Book Review: Seculosity by David Zahl

Secul… what?

David Zahl presents a lively discourse on what we turn our attention to in the present time. What is it that leads us away from God and what do we treat as our priorities today.

If you have never heard of the term seculosity before, it is because it is of Zahl’s creation. “What’s more, there does seem to be a discernible difference between grounding your hope in something material and something spiritual. Blanketing both groups with such a loaded label could come off as patronizing. Which is why I am proposing a fresh term seculosity. I’m using it as a catchall for religiosity that’s directed horizontally rather than vertically, at earthly rather than heavenly objects” (xxi).

As we get overwhelmed in our daily lives, there are many areas that get prioritized over our dedication to Christ. Zahl ventures into the areas of parenting, work, technology, politics, and much more as we have turned these into our own type of religion. He even ventures into how we co-opt the church and what we have made it to be that is far from the vertical faith that God has originally called us.

Zahl includes a great sense of humor that brings the discourse to heart and one that the reader can relate. While he points to the things that create seculosity, he does conclude the book with “What to ‘do’ about it.” His argument is not that we are less religious than we have been in the past, in fact, we may be more. We have just turned our religion to things that are not the God of creation. He points to the unique position we have as offering the grace of God. However, amid the grace, we are also sin and are broken. To repent of this and be awash of the grace of God is a hope that nothing in the secular world can offer.

Christ in All

Bethany Retreat Center, Lutz, Florida

August 4, 2019

Luke 12:13-21

In Christ there is no division!

“There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). Feel free to add what other divisions we may witness out there to this list. Simply put, Jesus tells us that there is no difference among God’s creation.

We are the ones to make up the differences. We have created the idea of race. We have created the concept of political parties. Those that have and those that have not. We have made our own categories of what we think is right and what we think is wrong. Evil creates differences and tries to separate the people of God through means like the two mass shootings that have happened in our country in the last 24 hours, in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Yet, Christ is in all! This can be hard to comprehend in times like this.

When I woke up this morning my hear broke even more after hearing of the Dayton shooting in the early hours of the morning. How often does this have to happen for people to raise their voices and a difference is made. We create differences that are not their in God’s eyes.

In God’s reign there are no differences and we encounter the grace of God in ways that are beyond our current understanding.

The rich man in Jesus’ parable likes to set himself apart and above others so that he can live prosperously. In other words, he is taking more than his daily bread that we pray for in the Lord’s prayer. Now, wealth is not a bad thing!

However, it is the person in the crowd asking Jesus to tell his brother to split the family inheritance that provokes the telling of this parable. The person in the crowd is most likely the younger of the two and thus according to Jewish inheritance traditions would not receive much. He wants what he believes is due to him. The rich man is not much different. He has done well farming his land and has been blessed with an abundance of crops. Instead of ensuring that those in the community are cared for, he is just going to build a bigger barn.  

We are good at building places to put our stuff. We buy bigger houses so that all our stuff can be contained. If we cannot buy a bigger house than we buy a storage unit so that we can collect more stuff. While George Carlin could be profane at times in his standup comedy, his social commentaries were many times spot on. His routine on our obsession with stuff is about as absurd as the rich man tearing down his barns to build even bigger barns.

In some form or another, we have probably all done it at one point though. We got a bigger car because we needed. We got a bigger house because we needed. We rented a storage facility because we needed it.

Instead of a new life in Christ, we can easily get wrapped up in the material stuff of the world. The person that asks Jesus for a share of the family inheritance is more concerned for himself. The rich man is more concerned about living the good life and stockpiling so that he can eat, drink, and be merry. They are concerned with worldly richness, not being rich toward God.

Paul has addressed some of the same concerns to the communities he has preached. In the letter to the Colossians he reiterates the importance of Christ and the freedom that now exists. This freedom should be lived as a new life in Christ and not of the world. Paul’s letter was written nearly 2000 years ago and sometimes we get caught up in his choice of words.

Sojourners magazine recently published an issue of letters to the Christian church in America from Christians around the world. These letters may have been some of the very things that Paul, himself, would write to us today. I would encourage you to read the letter from Kuki Rokhum in India.

We are blessed to have the opportunity to worship together this morning where some of our siblings around the world do not have that freedom. We are blessed with a great abundance that we quite often take for granted. More importantly, we must remember that we are not blessed because of where we live, but because we are children of God. We are created in God’s image. In this we should be reminded that there are no differences or division in God’s eyes, only the ones we have created in our own. For Christ is in all and in God’s reign there is no difference and we encounter the grace of God in ways that are beyond our current understanding.

