jesus is murdered. Executed by the State for daring to challenge the status quo and threatening us all with a good time where we love one another and treat each other well. Even Jesus asks why God has forsaken him. He dies but he doesn’t die alone.

At some point in our lives, if it hasn’t already happened already, we will witness death. And at some point, all of us will experience death personally. Death is personal, is what I’m trying to say. But it’s also communal. No one should die alone. At the end of his life, Jesus’ friends showed up and witnessed death with him. They stayed with him even though there was this separation. They showed up, they stayed, they buried their friend and took care of him in death just as they did in life. 

Good Friday isn’t just about death. Ok, it’s mostly about death, but death doesn’t have to be the end of the road. May we walk with one another through life and through death. And may we all participate in life with one another even from a distance. 

The Dinner Party Before the Storm


April 7, 2020

Devotion written for Jubilee Baptist Church for Holy Week

John 12:1-11

It’s the Tuesday of Holy Week as I’m writing this. Last time we were with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Lazarus had just died. This time Jesus is hanging out with his friends, and as the writer of John notes, “Jesus came to Bethany the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” In case anyone reading it forgot, John wants us to remember this detail. Oh, you remember Lazarus right? The guy Jesus raised from the dead! Yes, how could we forget. As if that weren’t strange enough, Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and Judas Iscariot throws a hissy fit because the perfume is really expensive. Jesus is about to die (as he tells his disciples repeatedly) and Judas is worried about Mary’s spending habits. 

What I think is so interesting about this is that Jesus knows his death is near, and he lets his friends throw him a party that attracts the attention of the religious leaders and crowds because of Lazarus being alive again. And of course, the religious leaders want to kill not only Jesus but also Lazarus for attracting too much attention by being alive instead of dead. Oops. 

Holy Week is a time when we reflect on not just the life of Jesus but the week he was betrayed, murdered by the Romans, and miraculously comes back to life. It’s usually a time when we can gather together to reflect on the events that lead to Jesus’ death and resurrection, but these are strange times. These are “unprecedented times” as we’ve all heard way too many times on the news. I wish I could tell you it is all going to be better soon or offer a cliche of it will get worse before it gets better. 

Let’s be honest, these aren’t just unprecedented times, these are scary times. I look at this passage and see a celebration right before Jesus’ friends and disciples are grief stricken and either hiding or preparing his body for burial. They didn’t know what was going to happen next but they were making the best of it. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We do know we’re a community that gets through things together even when we are apart. Perhaps I cannot say everything will be “back to normal” soon. I can say, whatever happens, you are not alone. Whatever this Holy Week brings, whatever else this pandemic brings, we are not alone.