"Right or Wrong"
"Right or Wrong!"
When I am right, I know that I am right….until I am proven wrong. Like I might get some idea to move furniture about and you will tell me that desk is too heavy to move. “Sure it is,” I’ll say and I will go over there and try it for myself. Which…caused a problem long ago in my house when I tried to move a 8 foot oak bookshelf by myself… with the books in it.
What happens is I get an idea in my head. And, the idea blooms into a plan. By the time I’ve put everything in place in my head, which takes a good amount of time and energy, I’m not open to rearranging my plans. I’m like a bull who has seen the red cape.
So I get that it is hard to change…especially if we are talking about something more than moving a bookcase around.
The problem is we so often make plans that have nothing to do with our faith, nothing to do with our God. I’m not talking about moving furniture, I’m talking about those big decisions—decisions like who to love, or how to take care of a family member, or what you are being called to do right now.
These decisions are often made in view of a large audience: What will they think? often runs through our head. Add to that the voices of all those we have known in the past… if they were here, “what would they think?” Add to that your own judgments you’ve made of people in the same situation … you know, “they should do this and that”…which always comes back as “I should do this and that.” There are a whole bunch of people you are trying to please. Those voices cut us off from God.
Disconnected from God, our plans do not give life.
When we follow Jesus, we follow one who continually rearranges our lives so we can move ever closer to the heart and work of God. Among the disciples, such rearranging started immediately after the resurrection.
In Luke’s gospel, the most famous resurrection appearance is to two unknowns on the road to Emmaus. We know nothing about Cleopas nor his unnamed companion, except they were there when the women told the disciples that Jesus was not in the tomb. We know they had left Jerusalem, disappointed. We know Jesus walks with them, and as they walk together, Jesus opens up scripture so they have a new understanding. And, at the end of the road, instead of letting the one who gave them a new way go on his way, they invite him in.
Of the three resurrection moments in the gospel of Luke, they, alone, are the ones who “recognize” Jesus.
This story is an invitation, not only to believe that Jesus is alive, but
1. to allow Jesus into your life
2. to allow Jesus to change your life
3. to allow Jesus to send you on the way that gives life.
Cleopas and his friend, along the disciples, had hoped that Jesus would be the one to redeem Israel. While, that is what Jesus did, they expected something other than a cross to mark the path of redemption.
“We had hoped,” they say to Jesus, words that speak deeply of their soul’s sorrow.
The journey with Christ begins with an expression of an unmet hope.
Cleopas and his companion are disappointed.
Theirs was more than a craving—they did not desire a few pickles or ice cream or pickles on ice cream.
No…theirs was a yearning, a matter involving mind, soul, and heart. Jesus dying on the cross was, for them, a devastating disappointment. It marked a defeat that shattered their world. We find them on the road out of Jerusalem. They are leaving the center of the Judaism; leaving behind the place and faith that gave their lives meaning.
We had hoped.
If you are honest, you also have hoped. You have had hopes that didn’t work out; plans that fizzled, a dream that didn’t fly, a person who left this world too soon. It is more than disappointment, it is a moment when life as you know it ends.
It is a vulnerable place, a time of shifting sands, and, thus, a place where Jesus can enter in…if you allow it.
Many choose not to let anyone in, especially Jesus, when the sand has shifted beneath their feet. Those voices again. You just know you are going to be called a fool. You expect the “I told you so” or “just get over it.” Then the list appears of all the things you should have/could have done or should be doing to keep the sand where it belongs.
In times of a great shift in your life, when the sand is out of the box, and you don’t know what is next…that, my friends, is a sacred time. It isn’t time to try to put the sand back in the box—you will not find God in that. Rather, it is a time when you can invite Jesus into your life.
Even as Jesus expresses frustration with their slowness to believe, he chooses to walk alongside them. Cleopas and his companion allow Jesus to speak into them. They listen. They hear him.
He took the time to show them a new way of understanding scripture—a way that points to the suffering servant, one who, by his stripes, heals us.