Let us pray. God of unity, you are Christ in All. May we be open to seeing that in our neighbors and strangers alike. May we worry less about our worldly wealth and focus on the wealth that can only be found in you. Amen.

You Can’t Do It Alone!

July 7, 2019

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Now that I have done it twice, returning to college after being out of classes for some time can evoke a tiny bit of anxiety. I began seminary a decade after getting my undergrad degree, and last fall I began a spiritual direction certificate program at Loyola University Chicago. This anxiety really can happen at any grade level, kindergarten, entering middle school, or starting as a freshman in high school. Once you get into class, it can get better as you get to know people and then you get the syllabus.

The syllabus is great because it has everything you will need in it for the year and what the expectations of the teacher or professor are. One of the first things that I usually turn to in the syllabus is the assignments that are due over the course of the semester. This past spring semester I looked at the syllabus for one of my classes and read that one of the assignments included group work. UGH!!!!!

Now, I like people and I like working with people. However, this was an online course. How were we going to do group work? Also, there is that part of me that feeds into our cultural urges to be individuals and rewards those that are strong enough to do things on their own. There is little foundation in this, but individuality as become a large part of our society.

When we turn towards the gospel lesson, Jesus sends the seventy disciples out ahead of him in pairs! Jesus repeatedly ensures that the disciples are not on their own and reminds them that not one of them is greater than another. We too are sent, supported by Christ, and called to work alongside each other for the kingdom of God.

As the disciples traveled with Jesus they were consistently challenged by his teachings and he stretched them to think beyond themselves. They argued among themselves about who was greater and if they could sit at the right and the left hand of Jesus. To me, it sounds like the individualism that we are concerned about today existed two thousand years ago. Throughout history, wars have started and continue to erupt when leaders and countries think that they are better than others.

The seventy disciples sent out ahead of Jesus were given the task to start healing and proclaiming the word of the Lord so that the communities were ready when Jesus arrived. Jesus knew that they would not be totally successful in their mission and when they came back with great stories of the demons listening to them and people being healed, Jesus was quick to rebuke. For it was not them personally doing any of this work. It was God working through them. How easy this can be to forget. Imagine the inflated egos that some of them may have had when they returned with such great news for Jesus and he popped their bubble.

How easy it is for praise to be quickly taken in a negative direction. If allowed, it can result in the same inflated egos. Once their ego has been inflated, some people will do whatever they can to maintain it, including misleading others and going to the extremes of corruption. I am sure that we can all think of instances when this has happened in the corporate world as well as in our own government and especially other governments around the world.

It is easy to get wrapped up in our own way of doing things and want little help from others. Especially if we know the way we are doing it is the right way! It becomes easy for us to turn others away because things will get done the way we want them to get done, whether it is right or not. This happens in many areas, like school, to the operation of our cities, corporations, and government. Believe it or not, it can even happen in the church!

From the very beginning of creation, this was not God’s intention. We were created in the image of God to be in relationship with one another. Less than a month ago we celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday and lifted up the relationship of the Trinity and how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work with one another to guide and lead us in our lives. We are not created to back bite and try to one-up one another. We are not created to take advantage of others. We are not created for our own personal successes that lead to inflated egos.

We are created to be in relationship and to live into community. We are created to support our siblings and to share the same love with them that Jesus shared with us. Do you think those seventy disciples that were sent out, did so reluctantly because they had to go out in groups? I personally doubt it, because I am sure there would have been a clarification from Jesus why they had to go out in twos if they had questioned him. It was their boastfulness that got them in trouble when they returned.

They are there to support one another and be reminded that they do not have to go alone. This is a great reminder for us as we try to go our own way with little support from others. We all know that things come together much better in relationship and in community with one another. However, we are pulled away from this when we think we know better. In Jesus we have a reminder that we are not alone, and we do not have to proceed on our own. No matter what it is we face we are encouraged to surround ourselves with others.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a benefit dinner for Ded Rranxburgaj and his family at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit. Due to an eruption of war in Albania in 2001, Ded and his family moved to the United States and applied for asylum. They followed all the rules and a couple of years ago Ded was threatened with deportation. His wife Flora, who has MS, has a medical exception, and their two sons are not in danger. As a community Central United Methodist has provided them sanctuary for roughly eighteen months as Ded awaits a court ruling. They could not have done this all on their own and if it were not for the church community, this family would have been split apart. This is community supporting one another and imitating Christ.

