“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
During my walks, I’ve begun to notice birds; the woodpecker hammering a dead tree (instead of my house); the goldfinch fluttering about the wild raspberry bush; the blue jay swooping onto the steady oak branch; the robin pecking for worms in the spongy moss. And I am realizing that they are returning after a long winter. Each year they do return, bringing signs of the impending change.
In this series, we’ve been considering Belgian theologian Edward Schillebeeckx’s claim that the Emmaus Road narrative in Luke 24 is the essential Scripture for our current cultural moment. As I lead the Journey Academy community and consider what might be wise for the road ahead, I am finding myself agreeing more and more with Schillebeecx.
The disciples notice signs around them: a powerful prophet speaking and doing, a hasty middle-of-the-night arraignment and rapid execution, the confusion of a vacant tomb, an encounter with angelic beings and a staggering report of a living Jesus. Nate Silver writes, “The signal is the truth. The noise is what distracts us from the truth.” The disciples are trying to sort through possible noise to find the truth. In our post-truth moment of so many competing stories, it is hard for me, like these disciples, to discern in who and what to place my hope.
John Piper describes biblical hope as, “a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.” He distinguishes biblical hope from a more common Webster’s sense of an uncertain wish. Hope is grounded in faith. Piper attempts to distinguish his definition with “confident expectation.” This understanding of hope relates to the Journey community’s value of courage. Confident expectation is complemented by a courage that acts upon and with this expectation in the midst of not knowing fully.
Adding to Piper’s efforts with reasoned exposition, Emily Dickinson suggests a more intuitive picture of hope in her poem “Hope” is the thing with feathers. Dickinson portrays how hope perches, keeping us warm even in the chillest lands. LIke the thing with feathers, it comes alongside of us in our storms. With this perching, there are times when we can’t even hope. I still remember in our dear family friend’s difficult season how my wife Jenn memorably declared “we are going to hold hope in your place, when it seems impossible to hope.”
In looking at the road ahead, one of our vital practices is reflecting on where we’ve traveled as individuals and as a school community. At Journey, we have learned a great deal over this initial season of distance learning. We have learned the value of common technology and communication platforms as well as schedules to minimize confusion for parents at home. To this end, Ms. Sarah and Miss Cheryl will be aligning what they are doing across studios. We’ve also learned the value of clear and focused check-ins with guides and will be laying out our schedules to insure these will happen as well as allow for additional check-ins to support heroes. We have learned there is a need for more manipulatives and concrete Montessori activities to support our younger learners. Ms. Sarah and Ms. Denice are developing a materials library that we would like to pilot for this next quest. We are learning how to improve our efforts with our youngest heroes through the sharing of best practices in the Acton Network as well as the larger early-learning Montessori conversation. We have learned more about making engaging quests with opportunities to do hands-on and out of the house activities. And perhaps most importantly, we have learned about the value of creating spaces and times for connection with other heroes in structured yet playful ways like Virtual PE and prayer.
In this section of the Emmaus story, there is what John Mark Comer calls the sharpest rebuke of Jesus. As the disciples are trying to process the immensity of their moment, Jesus says, “How foolish you are. How slow to believe.” They weren’t remembering the whole story. I imagine him reminding them of the stories; stories like Shadrach, Meshech and Abnego showing what Nebuchadnezzar called “a son of the gods” (i.e. whom scholars call the pre-incarnate Jesus) walking with others in the midst of the fiery furnace; stories like the man of sorrow well acquainted with grief bringing redemption through suffering. Awash in perspectives and opinions, Jesus came to them with the larger and more compelling story that points to His long-foretold mission to rescue the world. This is the source of Piper’s confident expectation.
At Journey Academy, we have hope. We are remembering what He has done and what we confidently expect that He will do. And there are signs in the midst of this moment; playful, joyful signs that fill us with courage that God is doing something in our midst and that He will continue to do something this fall.
On Friday, we had a drive-by exhibition in our parking lot where heroes got to “show what they know” about the moon. Presented by Galerie de Journee, the exhibition was titled “Over the Moon: an installation of science, writing and art.” The gallery curator, Monsieur Antoine,
welcomed families in their cars explaining to them how they could experience the exhibition in a socially distant way as they viewed art from the safety of their cars and scanned QR codes to listen to the astronomer/artists read their writing and reflection about the moon.
Jacob, one of our youngest heroes who joined us in February, composed a playful spoken word piece reflecting on the moon and in the process giving me hope to continue in this calling of Journey Academy’s attempt to change the world. Watching families circle the parking lot, I saw them put their cars into park, engage with the visual art and scan the QR code. Each time, they reached Jacob’s installation, they were surprised by the bass line paired with his vibrant lunar declarations. “The moon is so pretty!” As heads started to bob along with the beat, we saw heroes on a journey learning, creating and reminding us to hope.
Hope comes in the midst of repurposing and discovering. I thought cross-stitch was relegated to inspirational phrasing framed on my grandmother’s kitchen wall. But Sloane’s art about the moon reclaims and represents some of her learning in an unexpected revelation of heroes on a journey, learning, creating and reminding us to hope.
Charlie’s fresh work with paper mache created a distinctive, personified and friendly moon that had many exhibition goers pausing. Like Eun Sub Cho taught the heroes in the ecology quest, we were looking, then observing, then seeing. Charlie’s art helped us to pay attention and we noticed a hero on a journey, learning, creating and reminding us to hope.
And so we move into our early summer break before the final quest of the school year. We are already looking to fall. This will be our on-going task at Journey for the next couple months. But we will remember this Friday May 22, 2020 at 3:00p. There are signs to which we will pay attention. The light reflects off our moment suggesting a source of illumination and warmth, like some full moon hanging over the trees. We will remember.