Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Things That Get Us Moving

My blog recording glimpses of God with me has been a spiritual
practice to keep me moving for the past 7 years.  

Luke 24:13-35
13Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Sermon: “The Things That Get Us Moving”

I have shocking news for you.  Ready?  Here it is: IT’S MAY.

Can you believe it?  May!  How is it that the months of this (chilly) spring have so rapidly passed through our fingers like grains of sand?  Easter Sunday has come and gone (though the season continues until Pentecost of course), we’re in the final sprint until summer and already, the antique fair happened yesterday, and we’re exhausted.  Spring has flown by.

That’s the strange thing about life, though isn’t it?  Minutes, hours, days even, can go by slowly, sometimes achingly so, but weeks, months and years, well they fly by in a blink.  Looking back on our lives it can seem like they have simply been a whirlwind of constant motion: school, careers, retirements, family changes, cross-country moves and major events. 

But let me encourage you to look closer: is it really the prevailing theme of constant motion that most defines your life so far?  Think instead about those rare times you stood perfectly still.  There were some moments of stillness, I promise.

Like when you held a child for the first time.  When you looked into eyes that looked back at you full of love.  When you first dipped your toes in the ocean, or when you tasted your first ice cream cone (or dewberry).  When you heard your mother laugh, or your grandfather whistle.  When you sat under a favorite tree on the perfect summer’s day, or danced beneath the stars on the perfect summer night.

These moments, in the whirlwind of our lives, are moments of blissful stillness, forever burned into our memories.

But there are other moments where we stand still as well, moments we will also never forget.

Like when you saw a parent cry, or when your childhood pet was lost.  When you got that dreaded phone call from the doctor.  When you and your best friend grew apart, or when you woke up in the middle of the night, having everything you could ever need and asking the darkness, “then why am I not satisfied?”  When you said goodbye to someone you loved, and with that, said goodbye to a part of yourself as well. 

The road to Emmaus included this kind of stillness: where grief and sorrow stops you in your tracks. 

Cleopas and another disciple of Jesus were walking the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus, moving mindlessly in the way that life makes us do.  A stranger came and asked them a simple question:

“What’cha talking about, as you walk along?” 

That question alone stopped them in their tracks.  Well, more the answer, actually.  The text says they stood still, looking sad.  We all know what that’s like, don’t we?  When grief overwhelms to the point that putting one foot in front of the other is all but impossible.

They told Jesus, not knowing it was him, the saddest story of their hurried lives: that a wonderful prophet named Jesus of Nazareth, mighty in word and deed, had been crucified.  Unable to see through their cloud of sadness, they also explained that some women went to his tomb and found it empty!  But when others went to investigate, they didn’t see Jesus alive.  So these still, sad disciples believed that, not only was their Lord dead, but that his body had also been stolen so they couldn’t even grieve as they needed to.

Jesus shook them out of their sorrow.  “Don’t be fools!” he said.  And then he explained once more everything prophesied about the Messiah and how he suffered that he might bring greater glory.  We don’t know exactly what Jesus told them, but we do know this: whatever he said got them moving.

Because the next we hear, the three of them are nearing the village of Emmaus, miles later.  How very accurate this is of grief.  We know when we are stopped in our tracks, when life becomes overwhelming and the journey becomes a burden.  But how we get moving again, well we don’t exactly know what happens there.  We just know that it does.  Suddenly, without even realizing it, miles later, we recognize that we are not where we were, that we have somehow moved.

You might call that movement a miracle.  You might call it resurrection.  Describing it in more detail becomes difficult, because Jesus walks alongside us on the road in so many varied and surprising ways.

Sometimes he gets us moving through a trusted friend who has the courage to tell us the difficult truth instead of just telling us what we want to hear.  Sometimes he gets us moving through the demands of a routine and people who need us.  Sometimes he gets us moving through the stories of scripture where we remember how God has journeyed with others before us.  But however it is it happens, it does happen.  Our Risen Lord gets us moving again. 

And when he does, when we finally realize the miles we’ve come, we want to invite him in for supper, like those disciples did, and never let him leave.  We want that spiritual fuel to last so we don’t stall out again.  We want to remember what it was that got us going so that if ever we feel frozen by fear or grief, we can rely on it again.

This is a good plan, except for one thing: God doesn’t stay still.  Ever.  We do, but God is always on the move, refusing to be hemmed in and boxed in.  And so we have to constantly open our eyes to this moving God, knowing that God might not appear to us in the same way twice. 

I have a blog, a spiritual discipline, that helps me with this, called Glimpses of Grace.  There, I record moments of holiness in everyday ways, how God has been revealed to me in the fabric of my ever-moving life. 

Today, the Risen Lord might look like a trusted friend and a warm cup of coffee (no surprise there).  But tomorrow, the Risen Lord might look like a stranger’s laughter, or a patient waitress.  And the day after that, who knows?  A comforting line in a book?  A beloved record?  A rainy afternoon? A walk in Miss Sue’s park?

Once Jesus left that tomb, he never did stop.  He’s always on the move.  And we are always being called to recognize him, yes while we’re whirling through our frenetic lives, but even more so, when we find ourselves standing still.  When grief, worry or just plain exhaustion have stopped us in our tracks, that is when we should most keenly look for the Risen Lord walking beside us. 

You don’t have to do this with a blog or any particular way, you just have to do it.  Look for the movement of God in your days.  Because the days will run together, and so will the weeks and so will the years.  What matters is not that we remember each moment.  What matters is not that we had moments of utter stillness through joy or sorrow.  What matters is that we recognize God walking with us every step of the way. 

If we don’t look for God, God will still be there with us, because that is who God is.  But it makes all the difference in the world that we do look, even through teary or tired eyes.  And it makes all the difference in the life of another that we recognize when someone else is on that tough Emmaus road, and needs us to be a tangible reminder of God with them. 

Thanks be to the God who guides our days, months and years, to the Risen Christ who walks beside us, even when we don’t realize it, and to the Spirit who makes our hearts burn with a holy movement.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Whitney,
    This was so encouraging. An anointed word from OUR LORD.
    Love, Debra