The best part of my Easter celebration was the meal with my immediate family. Earlier we had worshipped with our church family and exchanged greetings of “Happy Easter,” but somehow participating in worship felt like work. Even though we were garbed in our new Easter dresses, the day did not feel festive.

Once we were home, I put the rolls in the oven while the girls set the table with the wedding china. I poured icy glasses of sweet tea and filled with table with food. We sat together, held hands, and started sharing. In that moment, I recognized the joy of Easter. I felt the presence of community and the connectedness of people who know me. All day I had longed for the revelation of community, and here it was.

Like most churches, our gospel lesson for the Sunday after Easter was Luke’s account of the road to Emmaus. Still trying to reconcile why I did not experience the risen Christ in our worship at church, I began preparing my Sunday school lesson plan. As I read the passage, I commiserated with the two friends on the road to Emmaus. They were friends of Jesus who had dressed up and shown up. They had been in Jerusalem for Passover and then present for Jesus’ death and burial. They had hoped for Jesus to be the Messiah. On the third day after his death, they decided to seek community and condolences elsewhere, particularly Emmaus.

The friends wanted to experience the risen Christ just as I had hoped for a joyous experience of abundant life. They had looked for Jesus in the place where they expected him to be and not finding him, they decided to move on. Even though Jesus had shared the journey with the friends, they did not recognize him until he sat at table with them.

Like the friends, I looked and looked for the risen Lord on Easter morning in the place I expected him. Then I gave up and headed out. I had marked the day up to “an Easter that just didn’t connect with me.” And then I sat down with Doug, Eve, and Audrey, and we asked the blessing, passed the rolls, and shared our stories. In that moment, I recognized the joy of the risen Christ. An immense peace settled over me as I shared food with the ones I love and who love me. Jesus was at table with us and I recognized him.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.