Jesus entered this world in a time when the Jewish population was tolerated in the Roman Empire, but he suffered at the very hands of that empire. When we come to the table and take communion we eat and drink the very being of Christ. May this loving welcome that Christ invites us to be open to all of God’s creation and may we carry that love out to those that are living amid injustice.

Jesus repeatedly ensures that the disciples are not on their own and reminds them that not one of them is greater than another. We too are sent, supported by Christ, and called to work alongside each other in the kingdom of God.

Let us pray. Sending God, you have sent us out into the world to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ. May we bring peace and comfort to those that are sick and in need of healing, and may we bring your word to those places that we see injustice. Amen.

The Good News is New Life!

heisrisen

Easter Sunday

Mark 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Encountering the unexpected is scary! It can be especially challenging when you have preconceived expectations that do not match up with the reality of the truth that you encounter.

I am sure that at one point in your lives you could relate. Whether moving and starting at a new school and having to make new friends, or beginning a new job and getting to know the details of that job. Personally, I never changed school districts growing up, but my children have had the opportunity to go to several different schools. I encountered more change in my professional life. Going to college I had originally thought I would become a CPA. My sophomore year I started working retail, and for some strange reason fell in love with it. Later in that sophomore year, I discovered that I could major in retail management in the business school, thus leading to a decade spent in the retail industry with a handful of location and company changes. I always went in with my own personal expectations, which would be met sometimes, but more likely than not, they did not match reality.

Can you imagine what the women that are waiting for the sun to rise in our story this morning are going through? Did they get any sleep, or are they just waiting for the sabbath to be over so that they can make their way to the tomb.

They have witnessed the journey of Jesus from his entrance into Jerusalem  to his death on the cross. Throughout our gospels, the women are one of the constants that have been with Jesus, supporting him and caring for him in the aftermath of his crucifixion. I imagine the three women in our story are in deep mourning. They are distraught over what they have witnessed these past few days, and they are garnering just enough strength to go do what is necessary to care for Jesus’ body. Their conversation on the way to the tomb was probably minimal. Perhaps, talking about what needed to be done, and especially worrying about how they were going to roll the heavy stone away from the entrance to the tomb. There is a song, Beautiful Things by Gungor, that could speak to their worries and mourning. The song begins,

All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth, could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

They had the expectation of arriving at the tomb with a challenge in front of them. Would the three of them be able to roll that heavy stone away? They are so caught up in these questions and their mourning that they look up and they are there. Yet, what they see is not what they expected. The stone has already been moved! They enter the tomb to be welcomed by a man dressed in white, and the body of Jesus is nowhere to be seen. They are left speechless. It is the words that they hear next that leave them with terror and amazement:

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:6-7

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

In the terror and amazement, they rush from the tomb, only to remain silent. And here is where our reading ends! This is the original ending of Mark’s gospel. Mark leaves it quite open ended because the work of the disciples is never complete. Several verses would be added later so that it would come to a resolution! Our own need to be to tie a bow on it and make it complete! We do know from our other gospel authors that the good news was spread from the women. If the women had not shared that good news, we may have not been here this morning.

Good news is scary! The good news is holy and it brings word to us of the divine. Encountering the divine can leave us in terror and amazement. In their reaction, the women knew fully well what they had encountered in the tomb and it may have taken them a little time to contemplate the words and to share it with the disciples.

Why do we get those butterflies in our stomachs and a heightened anxiety whenever we encounter something new?

Because new life is scary! Just like the good news. It is the good news that brings us new life. That is what the goods news of Jesus Christ is all about. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are brought to new life. It is a life, where resurrection has conquered sin and death. It is a new life that brings hope to a world that is broken and lost. It is a new life that rises through the old. It is a new life that fulfills the promise of God.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Resurrection is not the end of the story! It is just the beginning of new life! A new life that can be scary, but a life that is saturated with hope. A new life that is the seed for transformation for each and everyone of us. A new life that abounds in a never-ending love.

Yes, you can stop what you are doing and be enamored in the awe of the resurrection, but don’t let yourself remain there. What if you were to look beyond the resurrection and begin to live your life the way that Jesus wanted you to? To reach our to your sisters and brothers with the same love and compassion that he did. To embrace the stranger among you and give them shelter. To proclaim the good news of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through not only word, but through your actions in caring for others. This is the new life that Jesus is hoping for in the promise of the resurrection. This new life is beautiful!

