Walking with the Risen Christ

Cynthia Briggs Kittredge (@cbkittredge) is the 8th Dean and President of Seminary of the Southwest and professor of New Testament.  Dean Kittredge holds degrees from Williams College and Harvard Divinity School.  

I was ordained on the Wednesday of Easter Week in 1985. The deacon, my friend Louise, processed down the aisle of St. John’s Church in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts and read Luke 24:13-35, the story of how the risen Jesus appeared to two of his former students when they were walking and talking along the road. The man looked like a curious stranger until he began to speak about scripture. He began at the beginning, and he wove the strands together, and he displayed how what they thought was a failed mission was the way it was meant to be. I love imagining Jesus, with all the scripture in his mind and his mouth, juxtaposing the images, sketching the patterns, chanting the prayers, and giving the seminar that elucidated his words about the words on the scroll in the synagogue at Nazareth, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

My friend, Ellen Aitken, and I studied scripture together in graduate school. She writes about this passage:

“Luke’s fine story most likely encapsulates the scriptural practices of the community: their habits of reading the Scriptures of Israel as speaking of Jesus, their traditions of telling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection through he medium of the psalms, the Torah, and the prophets.”1

As the early company of friends read scripture and told stories of Jesus and broke bread together and came to know how Jesus was alive in their midst, so we return again and again to scripture and read it in conversation with our lives. In the early days Luke 24:13-35 evoked my desire to study the bible. I wanted to be able to read a text like this with insight and understanding. I pursued that learning in academic biblical studies in the university. I learned how to interpret also from the experience I had in the congregation and from liturgical life, day by day, week by week, year by year. Over many years my understanding has deepened from reading these texts in the seminary classroom with students again and again. That’s been the process, like for the early church, from book to experience and back to the book. And the goal of that lifelong pursuit, ultimately, has been to feel with my companions our hearts burning within us and to know among us the living Christ.  

1. Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, Loosening the Roots of Compassions: Meditations for Holy Week and Easter (Cambridge, MA: Cowley: 2006) 66.