Sunday, April 19, 2015

He Follows You


You're never walking alone. 

Luke 24:32

New International Version (NIV)
32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Have you ever wanted to know something, but were just too afraid to ask?

As a kid, we want to know if we can do something or go somewhere, but we don't ask because we are afraid mom or dad will tell us exactly what we don't want to hear. We think we have a pretty good idea what mom or dad might tell us any way. As a teenager, we want to ask that attractive boy or girl out on a date, but we don't because there is fear of being rejected. Maybe we have a pretty good idea what the answer would be any way, so we don't put our heart out there to be trampled upon. As adults, we feel as if we are supposed to know it all already, so we don't ask for answers simply because we don't want to look stupid.We think we have a pretty good idea how we will look in front of others if we go asking for answers and someone looks at us with that face. "What? You didn't know that already?" Not having the answers is a plight that seeks to hurts us more than help us. 

Unless, we have a trusted source to go to when we have questions that arise. 

This Sunday we find ourselves in an in-between place. Easter is long over and gone. Pentecost is on the horizon, but is still several Sundays away. It is on this particular Sunday that we set out on a journey to a little village called Emmaus. There are two gentlemen already on the road. A man named Cleopas and the other goes unnamed. When we are searching for answers that seem silly or weird, sometimes we don't want people to know our names. It adds to the embarrassment. Anonymity is a precious commodity when we are walking to Emmaus. Nobody has to know who we are. What's important is that we are seeking and asking. The two men here at least have each other. They can bounce their ideas and questions off of each other. It's nice to have someone else to lean on. Someone that can identify and relate to where we are and what we are going through. These two men have shared a similar situation as of late. They have both been party to losing someone near and dear to them. They both have lost the same person, in fact. After the traumatic events of the past few days it only makes sense to get out there and clear the head. Taking a walk is a good way to do just that. It's even better when you have someone to walk with instead of going it alone. 

The truth is, many of us have to go it alone. It seems as if there is no one to go with us down the road. many times it feels as if there is no one to relate to us. Maybe we don't want anyone to relate to us. Maybe we have shut the world out. Last week we looked at the disciples who had barred the doors and windows. There are moments where we are walking and seeking, but we choose to go it alone. Sometimes it's easier to raise the hand and request "unspoken" than it is to go into all the details surrounding our hurt.However, what we will soon find is that our choice on the dealing with the matter will soon turnout to prove that we are not alone at all. 

Cleopas and his friend are talking and contemplating when a stranger arrives. 
Another person to walk and talk with is fine. The more the merrier. Only this person seems to have no idea as to the tragedy that has transpired. Quite often when we are mired in our own hurt we think that everybody should already know. This horrible thing happened to me and you don't know about it. How can you not know? Doesn't everybody know? On our course to find answers and peace it will require us to share our story. Maybe several times. It is in the sharing that we work out our issues till we come upon the response we seek. Maybe we need someone who has no history with our story, an outsider's viewpoint, in order to give us a fresh perspective and an honest opinion. 

Lets get right down to what these two men are seeking. 
They seek solace and comfort. What have they lost? Their Savior. Their Lord. Their Messiah. He died a horrible death that no person should have to endure. The One whom they thought would save them. Now, it seems as if salvation is not possible. Their focus is on being set free from the Roman rule over their heads. This doesn't seem within the realm of probable outcome without the One who was supposed to set them free. What are they supposed to do now? They have no idea. So, they decide to walk. It won't fix anything. But, they have been cooped up inside for three days. They need some fresh air. They need to stretch their legs. They need to get away from the place where all the horrible events happened. Maybe a few days in Emmaus will alleviate the suffering a bit. 

Have you ever been to Emmaus? If you haven't you should go sometime. 
We all need a couple of days away to simply spend some time pondering. I recall my weekend walking to Emmaus. My future mother in law nearly insisted that I go.She also paid my way. (You have to have a sponsor and that sponsor will pay your way to an Emmaus walk.) I was "in-between" at the time. I had been living in Southern Ohio for almost a year. I was no longer a Nazarene pastor. (although I hadn't truly accepted that fact yet) I had moved into foreign territory where nothing was familiar and I didn't know anyone. I was lost. I was alone. I didn't know what the future held for me. 2 years later I would make a move from Nazarene to United Methodist. But, right then, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I needed some time away. I felt in my heart that I needed to some time to re-focus. There's nothing like a couple days away to do just that. And, hey, I didn't have to pay for it. 

What I experienced on my weekend away was not what I was expecting. 
It May of 2001 in southern Ohio. It's been 14 years now. Some people and moments are cloudy in my mind now. But, the one thing that sticks with me is how it made me feel. I think I went in expecting to find purpose and meaning. A new direction for life. A reaffirmation of my calling. I got none of that. God knew the one thing I needed to hear. That He loves me. It's taken 14 years for much of that to sink in. A life filled with unrealistic expectations will squelch the message of God's Love. We tend to get ourselves wrapped up in what we want and what we think. I wonder how much of what these two men on the road to Emmaus actually believe is filled with unrealistic expectations. They expected some messiah to just swoop in and save the country in one felled swoop. I'm sure God could do that if He wanted, but that wasn't the plan. The plan was the God loved the world so much that he sent his Son. Anybody who believes in the Son would find eternal life. They would find forgiveness. They would find mercy. They would have their whole life turned upside down. Love is completely foreign to a person who isn't looking for it. The Israelite people talked about God's Love for them, but wanted to smite their enemies. Jesus came along and said love your enemies. Jesus sought to relieve them of their unrealistic expectation in order to show them what Kingdom he was talking about. A heavenly one. A kingdom without borders or personal ownership. A place where everybody was welcome. A place where the lion lays down with the lamb. There is peace. There is love. There is God. 

Luke's account says that the stranger takes the time to open the scriptures.
It's as if they start at Genesis and work their way to Revelation. (In their case, probably till Malachi.) He shows them what they seem to be missing. He fills in the blank spots and gives them understanding. But, understanding is incomplete without experience. Up until now their experience has been filled with grief and sorrow. In just a moment, their expectations will shift and they will see what they had been missing. 

They arrive at the house. They've had a long walk. The stranger thinks he'll go on ahead. The two men are hungry, They figure the stranger is hungry too. Why not stay and eat a bite. They go in and begin to break bread together. The stranger takes it upon himself to bless the bread. Suddenly their eyes are open. It's Jesus! And, just that fast it's gone. Before they can reach out and touch him, before they can say anything in retort, he is gone. What would you do? If you had an epiphany like that, what in the world would you do? If you knew that you had it all wrong and then your outlook was turned upside down, what would you do?

These two know exactly what to do. 
They have to tell someone. They have to share the message. God loves them so much that he sent his one and only Son. They believe now. That belief causes them to run. They run all the way back to Jerusalem. 7 miles, the scriptures say. I haven't run that long or that hard in a long time. Have you ever felt that kind of urgency? Have you ever been touched with God's Love so mightily? 

There are moments when we are encouraged to follow.
There are moments where he follows us. He helps us get out focus back. Then we realize that things are out of sync. He needs to be in front. It's needs to be about God's Love. And, the unrealistic fades away.

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