Beautiful Thingshas the following chorus:

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around,
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in you

This morning we are reminded of the new life that is found in Jesus Christ. A new life that is for each and every one of us. A new life for those that have been Christians their entire life. A new life for those that have struggled with their faith. A new life for those that have followed in Peter’s path and denied Jesus.

To live life is chaos! To live life in Jesus Christ and the resurrection is a beautiful thing!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Longing in the Wilderness

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December 10, 2017

Mark 1:1-8

At some point in all of our lives, there is a longing that resides within us and it can be hard to name. We know that something is calling us to greater things, but we are not sure what it may be. The longing can take on the form of nostalgia as we look towards the past and wish that we were back in a time where things seemed much simpler. Those days when we were children and we did not have too much to personally worry about. We long for that time where we may have felt more secure. That same longing can also bring a sense of pain as old memories are restored and we are confronted with those things that we would rather not approach.

The institutional church is great at longing. Longing for days past. Longing for days when there were a 100 children in Sunday School and the sanctuary was full every Sunday. Yet, when we long for the things that were, we tend to forget God in the present and the trajectory that the Spirit is guiding us.

There is a longing that we can point to this morning within our lessons. First, in Isaiah, the people of Israel are nearing the end of their Babylonian Exile and there is a longing for what they had many years ago. They longed to be back in Israel and the familiar, even though a couple of generations had passed. They knew it was their home and they longed to return to the land of their ancestors.

This is picked up in our gospel lesson from Mark this morning. “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ” There is a longing among the Jewish people that takes place across time. A longing to be in touch with God. A longing to repent of their past grievances and to be found righteous in the eyes of God that had seen them out of exile.

In the longing, they find themselves in the wilderness. The wilderness can be a scary place if you are not familiar with it. You don’t know what is around each bend and each turn could lead to the unexpected. The wilderness does not tell them when it will end. The wilderness can make them forget who they were, or it can help them look toward the future.

Everyone of us could point to some time in our lives when we found ourselves in the wilderness. A time where we felt lost and did know where to turn. A time that all hope seemed to be lost. Perhaps, some of you may even being finding yourselves in that wilderness now. Amid the decorations that we have up in preparation for the Christmas Season, celebrating Christmas may be the farthest thing from your mind.

We may find ourselves longing for days when we felt more comfortable. We even celebrate the days gone past. Richmond has the Good Old Days Festival. My hometown, has a Frontier Days Festival. Now, I am not saying that we should not remember those that have gone before us and helped lay the foundation for our families. These festivals are great for building community and being in relationship with one another. Our Jewish ancestors had several festivals that they celebrated and still celebrate to this day. As we look towards the past, let’s not forget that God is working towards the future.

Those days that we felt comfortable, may have been uncomfortable for others. This is not the kingdom of God that Jesus preaches. The entire world will continue to find itself in the wilderness until we can come together and be reconciled with one another.

In the wilderness the Israelites find hope. While they may have been in the wilderness for decades, Isaiah tells them that their waiting is over and they are being called back to the homeland. It is John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness that proclaims he is clearing the way for someone even greater than him. While John is proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, it is merely with water that he baptizes. It is in the hope of the coming of Jesus Christ that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist prepares the way to lead people out of the wilderness. It is in Jesus Christ that those that have followed John will find the true God. The God that forgives all sins and breathes the Holy Spirit upon people, calling them to continue proclaiming the good news. That is the first verse of Mark, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark wants to let his readers know what they are going to be reading. This is the good news that comes to the people of Israel as foretold in the Hebrew scriptures, This is the good news that they have been waiting for. This is the good news that was with creation at the very beginning.

In the midst of our own wilderness, many of us are still searching. Searching for something that may be lost. Searching for meaning in our lives. Searching for what it is God is calling us to. Perhaps, you have given up searching. It is hard work, that is true. As we find ourselves in the wilderness, Jesus never said it was going to be easy.

The people that began following John the Baptist were searching for something. They were longing for something greater. People today are searching as well. Longing for deeper relationships and yearning to find meaning in a life that sometimes feels overburdened by the negativity of our world. It is in the voice crying out in the wilderness that we find our hope. We first hear of Jesus Christ, in the gospel of Mark, from John the Baptist. He is simply preparing the way.

