PRESENCE ON THE JOURNEY
May 4, 2014 ? Confirmation, by Ken Dale
Just a quick story.? My Dad had a good friend, a retired military person, whose nickname was ?The General.?? They were neighbors while my parents were living in Carver, MA.? My Dad and The General used to get together to play games and have some great chats.? Two years after my parents moved to Maine my Dad died unexpectedly on Easter morning about an hour before church.? At the service that celebrated my Dad?s life the scripture read by my friend and colleague Rev. David McLeish, the local Nazarene pastor, was the passage we just heard from Luke?s gospel.? The week following the service my mother started trying to get in touch with The General by phone to let him know about my Dad?s death.? There was never an answer when she called, so she wrote him a note and dropped it in the mail.? She heard back from The General?s daughter who informed her that The General died the Good Friday before my Dad died.? I couldn?t help but connect the scripture with the fact that these two friends died two days apart and I have long held the image of the two of them walking together ? and course in some way, Jesus is with them.? Every Easter at the Easter breakfast, my friend David would come up behind me at some point, put his hands on my shoulders and say, ?remember they?re still walking together.?? That of course put me in tears.? It has been a powerful and comforting image for me since my Dad?s death in 1988.
I love the Emmaus Road story, which is only in Luke?s gospel and there isn?t a similar story to it anywhere in the other gospels.? There are some powerful images in that story.? First ? it is Jesus who comes to them.? Per usual with other such encounters, the risen Jesus is not recognized at first.? And he comes to them as they are walking, on a journey at a time when their spirits are low.? Jesus is with them.? As they walk is disbelief that this stranger hasn?t heard about Jesus ? they tell the story to him.? They offer hospitality as they reach their destination.? Jesus is with them.? They break bread together ? and in that act they recognize that it is Jesus who is with them.? As they recall the encounter they remember how their hearts were burning when they were talking to him.? Christ was with them ? as they walked, as they told stories, as they extended hospitality, as they shared a meal.? Their journey most certainly did not go as expected ? they began a long walk in failure and grief and with crushed dreams.? But because Jesus was with them, the day turned to stories, and greater understanding, hospitality and a shared meal ? all of which gave way to a new focus on the future.
Faith is often captured in the image of journey ? something that is always on-going and progressing.? Such has been the faith explored by the confirmation class this year ? it has been open and lifted as something to grow and learn from and be guided by.? And today I would lift the thought of how is Jesus with you in that journey?? How is the Risen Christ with you as you undertake that journey of life and faith? ?How is he with each of us?? It may be in a very unexpected or surprising way.? He may be with you in and through a friend as you walk together.? He may be with you when you meet and welcome the stranger.? He may be with you in sharing a meal ? or as you partake of the sacrament.? He may be with you in your reading of Scripture ? just think, what scriptures make your heart burn within you?? What scriptures do you read that you really feel spoken to ? just as this story provided me and continues to provide me with such a powerful image that offers comfort and even hope ? maybe someday on their journey they will swing by and pick me up ? and I will join them ? I hope it?s not too soon, but it?s an image that works in such wonderful ways.
Perhaps another approach, yet the same question, when have you experienced the risen Christ, the person of Jesus, the presence of God, by your side?? Perhaps it was in offering friendship when a friend was needed.? Perhaps in standing up for what is right.? Offering or receiving comfort during a dark time.? Moved during worship by the words of music, a message, a prayer, or the greeting or touch of a fellow worshipper.
The point is that the Risen Christ does come to be with us ? in some way ? just as the two on the Emmaus Road experienced.? We may not recognize that presence at first ? but, by faith, it is there.? So as we journey in life and in faith, may we always be open to an awareness of how God might be with us.