e mërkurë, 17 shtator 2008

Road to Emmaus Today

A renowned theologian, Karl Barth once said something like this, “Preaching should be done with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” Which to me, means that we should never focus so close minded and completely on the Bible alone that we fail to realize what's going on in the world around us, and we should never become so consumed by and engrossed in the world around us that we forget the Bible.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this sort of thing lately. And- I was re-reading the story of the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-24).

From the Message, the first half of the passage reads like this: "That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem. They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was. He asked, 'What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?' They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend."

So they walked ---the worn path talking with one another about all the traumatic events that had just happened. They lost their friend, their leader. They were not sure what their future held, their place in life was just not clear anymore. They had heard of the resurrection but knew things were never going to be the same. They could not go back to the way things were. They were totally over taken by their own fears and their own emotions that they did not know with whom they were walking.

I know this has happened to me, this story has become my story. Periodically, I take a trip down the road to Emmaus. Maybe it’s your story too. But right now, I’m thinking of the symbolism this could have with the church – caught between a past that no longer exists and a future that is not yet here. In the struggle, has the church failed to recognize Jesus is walking in our midst – Yes right here, on a new road-today's paved roads- the Highway and overpasses- Jesus is walking with us- keeping with us in today’s time?

My local church has embraced Jesus on this journey. The church could no longer be what it once was. It could no longer be made up of the same people. The culture and community changed. The worship may sound different some Sundays but some of the best traditions have also been held onto.

Many rural or small churches in my denomination have simply been abandoned or faded away. There are people in the denomination that talk about a divide – a split in the church because of what I’ll call "today’s issues." Instead of recognizing and embracing Jesus walking in their midst- some people want to make a church within a church.

Other folks from outside of my denomination have built up new churches—Mega churches-contemporary churches.

When not able to attend my own church, I visited one of these new churches where all tradition seemed to have been tossed to the side-and thrown away. The congregation was dominated by a younger generation- baby boomers and younger- There were no wise old men or old women. Everything that resembled the traditional institution of church sometimes gets thrown out in these new churches. The coat and tie, dresses and heels are gone (which is a good thing)…but these new churches also seem too often to focus on being a safe place and they form their own little sense of community and in this--they forget the reason the church is here – they forget what the church is called to be.

The traditional churches on the other hand, seem to cling to the old mindset---- gender roles, attire, music…. The old churches hold onto the past without considering the present times.

I’m sure you get the picture.

I have struggled with the need for corporate church and worship- I've spent too much energy on my wants and failed to care meaningfully for the wants and needs of others. There is no room for finger pointing or blame—I’ve come to realize church is about all of us stepping forward together and individually.

Ultimately, I know worship is Not about me, it is about God. And ultimately being a part of a family of faith is going to require me to invest in each of my fellow church member’s spiritual journey either by praying for them or listening or talking – whatever happens and we all have to be willing to give each other room to claim the faith expressions that are meaningful in our individual quest to draw closer to God.

Sometimes, we may not recognize Jesus in our midst as a church and sometimes we fail to recognize Jesus in another person because we are simply too caught up in our own pain, emotions or drama- just as the individuals on the road to Emmaus were distracted by their own quagmire of despair.

I long for an authentic sense of community in which everyone has the same goal---to know God better and to walk in God's ways.

It is past time for me to acknowledge my grief over my past that has somehow given me comfort and identity and it’s time for me to release it into God’s arms.

It is time for me to trust God with the days that lie before me. Some of you may need to do the same. It’s tough sometimes to be in the place that I’ve heard called the “No longer and the not yet.” But it’s always nice when we suddenly realize God is walking with us. There is truth, in the saying that the “present is a gift.”

I belong to a church that recognizes Jesus on the road today- right now. At least, I think I still belong- I am away so much, I sometimes don’t know if they still know me- but I thought about it tonight- I know them, I know the church- It reminds me of the story of Emmaus- a story where the human race is re-made. There is a new world, a new beginning, a new creation, a new joy, a new hope. Calvary is an amazing church family – a new creation in churches – bringing me and others, new joy, new hope and new beginnings. It is a church that serves our community with heart and passions.

This church is an amazing church family that goes into the world in the name of God. We need not be distracted by the insignificant, but must choose to focus on the things of eternal significance. I love you and encourage you to love each other and always recognize Jesus on the road Today.