The way has been prepared for us. Jesus has come into the world and fulfilled the prophecy of the prophets. In Jesus Christ, we find the grace of God in flesh for all people. The grace of God that welcomes in saints and sinners alike. The grace of God that calls us out of our longing and searching. The grace of God that loves beyond compare.

As you find yourself in your own wilderness, look for those that have prepared they way, and listen to the voice of God calling you and naming you as a beloved child. For as Mark writes, “this is the beginning of the good news.” Do you understand that? It is just the beginning. We find ourselves in a wonderful story that has not come to completion yet. In this story we find hope and grace.

Let us pray. . . .God that fulfills our longing, we come to you in the middle of our own wildernesses. Reveal to us the calling you have placed on our lives as we desire to follow your Son, Jesus Christ. We give thanks for those that have prepared the way and we ask for strength and perseverance as we wait for your kingdom to fully be upon us. Amen.

A Spirit of Adoption

choose-a-country

July 23, 2017

Romans 8:12-25

Can you imagine what it would be like not knowing where you came from. Wondering everyday what your past may have been like and where your family was. These thoughts can run and even ruin your current life as you know it.

Saroo was born in India. His family consisted of his mother, an older brother, and his younger sister. If you are familiar with the caste system of India (levels of society, such as poor, middle class, and wealthy), I would not place them in the bottom tier. However, they would not be very far from it. Saroo and his brother, Gaduud, had to steal coal from passing freight trains just to get some milk. That is until one day when Saroo decides to accompany his brother to work one evening. Saroo is left waiting for his brother at the train station and falls asleep. When he wakes, his brother is still nowhere in sight and he ventures onto the loan train that is sitting at the station. Since he is still quite tired, he falls asleep, only to awaken once more and realizes that the train is moving. It continues to move for two days with him as the loan passenger and the doors locked.  They travel over 1600 kilometers, or 1000 miles.

After many struggles and challenges, Saroo is welcomed into a home with open arms and love that abounds, in Australia. In this action, he is adopted and throughout the rest of his childhood and into his early adult life, he has truly come to know what true love means. A love that came to him through adoption into a family that was foreign to anything he had known as a young boy in India.

This story comes from the 2017 Oscar nominated film, Lion. I encourage you to take the time to watch it and look for glimpses of God working throughout the story.

In our selection from Romans this morning, Paul tells us, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Saroo had many opportunities to be fearful of what may happen. He was provided for when it mattered most and he found rescue also when he needed it most.

As people of God, we are not called to bend our will to those that think they know better. We are not called to toe the party line. We are called, as followers of Jesus Christ, to proclaim the Gospel good news as we have heard it through our own actions and words. We are not to fall into the spirit of slavery. Through God’s love for all of humanity, and God’s reminder of that in Jesus Christ crucified, we are reminded that we are one with and part of God’s very own creation.

The language of adoption that Paul uses is powerful! Adoption is an act of grace. It is God speaking through our times of struggles and challenges and telling us that everything is going to be alright. Adoption comes to us as an act of love that is visible for all to see. To be adopted is to be welcomed into a place that is foreign, yet very accepting. If you grew up in the church, and have always heard of the stories of Jesus Christ, then this may not resonate for you. However, for those that have not experienced church, or have come back to the church, a story of adoption is one that you may just need to hear in a setting that is foreign.

I am sure that we all can name times where we have been touched by adoption in our lives. I come from a blended family where adoptions took place and love was given to all. Perhaps, you have some close friends that have grown their family through adoption.

Saroo does eventually make it back to his home town. It was through her love for him, that Saroo’s mother, Kamla never gave up hope that one day she may see her son again. After seeing him for the first time in 25 years, she said she was “’surprised with thunder’ that her boy had come back and that the happiness in her heart was ‘as deep as the ocean.’” This does not change how he feels for his adoptive parents. His love is for all.

The triune God feels the same way when we return home. Creation is eager for us to embrace the Holy Spirit. When we open our hearts and minds to the wonder and mystery that is God, we allow the Spirit to come in and direct and guide us. In this adoption, God does not promise there will not be suffering and labor pains. God’s promise to us is that we will be surrounded by the Spirit. We will find hope in the things that we do not see as we learn to wait with patience.

In this we are reminded that we are adopted by the Spirit to go out into the world and share this hope with everyone. It is in our adoption by the Holy Spirit that we are reminded that we are loved and fully accepted where we are. Regardless of our faults and insecurities. Despite the weeds that may be presently in our lives.

