Monday, May 9, 2011

On Our Way!

We are a people on the way.
Just like our two disciples this morning who are on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus.
We are on the way from sadness to joy.
When traveling on the road we sometimes hit low moments.
This was one of those low moments for the disciples.
Jesus was dead, so they thought, and their hopes were dashed.
So they walked along this road sad and disheartened.
When we are on the way we too sometimes feel sad or disheartened.

For example, last Saturday we all heard the horrible news that the Friendly Kitchen had a fire.
We heard the horrible news that one of the most beloved places in our community was destroyed.
It was a place of welcome for people who needed a meal and a friendly atmosphere without judgment.
It was a place that people down and out depended on for sustenance.
I know that it brought me immeasurable joy the Sundays I get to serve at the Friendly Kitchen, and if you asked anyone else who did it they would tell you the same thing.
Then on Saturday afternoon it was gone destroyed by a fire.
It was disheartening.
Except that out of that fire our community came together.
Within hours of the fire I was receiving calls from members of our congregation saying that we should offer our congregation as a place to temporarily house the Friendly Kitchen.
Only our church was not needed, because First Congregational had already offered.
Then the Greek Congregation said the Friendly Kitchen could be there “indefinitely”.
Then people started to give money.
I understand that in those first couple of days they raised about $7,000.
Since, then I have heard of several different ways that people in the community are planning to help.
Far from being a letdown people in the community of Concord rallied, pulled up their sleeves and went to work.
As Gail Megan said to me last week after worship, “I am just so proud of how our community came together.”
I would agree it is inspiring to see so many people offer to help.
Far from being a story about death it became a story about how our hearts came together to do something great.
Many of you may know that the word “Concord” actually means “with one heart”.
So it is appropriate that our community’s hearts come together when we experience a tragedy.

It is also what means to be a people on the way.
It means to have our hearts burning with the passion of our resurrected Lord.
This morning in our Gospel the two disciples recognize Jesus in the burning of their hearts as he explained scripture to them, as they walked and talked with him, as they broke bread together.
This morning I want to suggest the same is true for us.
As we are on our way we can know the risen Christ by paying attention to our burning hearts.
Our hearts burn and we know Christ’s presence by gathering together, by hearing and studying the word of God, and by sharing a meal with strangers and loved ones.

This helps us on our way.
Because what I hear about from people all the time is the struggle that comes with being a people on the way.
We are all on our way from or to something.
We are all getting better from something or just starting to struggle with something.
We are on the way to being cured, or on our way to ill health.
We are on the way from youth to old age.
Spiritually we are on our way to seeing and understanding, or forgetting and ignoring.
The road we travel is long and there are lots of highs and lows.
The disciples found this out, because they thought Jesus death was the end of the story.
“We had hoped he would be the one to restore Israel.”
That was it for that chapter.
Expect God was doing more in Jesus then restoring Israel.
He was moving hearts.
Jesus was making hearts burn as they went on the way.
That morning those two disciples were reminded that it is not over, and that God can do some wonderfully amazing things.

We are not only a people on our way to a place; we are a people of the way.
The earliest Christian community called themselves people of the way.
They believed that they were walking and following the way of Jesus Christ, and so are we everyday in faith walking the way.

This week we were also all relieved to hear the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death.
I think it was the right thing to do.
I am glad for our country and the world.
But as I watched the news coverage of people dancing in the streets I could not bring myself to celebrate.
The death of any human being, even if that human being does evil things and speaks evil thoughts, is still a human being to me.
Since today is mother’s day it should be pointed out that Osama Bin Laden had a mother.
He was born in the same way all of us were.
He had children and wives.
His wives and children grieve because they have lost their husband or father.
Every human life is created by God and therefore loved by God.

I think this is what it means to be a person of faith.
It is what it means to be a person who follows the way of Jesus Christ.
So even though everyone else is dancing in the streets and celebrating death we are praying for peace and life.
The way is to love even our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
Sometimes the way is not easy.
Sometimes it is not what we want to do.
But Jesus comes and opens to us the scripture.
Jesus shows us God’s plan for the salvation of all people.
Jesus then breaks bread with us and tells us that our sins are forgiven.
Jesus assures us that there is life after death.
How can I then go out and rejoice in death?
The way is not always popular either.
The way is not always easy.
The road is long and there are many twists and turns.

But we are on our way all the time.
We are always on the road to somewhere or something.
Life is in constant motion.
And often we would like it to slow down or take a break.
But one thing after another comes at us.
Ultimately we have no choice but to face it.
I have found the only way to face it is for Jesus to be my companion all the time.

I believe he is, but sometimes I lose track of him.
Just like the disciples did not recognize Jesus at first we too sometimes forget that Jesus is there for us.
But when our hearts burns then we realize it, then we understand.
We understand the beauty of people coming together in tragedy, the importance of all lives, the wonder of forgiveness, and the joy of our faith.
That is ultimately what sustains us as we are on our way.
We are sustained by a faith that tells us about God’s ability to bring people together, and raise His Son from the dead.
Our faith is the assurance of things not seen.
We cannot see what is ahead.
We don’t always know the way we are going.
But our faith assures us that Jesus is there walking beside us and opening up the God’s word for us to understand and draw strength from.

Do not your hearts burn this morning from knowing Jesus is alive!
This is what will give us the ability to be a people on the way, following the way.
May you know that Jesus walks with you on your way!

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