If he took time with these who warrant no other mention in the gospels…if you invite him to walk with you, Jesus will be there.
And then comes the harder part…let Jesus change your life.
The change often goes against everything you once knew. Look at Cleopas…Jesus’ way goes against all he had been taught. His Jewish or Gentile friends (I don’t know which) but I do know they will not be celebrating his new understanding of God. If they allow Jesus in, Jesus will change their lives.
But Jesus never forces the change. Cleopas and his companion had an opportunity to remain unchanged, to let Jesus journey on. Jesus, the gospel tells us, was picking up his pace, ready to move onto what was next. Jesus always gives you a chance to say “no.”
Many do. I have witnessed many harden their hearts. And, instead of changing, they define their faith, their very existence, by the hardships they endure. Or they stay in the exact same relationships, exact same place, and talk about their blessings…and their world gets smaller and smaller.
It takes guts to invite Jesus to change your life. Guts and love. We work hard at the love here because we want you to experience what is the love of Jesus. We try to crack open the door but you have to go through it.
You will know you are living in the love Jesus when it becomes clear that, harder than changing your life, is saying no to life.
Cleopas expresses it as “how my heart was burning inside me when he opened up the scriptures.”
That’s what it is like to follow Jesus. It is an inward burning, a yearning, that cannot be quenched. You want more and more. You will do whatever it takes to get more. You will leave behind the people who abuse you; you will seek a job where you can thrive; you will stop running and learn to stand still; you will stop fighting every moment; you will let go of control; you will stop trying to put the sand back in the box; you will let down the walls you have put around your heart; you will stop pretending long enough to cry out your disappointments; you will slow down so you might hear what the holy one is trying to tell you….
And, that will lead to life giving change.
Invite Jesus in; invite Jesus to change your life.
Finally, invite Jesus to send you on the way that gives life.
When Cleopas and his companion asked Jesus to stay with them, they didn’t know who he was. And, when they ‘recognize’ him in the breaking of the bread, Jesus disappears. This scene always bothered me. Why disappear just as they are getting to know him?
The answer I receive today is Jesus had given them what they needed to send them on the Way. They could see it was Jesus who walked with them in their greatest despair. They knew it was Jesus who opened them to a new understanding of what God was doing in the world. They experienced Jesus present and alive and by their side.
They broke bread and, as they did, one voice broke through all the rest and they could see clearly: “This is my body…given for you.”
In that same hour, they got up and returned to Jerusalem by the light of the moon.
They found the disciples who were no longer mourning. Instead they were praising, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” They added to that story, their own story. They opened the eyes of the 11 and their companions…they gave the movement more life.
Imagine if they had never expressed their disappointment to the stranger on the road, imagine if they had never invited Jesus in, imagine if they had decided to just sit there in that room and go on their own way.... All that they experienced could have so easily been lost, like a seed planted on rocky soil, no fruit. Instead, because they allowed their experience of Jesus to propel them back into Jerusalem, back into the movement of God, back to those who followed Jesus…their story became gospel…the good news…that is told again and again.
And, I think too…
When you allow Jesus, not only to minister to you, but to propel you forward into a movement of others who seek to be connected to God, what you do becomes gospel.
Travis…a prisoner, wearing his ankle bracelet, attending our church with joy … he gave us strength. The good news.
Jeannie bringing Annette and Phillip out to roller derby...church people at roller derby? Yep! Gospel.
Bob…inviting LGBT prisoners to worship. “This is the new covenant”
The gospel continues to be written by those who allow Jesus to send you on the way to give life. I don’t care what others say about us. I don’t care about what the past says we should be. I don’t care about what we should be or could be. All I want from you…is to be those who invite Jesus in, who allow Jesus to change you, and who are willing to become part of his body. And, as part of his body, we speak proudly and loudly; we speak softly and gently into the world…”this body, given for you.”
Reverend Heather Miner
North Long Beach Christian Church