You know what? This also means that those we are quick to judge and set aside are also loved and fully accepted. This is the grace that comes to us without any requirements. It is this grace that fills in the voids. It is this grace that embraces us in the here and now and promises us the kingdom to come.

Christ Shows Up!

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Luke 24:13-35

We were walking long before we got into cars to drive anywhere. Walking was Jesus’ and the disciples chief form of transportation. Walking is healthy and can burn a lot of calories. No wonder we have many stories of Jesus sitting down to eat, he needed to replenish his energy from all of that walking.

We walk when we are happy. We walk when we are sad and grieving. We walk when we are angry and cannot decide where to go. I am sure that at least a few of us have gotten into an argument with their spouse and said I am going out to get some fresh air and went for a walk. Walking seems to calm our minds and settle our anger. Walking can also help us think and work through problems. Steve Jobs, one of the greatest minds in technology, liked to go on walks to talk with those he disagreed with and try to come to an understanding. Inspirations came to him on his walks.

What do you think the two disciples walking to Emmaus had in mind when they slipped on their sandals and headed out the door? Did they need some fresh air? Did they need to walk off their lunch? Were they simply just trying to cope with Jesus’ death?

Whatever their reasons, the conversation turned towards the happenings of the last few days and they shared their grief with one another. There was possibly even some anger that had built up, because everything they had hoped for died with Jesus on the cross. Or so they had thought. How often do we put our hopes and dreams into something, only to find out later down the road that things just did not pan out? This is how the disciples are feeling. According to Jewish thought, they were hoping for a Messiah that would save them from everything and make the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth. Instead they got a teacher that suffered death on a cross and left them feeling empty. It is true that the women had found the tomb empty earlier in the day, but they still have not seen a sign from Jesus.

Remember, this lesson comes from the gospel of Luke. Jesus does not appear to the disciples in the upper room first as he did in our lesson from John last week.

Some walks are longer than others. The two disciples in our story start out on a seven mile walk to Emmaus. A walk that is very doable. A distance that some of us may perhaps go every day. I know we put in those miles almost every day while on vacation last week. These are literal miles. Figuratively, we can walk for many miles to encounter a faith that is even just the size of a mustard seed. And, you know what, some of us put in many more miles than others. And at times, it may feel as though we are going backwards.

While the disciples are gripped with doubt, fear, and grief, they still desire to continue on in the journey that Jesus started; not sure where it may lead them. What are we doing in our own lives while we are on that walk? Like the disciples, we walk many miles with blinders on, where we do not even recognize the presence of Jesus in our midst.

It is not realistic for us to place our expectations of what it looks like to be Christian or Lutheran upon anyone else because everyone’s walk is different. The expectation for others to pick things up as quickly as we may, is unfounded. All we can do is continue to proclaim our faith in the Risen Christ and share our story.

In the disciples walk, we witness a healing of sort. One that many of us are hoping to encounter in our own walks. First, their doubt, fear, and grief is revealed as Jesus shows up to walk with them. Have you not heard what happened in Jerusalem? They are dumbfounded that this stranger has not heard the news and possibly a little irate. They share that their hope for the redemption of Israel died on the cross. Jesus’ response is to quote scripture and point towards the Hebrew Bible where it prophesizes the death that he died, so that salvation is made possible.

Their anger and hurt runs deep and it is hard to judge whether or not they have truly listened. It is not until they sit down to break bread together that their eyes are opened and they truly see Christ for the first time.

Our entire service every Sunday could be considered a walk along the road to Emmaus. We walk together as we come to worship. We welcome the strangers within our midst. We hear the word proclaimed. We share a meal together. A meal in which we recognize the Risen Christ. With this Good News, we go to proclaim it to others.

Our walk reveals the opportunity for open and honest conversation. It is in our walk that we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and bear all. We too experience doubt, fear, and grief. Some of us more than others. In our walk, just like the walk of the discples, JESUS CHRIST SHOWS UP!

How will we recognize him when he does? We will move from doubt, fear, and grief to a space of faith, hope, and love? Remember though, this walk is longer for some than for others. Even families are on different parts of the journey.

What can we do along the way? We can provide a space for open and honest conversation. Are we listening to others before we quickly interject our own stories? Are we allowing room for the Holy Spirit to breath within our relationships?

In the Good News of Easter Morning and the empty tomb, may we be a place open to doubts, fear and grief.  Yet as we reveal our vulnerabilities, may Christ reveal to us a faith, hope, and love that can change hearts and minds, and foster community.